Category Archives for "writing"

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.

I Miss You!

It’s been a long, long while, and I miss you!

“The hardest thing is not talking to someone you used to talk every day.”

For the longest time, I connected with you all the time – typically a few times a week and sometimes every day of the week. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had any consistency to my writing here and to connecting with you right here.

I’m sorry for the long absence. It wasn’t you. I can say that with a fair amount of certainty. It’s been more on my plate. I’ve been busy (I’m learning to hate using that word). I’ve been working on several other things including work. I’ve been consistent in some other things in my life, but my writing has definitely taken a break lately.

I miss the writing, and I miss you and the opportunity to connect with you here.

While I’ve always desired to STRETCH others, I’ve realized that you actually STRETCHED me through our regular visits here in this blog community.

Life is like that. We move away for a time. We find ourselves distracted, or we simply find our attention diverted elsewhere.

Sometimes, we need to stop and look around. We need to realize where we’ve been, where we’re going, where we want to be, and where we are right now.

For this evening, I’m glad to be right here with you. You were missed!

What did I miss?

And did you miss me?

I Need A Do Over

Mulligan – noun – (in informal golf) an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.  (Google Dictionary)

Have you ever wanted to start over?

Have you ever made a mistake and wanted to erase that mistake?

Have you ever gotten out of the habit of doing something good and wanted to get back on the right track?

I feel this way about blogging.  I’ve been writing here on my blog for over eleven years, and I have fallen out of my blogging grove over the past several months.

Yesterday, my wife told me she missed my blog posts, and I’ve had a few people check in with me to make sure I was okay after they hadn’t heard from me for a while.  (Thanks for checking in on me!)

I don’t want to erase everything I’ve written in the past, but I sometimes wish I could start over with the same energy and time commitment to writing.  Some of this is in my control, but I also recognize that many things have changed for me over the past eleven years – especially over the past two years since I took on more responsibility at work.

And so I come back to my blog and to you, my readers, asking for a “Do Over.”

I want to get back on the right track, and I’m hoping you’ll join me on the journey.

See you tomorrow!

Do you need a Do Over?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 5:17

For ideas on how to get a fresh start, click here.

Book Review: Love Letters to Writers (Andi Cumbo-Floyd)

You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.

C. S. Lewis

My wife and kids will tell you that I’m a bit of a book hoarder.  I love getting books in the mail, and I love supporting other authors.  I especially love to promote these books when they have an impact on my life.

This week, Andi Cumbo-Floyd released her latest book, Love Letters to Writers.  And it’s just what I needed!

Despite the fact that I am getting ready to release my own book (December 5th – Rooftop Reflections – go to rooftopreflections.com to find out more information), I have felt disappointment and discouragement regarding my own writing consistency.  I’ve allowed the busyness of life and other activities to take me away from my passion for day-to-day writing.

Andi’s new book provided the right encouragement and reminders I needed to take a new look at my writing and my approach to writing.

In Love Letters to Writers, you’ll find 52 chapters or letters designed to challenge and encourage your writing.  I love the way each letter spoke to me and brought me back to a place in my writing experience where I thrived.  If you are a writer who needs a little (or a lot) encouragement, this book is for you.

If you are not a writer but you are someone who is trying to develop a daily discipline in your life, I think you’ll find Love Letters to Writers helpful.

Pickup a copy of Love Letters to Writers today!

What daily discipline are you trying to develop in your life?  How will your life be different by developing this discipline?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

2000th Blog Post

2,000th BLOG POST-1

It’s when ordinary people rise above the expectations and seize the opportunity that milestones truly are reached.

Mike Huckabee

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they marked the occasion by setting up twelve stones as a reminder of the journey they had endured and as a reminder of their heritage.

Today, I write this post as a way of setting up a pile of stones to remind me of my journey and to mark a significant milestone on this journey.

I’m a numbers guy.  I count things and people and other crazy things all the time.  I even count blog posts.

Today, I’ve reached a milestone – my 2,000th blog post.

When I started blogging over nine years ago, I didn’t have plans or of intentions of reaching this target.  I simply planned to write one day at a time, and this remains my plan.

And yet, I think it’s important to stop to celebrate, reflect, and recognize this milestone in my own writing “career.”

When I graduated from high school, I specifically pursued a career in engineering to get me away from writing.  I did okay in high school English class, but it was a lot of work.  Math and science always came easier for me.  When I arrived at Grove City College, I soon learned that my high school English was necessary and important to help me survive and thrive in the collegiate environment.

When I graduated from college and pursued an engineering job, I figured my writing was finally behind me.  I was wrong.  I used my writing skills on a daily basis to write letters, memos, and emails to customers, clients, and coworkers.  I wrote technical documents on a regular basis to describe my engineering documents.

I couldn’t get away from writing.

And then, my friend introduced me to the blogging world.  And something changed.

I developed a new-found love for writing.  I enjoy the discipline of writing on a regular basis.  I appreciate the effort required to articulate the “stretchy” thoughts running around in my head.  And I like the process of putting something together for others to read.

Writing has provided an amazing opportunity for me to tap into the creative side of my brain.  And it has pushed me to new heights and helped to forge new friendships.

2,000 blog posts is a milestone, but it’s just a start.

I have more to say.  I have more to write.

Here’s to the next 2,000 blog posts.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for commenting.  And thanks for being part of the Stretched Community.

How do you suggest I celebrate my 2,000th blog post?  Share your ideas in the comments.

How I Plan To Hit My Targets This Year

HOW I PLAN TO HIT MY TARGETS THIS YEAR

I have big plans for 2016.

I have a lot on my list of things to do, and it seems like my schedule is packed.

How will I get it all done?

I had the privilege of meeting with a coach last week, and we talked about the challenge of trying to fit it all into the time I have this year.

We all have the same amount of time.  We have 24 hours in a day.  We have 168 hours in a week.  We have 52 weeks in a year.  And this is the same for everyone.  President Obama has this amount of time.  Bill Gates has this amount of time.  You have this amount of time.  And I have this amount of time.

With this time we have choices to make.  How will we use the time?  What will stay in our schedules?  What will we remove from our schedules?

Reaching your targets for 2016 requires you to make choices.

And this is true for me.

As I said before, I have big plans for 2016, and this means I have some choices to make.

For most of last year, I posted here 5 days a week.  I felt like I needed to be consistent by posting every day Monday through Friday.  This was good, but I only have a limited amount of time to write (and to do other things).  Writing has become an important part of my life.  I have some specific goals related to my writing that I want to achieve this year, but I won’t be able to meet these targets without making some changes.

With this in mind, you may see some changes to my posting patterns over the next few months.  I will still post here regularly, but I will also be using some of my writing time to go after some other things (more on that to follow).

I’m learning that sometimes less is required for more.  And maybe this is what you need to come to terms with this year.

What changes do you need to make to your schedule and your current commitments in order to reach your goals this year?

Don’t Forget This Deal on Cyber Monday

CYBER MONDAY

The Monday after Thanksgiving has become a big day for shoppers.  Last year, shoppers purchased nearly $2.7 Billion on-line on Cyber Monday.  Cyber Monday was created by marketers to lure shoppers like you and me into purchasing on-line.  Shoppers are enticed with “deals”, discounts, and the allure of avoiding the chaos of in-store shopping.

I don’t know about you, but my family has found it much easier to shop on-line.  We get the things we want and need for the holidays without the pressure of the in-store experience.

Since it’s Cyber Monday and I know you are looking for that perfect gift for that special someone, I thought I should remind you of a gift that everyone wants and needs:

My book, On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field is available on-line at Amazon.com for less than $3.00.  This is the perfect stocking-stuffer or gift for anyone.

Here’s what several reviewers had to say about On Track:

It would be very easy for someone to read the title of this short book and think, “I only watch track every four years during the Olympics…this book isn’t for me.” The author does indeed talk about track and field, mostly at the high school level and in a very light and approachable way. But what this book really does is remind the reader that we all are surrounded in our everyday lives with little things that can help us grow, comfort us, or even kick us in the pants. We just need to be paying attention.

The beauty in this book is the way in which the author sees lessons in the little things, like the way sprinters set up their starting blocks. You do not need to be a fan of track and field to appreciate these observations. I believe that the author is more hoping to arm the reader with a few tools to look for lessons in their own everyday events that are relevant to their lives. Intentional or not, the book certainly did this for me. “On Track” then ties these observations back to recognizable verses of scripture. Much as the author hopes we’ll draw on our own memorable stories in our lives, he provides these memorable scripture passages for us to draw on as well.

I wouldn’t read this book expecting to learn much about track and field. That’s not really the point. This is a great little book to have on hand for those times that you find life getting off track (pun very much intended). It is a quick read that I will be returning to from time to time to get back On Track.  Brian S. Willem

This book is an easy read and well thought out. Jon writes life lessons in parallel with track and field events, he leads us from the starting blocks to the finish line. Whether you know track and field or not, this book is an inspiring work and leaves me wanting to read more and more of Jon’s writing. Bravo for leading the pack on your first book Jon!! Chris Vonada

Such a great read! Jon does a great job relating track and field concepts to our lives in this book. Whether coming out of the starting blocks, overcoming obstacles, or finishing strong, he incorporates stories from his own life and his kids’ lives and connects those with things that we face every day.

As a former hurdler and runner, I could especially identify with his stories and challenges and it took me back to my track days. On Track is a great book for anyone who wants to grow, be stretched, and be encouraged in their role at home, work, and in daily life. I highly recommend it. Great job Jon!  Shawn Washburn

Love that Jon incorporates his faith into his passions in life – into his family, his running, his job. On Track demonstrates how learning good, strong habits and practices are a life learning not just compartmentalized into a sport. Great read for the whole family, and would be great as a small group discussion guide. Good job, Jon! Looking forward to lots more from this new author.  Diane Karchner

Jon takes us on a journey with his love of God and his love of running. There are many lessons of life molding these two loves together. You really get a sense of Jon’s dedication to living life to the fullest and enjoying the gifts God has equipped each of us.  S. Young

Jon offers a tidy little book, a parable if you will, comparing life to running at a track meet. Readers will enjoy sharing the author’s personal experiences and will find the extra boost they are looking for to get their life back on track. An easy, enjoyable and worthwhile read.  Matt Appling

In this book, Jon does a fantastic job of teaching both about track and field (for those who are too familiar) and about life. Several key factors from the starting blocks to the finish line help to show you how to keep your life “On Track”.  Joshua Rivers

Go on-line and order your copy of On Track TODAY.

(If you’d like an autographed copy, reach out to me to discuss details.)

Do you shop on-line?  What’s the best deal you have ever found on-line?

How I Create The Images For My Blog Posts

images for blog

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Over the past few months, I have standardized on the tools and general layout for the images that go with each of my posts.  An image can make the difference in whether a potential reader stays around to read your post or leaves to find something more interesting elsewhere.

Today, I share with you my method for making FREE, eye-catching images that will keep your readers around a little longer.  If you have a blog without images or with out of date images, you can use these steps to add flare to your blog.  To demonstrate, I will be updating the image for one of the more popular posts on my blog from three years ago – How To Respond To The Election Results.

My original post had a simple American flag at the top of the screen.  There was nothing to indicate the title of the post or other details that would cause image viewers to head back to my site.

Here are the steps I took to create a new image for this blog post:

STEP 1:  Go to pixabay.com.  Pixabay.com is a great site for finding FREE images you can use for your blog.

STEP 2:  Type in a key word that goes with your blog post title.  For example, I searched for images based on the search word:  election.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.31.36

STEP 3:  Select an image to go with your post.  (When I look for an image, I look for an image with room for a title and other text.  I also look for an image that best represents the content of my post.)

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.32.54

STEP 4:  Once you’ve selected your image, click on the desired size (I almost always select the small size).  Then press “Free Download” to save the image in your download folder.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.33.12

STEP 5:  Go to picmonkey.com.  Picmonkey.com is a FREE photo editing tool.

STEP 6:  Select you photo to edit from you download folder.  (Once you have the photo open, check out all the great ways you can edit the folder by utilizing the editor options on the left side of the screen.)

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.38.16

STEP 7:  Select the text editor option by pressing the icon “Tt”.

STEP 8:  Select your desired font.  (I consistently use Tahoma for my images.  I would encourage you to be consistent in selecting your font type as it helps bring consistency to your blog brand identity.)

STEP 9:  Enter your text in the text box.  (Note:  I typically type the blog post title along with a tag line (Jon Stolpe Stretched jonstolpe.com) to help image viewers back to my site.)

STEP 10:  Edit the text for size, color, and orientation in the text editor box which will pop up on your screen when you are editing text.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.39.59

STEP 11:  Once you are satisfied with your image, select the “Save” button at the top center of your screen.

STEP 12:  Create a file name for your image which you can type in the left “File name” box.

STEP 13:  Press “Save to my computer” in the lower left corner to save the image to your computer.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.40.26

STEP 14:  Open your post editor to the desired post.

STEP 15:  Move your cursor to the desired image location.  (In my case, I clicked on the old image.)

STEP 16:  Select “Add Media” right below the title (and above the post).

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.13.49

STEP 17:  Select “Upload Files.”

STEP 18:  Click on “Select Files.”

STEP 19:  Find your saved image, and select the image by double clicking on the image file name or image thumbnail.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.14.02

STEP 20:  Click “Insert into post”  once you have selected the file and added any desired information on the right side of the screen.  (I usually center my image and make the image approximately 600 pixels wide.)

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.15.07

STEP 21:  Your new image will appear in the post editor.  Click “Update” on the right screen when you are satisfied with your changes.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.15.29

That’s it!  Just in case, I check out my post by selecting “View Post” to make sure everything looks good.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.16.49

I know I listed a lot of steps, but I wanted to make sure I detailed everything I do to create images for my blog posts.  I hope these steps will help you to brighten up your blog posts.

Do you use images on your blog posts?  Is so, what steps do you use to create your images?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

The Discipline Of Pressing On (Even When You Feel Uninspired)

press on

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.

George Whitefield

I almost skipped today.

I almost didn’t post on my blog today.

Life has been pretty busy lately, and I honestly didn’t feel all that inspired.

At work, I am in the midst of closing down our fiscal year which means I’ve been busy closing projects and making sure our financials are in order by September 30th.  At home, I am just as busy.  Our kids are very active (which is a good thing), but it often means I’m on the road at a cross-country meet, a football game, or a marching band show.  I’m also helping my wife as she works on building her life coaching business.

All these things are great, but I sometimes feel drained.  And there are times when I leave little margin for reflection and inspiration.

All this to say, I come to the keyboard today feeling a little worn out and a lot uninspired.

And yet, I’m sitting here writing my post for today.  I’m pressing on even when I don’t feel like it.

Why?

Some think I should just skip the day and wait for new inspiration tomorrow.  But I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily the best choice.  I’ve learned that practicing the discipline of pressing on despite lack of inspiration and motivation is the best way to get the results I want.

I’ve finished three marathons and several half marathons.  In training for these races, I’ve learned to press on when it comes to my daily training runs.  One skipped training day would lead to another and another, and I would have arrived at the starting line unprepared.

I wrote a book.  The book didn’t write itself, and it didn’t come together in one day.  Writing the book took days and weeks of writing.  I had to write even when I didn’t feel like it in order to meet my goal.

My wife and I have raised two children.  We don’t always get it right when it comes to parenting, and they aren’t perfect kids.  But they are pretty good!  This doesn’t happen if we decide to take a break from parenting when we don’t feel like it.

Pressing on inches us closer to “the prize.”  I don’t know what prize you are pursuing, but it won’t happen if you don’t persist.

This is why I am writing today’s post.  I’m pressing on, because I’ve seen the benefit of daily blogging.  And I’m confident I’ll see more results because I decided to press on even when my inspiration wasn’t all there.

What “prize” are you pursuing?  What keeps you going when you don’t feel inspired?

How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of pressing on?  How has persistence despite lack of inspiration made a difference in your life?

(Maybe I was a little more inspired than I thought.  I think the inspiration came as a result of pressing on.)

 

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