Renewal Through An Honest Look At My Work

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Have you ever wondered if you are doing the right thing when it comes to your job?

Maybe you simply like to do new things every once in a while, so you raise your hand and pursue new opportunities on a regular basis. Or perhaps, you are like me; you find a lane and you stick to it for a long time.

Last month, I celebrated my 25th anniversary at my company. In May of this year, I will officially be working in my industry for 27 years. My roles have changed over the years as I’ve grown through my experience and as the right opportunities have opened up for me. I started in more of an engineering and field technician role. After a few years, I moved into more of an project management and engineering role. Around the time I completed my MBA, I moved from a project management role to a people management role. Today, I find myself in charge of a large team with large revenue expectations. Perhaps, it is the increased stress and pressure I have felt in my role recently, or perhaps, it is simply the time of my life where I find myself asking the question above wondering if I am doing the right thing when it comes to my job.

On Friday morning, I had an important conversation with a couple of my friends. I shared with them my recent questioning, and I talked to them about my desire to find joy and significance in what I do for my career. At the age of 49, I still have very productive years ahead of me. I want to do work that matters. I want to leave a legacy. I don’t want to waste my time or my working energy by doing something that is insignificant and life-taking. One of my friends suggested I read Half Time – Moving From Success to Significance by Bob Buford. Without wasting any time, I downloaded the Audible version of the book. I’ve been listening, and I’m already learning – stretching.

In Half Time, Buford offers 13 questions worth considering as we consider how to make the most of our “Second Half”. I wanted to share them with you here. I’m still reflecting and figuring out my own answers to these questions, but I thought they might help you as well.

13 Questions (From Bob Buford) For Having A Significant Second Half

  1. Am I missing anything in my life right now that is important to me?
  2. What am I passionate about?
  3. Who am I?
  4. What do I value?
  5. What do I want to be doing in 10 years?
  6. What do I want to be doing in 20 years?
  7. What gifts has God given me that have been perfected over time?
  8. What gifts has God given me that I have been unable to use?
  9. What would I be willing to die for?
  10. What is it about my job that makes me feel trapped?
  11. What realistic changes can I make in my employment?
  12. Would I be willing to take a less stressful and lower paying job to be happier – to be closer to my true self?
  13. What steps do I need to take tomorrow to have a second half that is better than my first half?

These are powerful and challenging questions. If you are like me, I’d suggest you find time to seriously consider your answers to each of these questions. If you are married, share the questions and your answers with your spouse. If possible, find a close friend or two with whom you can share your answers. I don’t believe these questions should be answered quickly. I think it will take time, reflection, revision, guidance, and prayer.

As I move through this year of renew, finding renewal in my work is extremely important to me. I recognize that work may not always be fun, but I also don’t believe it is meant to be a death sentence. Fulfillment in our work is possible. Significance in our work if achievable. Purpose in our work is important.

God, renew my sense of fulfillment, my sense of purpose, and my sense of significance in my work. Give me wisdom, and guide me as I seek to honor you through my work.

Renewed Through Financial Housekeeping

The thing I have discovered about working with personal finance is that the good news is that it is not rocket science. Personal finance is about 80 percent behavior. It is only about 20 percent head knowledge.

Dave Ramsey

In this year of renew, I am focused on doing some financial housekeeping. Leanne and I do not have any consumer debt, but we do owe on our house. For the longest time, I have been the one who has handled the finances. I love numbers which has helped in this regard. Having said this, Leanne and I both agreed it was time for Leanne to get up to speed on our finances.

We are crossing into new territory in our lives as we prepare to launch our youngest out of college (we only have to pay for two more semesters). We moved this summer into a smaller home with a smaller mortgage. At the end of the year, I will be turning 50. I believe I still have very productive years ahead of me, but I also recognize I may want to direct my working attention elsewhere at some point with a possible early “retirement” from Siemens. This is the time to start making plans and to consider what steps we may need to take financially to ensure we are ready for these changes.

Over the last year or two, we have simply allowed our finances to coast. Thankfully, we had set many things in place to prevent us from calamity, but we also realized it was time to be more intentional. To help us in our focus, we decided to sign up for Financial Peace University at our church. We have been Dave Ramsey followers for a while, but this course is taking us from doing “Dave-ish” (this is when you only partially follow Dave’s teaching) to jumping on board more fully. After three weeks in the class, we can already see a big difference. We are working together on our budget. We are firming up our fully funded emergency fund. And we are making plans to firm up our savings (both retirement and non-retirement) while aggressively paying off our mortgage.

Regardless of your financial situation, it is always a good time to do financial housekeeping. If you are married, this is a great way to get on the same page and to solidify your relationship. If you are single, you may want to seek out some accountability and assistance to get you focused and moving in the right direction.

Here are Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps for Achieving Financial Peace:

  1. Save $1,000 in a beginner emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball.
  3. Put 3-6 months of expenses in savings. This is your fully funded emergency fund.
  4. Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans.
  5. Save for your children’s college education using tax-favored plans.
  6. Pay off the house early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

Ramsey’s plan makes sense when you look at it. He encourages his followers to take it one step at a time allowing yourself to see progress and to gain momentum. Because of our station in life, I can see us making it to Baby Step 6 and 7 fairly quickly. For others, it may take a little more time.

For Leanne and me, our next steps include connecting with a financial advisor to help us plan and prepare for Baby Step 7, retirement, and beyond. We are also in the process of making sure Leanne is in the know on everything related to our finances – account numbers, account values, account contacts, etc. I am excited for this financial housekeeping we are doing, and I’m excited to see the progress we are making.

I want to be a good steward of the resources God has given us, and financial housekeeping is part of the stewardship process. Dave Ramsey isn’t the only solid biblical-based financial expert out there, but I have seen how his program and system works. Don’t let your finances operate on coast mode; get the help you need and intentionally move forward.

What is the next financial housekeeping step you need to take? What’s holding you back?

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

I Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

Here are some resources to help you out in this area:

Renewed Through Healthy Habits

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Will Durant

For those of you keeping track, I surpassed 1,000 days in a row of 10,000 or more steps last Friday. Almost three years ago, I made the decision to walk or run at least 10,000 steps every day as monitored by my Fitbit.

I work in a job that has me sitting at my desk or at a conference table for much of my days. This means I am more sedentary than is healthy. (The American Heart Association says that 10,000 steps a day is a good minimum for those interested in maintaining a healthy heart. Here’s a great article to give you more information – click here.)

10,000 steps means I am moving over 6 miles every day. I typically get these steps walking early in the morning. Several of my steps come from my treadmill activity at my local Orange Theory Fitness studio. And sometimes, I have to throw on my shoes to venture outside for a late night walk to ensure I make my goal.

Over the past 1,000+ days, I’ve walked in France, Germany, Guatemala, and the United States. I’ve walked in Washington state, Arizona, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. I’ve walked in airports, grocery stores, shopping malls, hardware stores, and colleges. I’ve hiked in the Cascade Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Green Lane Park, Spring Mountain, and countless other trails.

I haven’t done the math yet, but I’m guessing I’ve walked, hiked, or run over 7,000 miles during this walking streak. I don’t plan on stopping.

I want to live a life that goes the distance. This means it is important to establish and maintain healthy habits. In my year of renew, I’ve renewed my focus on some healthy habits – continuing my stepping streak, drinking more water, drinking less alcohol, and eating with more healthy intention. I’ve already seen the difference that these habits have had on my life. I’ve lost some weight. I feel more energy and focus. I sense a renewed sense of purpose.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (NIV)

As we approach the end of January, it is not uncommon for people to lose focus on the habits and goals they set at the beginning of the year. I encourage you to keep going. Take it one day at a time – even one step at a time.

A daily step streak doesn’t happen all at once. It happens one step at a time.

You can do it! Start today! Find some accountability (maybe it’s me). Take time each day to find renewal through healthy habits.

What is one of your healthy habits that has helped you find renewal? What healthy habit do you need to start today? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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?

Renew

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I’m part of a group of men who are committed to meeting together every week for 20 years. We are over six years into that commitment. Each year at this time, each man in this group chooses a word of the year that represents their intention and hope for the year ahead.

Picking a word of the year can be an excellent way to strategically approach your life. A word of the year can clarify your purpose and direction. The word of the year when shared with others can provide an opportunity for accountability.

Yesterday, I met with the group of men I mentioned above. As we spent time together, each man had the opportunity to share a recap on their 2020 experience, and each man then shared their word for 2021 along with their reason for selecting that word.

When I initially shared my word for 2021, I shared the word reset. After feeling like much of my year was reactive in nature in part due to the pandemic, I explained that I wanted to reset – to be more proactive in my approach to life in 2021. One of the men kept confusing my word reset with the word renew.

After further thought and prayer, I decided to change my word for 2021 to renew. I think it fits much better with my intention for 2021.

renew

verb (used with object)

1. to begin or take up again, as an acquaintance, a conversation, etc.; resume.

2. to make effective for an additional period: to renew a lease.

3. to restore or replenish: to renew a stock of goods.

4. to make, say, or do again.

verb (used without object)

1. to begin again; recommence.

2. to renew a lease, note, etc.

Dictionary.com

2021 will be a year with many milestones in my life:

  • January 8th – I will celebrate 25 years with Siemens.
  • January 15th – I will celebrate 1000 days in a row with 10,000 or more steps each day.
  • July 13th – Leanne and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage.
  • December 8th – I will celebrate my 50th birthday.

I don’t want to move about 2021 aimlessly. I want 2021 to be intentional. As I consider where I want to see renewal, I think of several areas of my life:

  • I want to renew my sense of purpose and calling to my job. I have a tremendous opportunity at Siemens to help our customers with building solutions, and I have an important opportunity at Siemens to lead and serve my team. I want to do this with renews vigor and focus in 2021.
  • I want to renew my commitment to personal health through healthy eating and regular and focused exercise.
  • I want to renew by marriage and my relationship with my bride. I am so blessed to be married to Leanne. Marriage takes work and focus on a daily basis. This year we plan to renew our vows as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.
  • I want to renew my commitment to stretching, learning, and growing. Reading, listening, and writing are three keys to finding renewal in this area.
  • I want to renew my relationship with God on a daily basis. Last but not least, this is important to my year of renewal. Romans 12:2 above states it very well. Renewal through God will lead to the transformation that is worth it!

If you’d like help selecting your word for 2021, I’d recommend picking up a copy of One Word by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page. In One Word, you’ll gain a very simple understanding and method for picking your One Word for 2021. Simply put, here is their method:

  1. Prepare your heart by looking in.
  2. Discover your word by looking up.
  3. Live your word by looking out.

What is your word for 2021? Where do you need renewal in your life? What is one step you will take this week towards your word or towards personal renewal?

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.

7 Ways We Should Respond To The 2020 Election Results

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

Today is a brand new day.

Last week, I wrote about 4 Keys To Being A Politically Active Christian. Today, I’m continuing on the topic with thoughts on how to respond to the election results.

In less than 23 days, we will learn the results of the 2020 election here in the United States. Will President Trump keep the presidency, or will Joe Biden be the next President of the United States.  Regardless of the outcome, I have some friends and family who will be extremely happy about the outcome while other friends and family who will be saddened, unhappy, and even scared by the same outcome.

From all the polls, the latest news, and the buzz on social media, half of the people in our country will be unhappy with the results.  And half of the people will be happy or at least in agreement with the outcome of last nights election.

I’m not so sure that God is arranging the outcome of the election.  After all, God gave us minds and free will to make our own decisions.  But I do think that God has given us a new day today and in the days that follow the election.  This is the day the Lord has made.  Let’s rejoice and be glad in it!

You may or may not be excited about the policies and ideas of our next president and the leadership in our country.  But you have a choice to make today.  How will you treat today?  Will you rejoice in the day that God has made?  Or will you pout, stamp your feet, and cross your arms in dismay?

How to Respond to the 2020 Election Results

  1. Realize the blessings and freedoms that we experience in this country.  We have the right to vote.  We have so many rights and privileges that are not granted in other countries.  We are definitely blessed!
  2. Realize that you have the power to make a difference.  Just like Esther demonstrated the power to impact an entire people group through her actions, we have the ability to leave our mark – even if we sometimes feel as though we’re acting alone.
  3. Respond with honor.  Represent God and your faith with integrity in how you react to this election.  Our leaders deserve our respect – even if we don’t agree with them.  Stomping our feet may make us feel better initially, but it will eventually leave our feet sore and will fail to be productive.
  4. Commit to make a difference.  You still have the ability to impact your neighborhood, your state, your country, and the world for God’s kingdom.  That will not change following the election.
  5. Pray for our leaders.  Whether it is the president of the United States or the mayor of your town, leaders have big decisions to make.  They face stresses that few of us could ever imagine.  They need our prayer.
  6. Reach across the lines of division and be a unifier instead of a divider.  This is one of the nastiest elections in my memory, and I’m sure our media and social media haven’t help the situation.  Regardless, of where you fall on this election, it’s time we all learn to reach across the lines of division.  It’s time we learn to listen to the voices of those who are different that us – in our opinions, in our beliefs, in our skin color, and in our socioeconomic status.  “Making our country great again” depends so much more on you and me than it does on our next President.
  7. Put on a smile.  Sitting on your hands and frowning is not productive.  Period.  Decide today to have a good attitude.

“Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.”

Gary Johnson

I’m speaking to myself as I write these words and ideas.  I want to be known as a positive, respectful, and thankful person.  You and I have a choice to make.  How will you proceed from here?

What do you see in your world today?  How will you choose to rejoice today?

4 Keys To Being A Politically Active Christian

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”

Alexander Hamilton

One month from yesterday is Election Day here in the United States.  Around the country, citizens will be casting their ballots for the next leaders in their communities.

Today, political signs and flags are posted throughout our communities. The “debates” have started, and “news” coverage for the campaigns is growing. Candidates and their support teams are making their final appeals for votes. A lot will happen in the next 30 days.

I’ve always had an interest in politics.  We are so blessed to live in a country where we can take part in the selection process for our local, state, and national leaders.  Voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility (Four Important Responsibilities of Voters).

Free speech is also one of the rights that we have in this country.  Free speech gives us permission to defend our position on an issue or on a candidate.  I’m thankful for this right.  But I sometimes wonder if this right has gotten our country into trouble.

With the creation and rise of social media, everyone has a say.  People’s thoughts and opinions are out there for everyone to read.  Once it’s on Facebook or Twitter or once it’s published on a blog, it’s a permanent record for all to read.  And it seems like everyone has something to say.

Maybe I’m forgetful of past election cycles, but it seems to be that more and more people are posting personal character attacks on Facebook and other social media outlets.  Photo-shopped photos of candidates with disrespectful comments dominate my Facebook news feed. Comments often taken out of context are used to slander and debase the character of individuals.  To be honest with you, it’s wearing me out.

Sure, it’s okay to disagree with policies, budgets, and agendas of our leaders.  But it needs to be done with respect.  The other day, I was reading the Bible and a passage from Ecclesiastes stuck out to me:

Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

Ecclesiastes 10:20 (NIV)

Today, it just doesn’t seem like people care about reviling or respecting our leaders. So how should we as Christians respond responsibly and respectfully?

4 Keys To Being A Politically Active Christian

  1. Pray for our leaders. Whether or not you agree with (or like or dislike) a particular political leader, we should pray for our leaders.  Paul directs this in his first letter to the Timothy:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)
  1. Don’t participate in the disrespect. Don’t add fuel to the social media fire by being disrespectful in your posts, comments, or conversations.  In our country where free speech is our right, dialogue intelligently and respectfully with each other.
  2. Vote.  This is your right, responsibility and duty. Let your voice be heard through your vote.
  3. Win, lose, or draw, live your life in a Christ-like manner. Whether “your” candidate wins or not, you have the opportunity to make a difference by how you choose to live your life. If you feel strongly about an issue like helping the poor, get involved by helping the poor. We don’t need our candidate in office in order for us to make a difference. We can make the most of each and every opportunity, and we can do so with respect. And we can still choose to love those who lead us and who debate with us – even if they disagree with us. (John 15:17)

What other suggestions do you have for Christians to participate responsibly and respectfully in the political process? Are you being respectful or are you adding to the clutter?

(Note:  Parts of my article originally appeared at Wisdom Of A Fool.)

Look For The Encouragers

“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.”

John C. Maxwell

Last week, my wife received to text messages that really encouraged me.

The first message was from our next door neighbor. The text message included a picture of our neighbor’s three year old son wearing a new shirt. Along with the picture was a message saying “Mr. Jon will like this shirt.” Apparently, I had made a connection with my little neighbor. This text message encouraged me!

The second message was from another neighbor. This text message shared something from her nine year old son. When asked by one of his teachers who teaches us about God, he answered Mr. Jon. I’ve given this young man copies of my two books (Rooftop Reflections and On Track). This text message encouraged me as well!

It has been another challenging week. In the wake of last Sunday’s post (Life Giving or Life Taking), I’ve been writing down the things each day that have brought me life along with the things that have sucked the life out of me. Needless to say, these two text messages made my list of things that brought me life.

We need encouragers in our lives. When the writer of Hebrews told us to meet with people who will spur us on (Hebrews 10:24-25), I think he was recognizing the importance of having encouragers in our lives.

When I think of people in my life who have encouraged me over the years, I think about my wife (she’s an amazing encourager), my parents, my former boss (Craig), several of my youth leaders, and some close friends. These are the kind of people I need in my life.

Today’s message is simple: Look for the encouragers, and find a way to be an encourager for someone TODAY!

Who encourages you? How can you encourage someone today? Share your thoughts in the comments.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)