Archives For life

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford

This month I failed.

At the end of July, I signed up for Ellory Wells’ 31 Day Writing Challenge with the intent of writing a new blog post every day during the month of August.  I started on the right foot with several new blog posts.  Then the wheels fell off my ride of best intentions during the second week of August, and I’ve struggled to regain momentum since then.  When it comes to the Writing Challenge, I am a failure.

Now, I could give you ten or twenty excuses as to why I failed.  Do those excuses really matter?  The facts are I did not even come close to writing every day in August.  As I look back on August and on my weak efforts during the challenge, I’ve learned a lot.

Here is what I’ve learned as a result of my failure.

4 Lessons From My Recent Failure

  1. Intentions do not automatically translate into success.  I have great intentions when it comes to a lot of things in my life.  Unfortunately, I fall short in many of these areas of intention.
  2. Our actual actions indicate the reality of our priorities.  My words in late July indicated that I wanted to make writing blog posts a priority; however, my writing output shows I may have let other things have a greater place in my priority pyramid.  My family went on vacation to the Jersey Shore during the second week of August, and this trip was a priority for me.  My job has required a lot of attention this month, and this was an important and necessary area of focus for me in August.  Finally, I noticed that my fitness and overall health had slipped a little bit over the past few months.  In the second half of August, I took steps to make my fitness and nutrition more of a priority.
  3. Accountability is essential to achieving the results we desire.  I’m independent and self-motivated, but I need people in my life who will give me an encouraging word or a swift kick in the butt from time to time.  I rely heavily on my wife, the guys in my small group, a few of my co-workers, and the people in my mastermind groups.  They remind me to stay on track.  They encourage me when I’m feeling discouraged.  And they won’t let me wander off course for very long.
  4. It’s never too late to start over.  When we experience failure in our lives, we have a couple of choices.  We can let our failure define us.  Or we can use our failures to motivate us.  I’m making the second choice.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill

How have you responded to failure in your life?  What lessons have you learned from your failures?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

When our kids were little, they were terrified of dogs.  I remember visiting my parents in Dallas, TX one time, and my parents’ golden mix, Amber, had to be quarantined to her crate most of the time we were there, because our daughter, Hannah, was absolutely sure Amber was going to bite her head off.  Amber might give her a good lick, but she wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Whenever we visited someone who had a dog, our kids would crawl up our legs into our protective arms to make sure they were safe from the crazy four-legged creatures who were wagging their tails at them.

My wife and I were determined to do something about this phobia.  After all, our kids couldn’t live in our protective arms forever.  They were growing quickly, and my arms wouldn’t hold them forever.  Also, dogs can smell fear.  Many times a dog will go after people who are afraid of them.  Our kids had to learn how to stand up to the furry four-legged beasts that would cross their paths in the future.

So my wife and I signed up to foster a Seeing Eye puppy.  A few weeks after signing up, we received a phone call indicating there was a 8 week old black Labrador puppy waiting just for us.  We said yes, and we soon opened our home and our hearts to a square-headed black fur-ball named Iso.

When Iso joined our family, it didn’t take long for our kids to get over their fear of dogs.  Soon they were playing with Iso and commanding him not to chew on the furniture, the walls, and their toys.

Iso grew and grew, and our hearts grew fond of the dog despite his early destructive forces.  He chewed the paint right off our metal hot water baseboard radiators.  He chewed a hole or two in our kitchen cabinets.  And he kept us up many nights unhappy that he was chained to our bed.  (Seeing Eye puppies are taught to stay close to their “person” at all times, and the training begins with the puppy raisers.)

Iso went with us everywhere.  He visited the mall with us.  He went camping, and he even went fishing.  Actually, we caught him once.  This was a terrifying experience for all of us.  Somehow his tongue collided with a fishing hook.  The squeal he let out was unforgettable.  Thankfully, a real fisherman came along with his fishing tools, and we were able to pull the hook out of his tongue.

My wife and I often questioned whether or not he would make it as a Seeing Eye guide dog.

When he was a year and a half, we received a call from the Seeing Eye (in Morristown, NJ).  They were ready for Iso, and they were confident that Iso was ready for his official training to become a guide dog.  With many tears, we released Iso back to the Seeing Eye where he was matched with a trainer who worked with him for 9 months to prepare his for his purpose – to guide a blind person.

Our family visited the Seeing Eye for Iso’s Town Walk – his final exam.  His performance was amazing as he guided his blindfolded trainer through the streets of Morristown.  We were sure we would receive word that Iso was matched with a blind person.  We waited, and we waited.

While we waited, we moved into a brand new house.  Gone were the chew marks that reminded us of our puppy friend.

Shortly after our move, we received a phone call from the Seeing Eye.  Due to a large crop of puppies, the Seeing Eye was being more selective, and Iso was being dropped out of the program due to his extreme friendliness.  As a puppy raiser, we had the first opportunity to take him back to become our Forever Friend.

I was not so sure this was a good idea.  After all, we had just moved into a brand new house, and I was not thrilled about the possibility of having him back in the house where I was sure he would cause havoc.  I was not the only one in the family, and I was outvoted three to one.

I made the journey up to Morristown to pick him up.  On the way home, we established some ground rules.

When I walked him through the door at our new house, he was quickly embraced and welcomed back into the family.

And honestly despite my initial apprehension, I soon let him into my heart as well.

Iso quickly adjusted to his new digs.

He chased the neighbors cat up a tree one time.  I remember chuckling inside as we leaned a ladder up against the tree to rescue the cat.  “This dog is crazy!”

One time, I woke up early one morning to find that he had eaten the braided rug that welcomed guests into our front door.  This was not a happy moment.  It took a few days, but Iso eventually passed the carpet.  It’s a little gross but the carpet came out his rear just the same way it went into his mouth.  Like I said before, “This dog is crazy!”

We liked having Iso around the house.  He always provided the initial rinse of our dishes while I was putting them in the dishwasher.  He greeted us with his tail wagging whenever we returned home after trip to church, the grocery store, work, or anywhere else.  He was always glad to see us.  And he was especially always happy when it was time to eat.  One cup of food in the morning, and one cup of food at dinner time.  We really didn’t have to have a clock.  Iso knew when it was time to eat.

When he was 9 years old, I thought we were going to lose him.  I came home from work one night to find out that he had eaten one of my dress shirts I wore to the office.  What in the world would make a dress shirt appetizing?  I’ll never know.  We waited a few days to see if he would pass it, but we soon discovered that Iso was not feeling well.  In fact, he seemed to be quite ill.  When Leanne took him to the vet, the vet quickly ran an X-ray and discovered a football-sized lump of fabric and other material lodged in his stomach.  The vet explained that she had to perform emergency surgery before Iso died.  We weren’t given the option of putting him to sleep, and before we knew it, Iso was wearing the cone of shame and our bank account was $3,000 smaller.

Labs are crazy dogs, but they are also loyal and true.  Iso loved to be with us when we were home – especially when we were eating popcorn.  He hovered around us to make sure we threw several pieces of popcorn his way.

He had a few visits to the vet for various intestinal issues.  With a few pills, a bland diet, and some time, he always seemed to bounce back.

The last few years, he became more sedentary.  He slept way more than he was awake.  He also seemed to be growing some cysts and fatty non-cancerous growths and tumors.  The vet didn’t seem to worried about these.  As the days and years went on, he slowed down even more.  He took his time getting up and lying down.  And his hearing seemed to diminish too.  But Iso always responded to the word “Treat”.  He loved his Milkbones.

Friday afternoon while I was out in the garden and in the shed, Iso seemed to have some type of seizure or stroke, and he couldn’t move or stand without assistance.  Our family had some big decisions to make, and the main decision seemed obvious.  It wasn’t fair to let Iso suffer any more.  He couldn’t stand.  He wasn’t interested in eating.  His head even moved to his right as he tried to find his equilibrium.

After much thought and discussion, we decided it was Iso’s time.  Isaac retreated to his room to let out his emotions.  Hannah seemed to be rather understanding and non-emotional about this situation.  And Leanne and I struggled to say our goodbyes.

I loaded Iso in the family car, and we journeyed to the 24-hour animal hospital (HOPE) in Malvern, PA.  We knew what we had to do, but we know it was going to be hard.  The people at HOPE were amazing.  They gave us time to be with Iso, and they explained what would happen when they injected him with the chemicals that would end his life.

Iso wouldn’t let the doctor get to his arm where the catheter had been placed, so I had to hold his head while the vet injected the potions.  Tears rolled down my face.  Leanne and even Hannah were crying, too.  (Isaac stayed at home to avoid the trauma of the whole situation.)  Iso peacefully left us.  After a few minutes with him, we left the hospital in silence.

It’s so hard to say goodbye to those who attach themselves to your heart.

That was Friday.

Today is Tuesday.

We miss Iso.  We miss him when we arrive at home to a quiet house.  We miss him when we wake up in the morning.  And we miss him when we put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

Our pets become part of our lives.  They can provide some incredible challenges, and they can provide amazing companionship.

Someone on Sunday commented that Iso would be in doggy heaven.  I don’t really know if that’s true or not.  What I know is that our lives were greatly impacted by the black Labrador who invaded our house over 13 years ago.  We will remember him with a smile and perhaps some more tears.  We are thankful for the opportunity to have had this furry friend in our family.

And if you are wondering, our kids aren’t afraid of dogs anymore.

Life is Fragile

April 11, 2017 — 2 Comments

“Life is fragile. We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow so give it everything you’ve got.”

Tim Cook

My typical weekend writing was interrupted by a variety of circumstances.

First, our house is for sale, and we had a showing at our house on Sunday night after church.   We had two piles of mulch and garden soil on the driveway that needed to be moved to our flower beds and garden.  Plus, we had to make our final trips around the house making sure everything was clean before we left for church.  I missed my normal Sunday morning writing time to move mulch and dirt and to clean up the house.

Second, our weekend was altered by the tragic news that a young teenage girl from our church group had taken her life.

This news has brought about a lot of questions, pondering, and conversation.  It also brought sadness.

There are many details surrounding her suicide, and I’m grappling with what I need to know as an adult volunteer in our youth program and as a parent of fellow students and what I simply don’t need to know about the situation.

Last night during our normal youth group programming, we had over 300 students (my estimation) pour into our auditorium to be together, to grieve, and to celebrate the life of their friend and classmate.  The time together was a mix of sadness and amazing beauty.

There was singing, stories, and plenty of tears.

My heart aches for the young students who are faced with the loss of a peer and the struggle to sort out their own thoughts and feelings.

I’m reminded of the importance of listening to those in pain.  I’m reminded of how essential it is to be a presence in the lives of others.  And I’m reminded to be aware of the silent cries of those who simply don’t know how to process the struggles of life.

The weekend also served as a reminder of the amazing volunteers in our youth program.  Many of the volunteers took off from work on Friday to be with students on Friday when the news spread of her passing.  Don’t underestimate the value of your role in the lives of those who are younger than you.

The weekend also reminded me that there are times when we won’t fully understand parts of this life we find ourselves in on this side of heaven.  Sometimes life simply doesn’t make sense.

Finally, the weekend reminded me that beauty can rise from the ashes that follows such tragedy.  Relationships can be repaired.  People can take steps toward reconciliation.  And ultimately, people can find God when events like this happen.

Pray for the family and friends of this young woman.

Be on the look out for those who are hurting around you.

If you are desperate, hurting, and lonely, find someone to lean on.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

Thomas A. Edison

Being busy has become a status symbol in our culture.  If you’re not busy, you’re not accomplishing anything.  That’s what society is telling us.

What do you want to accomplish today?

I want to work on my book.  I want to schedule several blog posts and emails to the people on my email list.  I would like to talk to my daughter (who is away at college) on Facetime.  I’d like to take at least 10,000 steps.

What do you want to accomplish this week?

I want to write and give my next Toastmasters speech.  I want to schedule an appointment with my tax accountant.  I would like to clean up the house to make sure we are ready for any showings that might happen this week.  I’d like to meet one-on-one with my team members.

What do you want to accomplish this year?

I want to publish my next book (Rooftop Reflections).  I plan to go to Guatemala and build more houses.  I’d like to complete my Advanced Communicator Silver and my Advanced Leader Silver for Toastmasters.  I would like to move up at my company.  I plan to complete Dynamic Marriage Facilitator Training with my wife.  I hope to sell my house and downsize.

It’s not a bad idea to have plans for our days weeks, months, and years.  After all, “if we fail to plan, we should plan to fail.”  But what if our short-term goals and accomplishments don’t match up with our long-term objectives?

What does success look like to you?  When you reach the end of your life what do you want to have accomplished?

I think these are two very important questions to ponder.  And we need to have the answers to these questions in mind as we plan out our short-term goals and our plans for the next days, weeks, and months.

You will not succeed in meeting your long-term (life-time) goals by accident.  You must be intentional.  You must begin with the end in mind.

Here are a few of my long-term goals:

  1. I’m going to build 100+ houses in Guatemala for widows and orphans.
  2. My wife and I are going to be known as marriage builders.
  3. I will have deep relationships with my wife, my kids, my future grandchildren, and a few close friends.
  4. I will be known as a good steward, a generous person, and a role model.
  5. I will mentor other leaders, couples, and men in order to leave a legacy that outlives me and my name.

These are just some of my goals.  Knowing these, I’m in a much better position to answer the initial questions asked at the beginning of this post.

Being busy is a complete waste of time when we are busy doing the wrong things.  Be intentional in your busyness!

Over the next few days, I’ll be sending out additional information to those on my email list about living intentionally today.  If you want to get these emails, make sure you are on the list.  Sign up below!

What are you doing today?  How do your actions today match up with your long-term plans for your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Blur

January 12, 2017 — 4 Comments

“My life has been such a blur since I was 18, 19 years old. I haven’t even had time to contemplate my own life. By forcing yourself to write your life story you learn a great deal about yourself.”

Grant Achatz

Is it just me, or does life seem to be a blur for you at times?

Life goes by so quickly.  And technology isn’t helping things.  Within a fraction of a second, I can be virtually anywhere via the internet.  News spreads quickly across the screens of our cell phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions.  Within seconds of a major world catastrophe, terrorist event, or celebrity death, the whole world knows about it.

And people expect instant replies to their emails, text messages, and social media attempts to reach out.

We are growing up in a world where people are developing additions to their cell phones.  They can’t go more than a few minutes or even a few seconds without looking at their “smart” phones.

As a parent, it seems like life has passed me by in the matter of a few moments.  Yesterday, my daughter was born, and today she’s a freshman in college.  My son was born yesterday, and now he is driving his own car.

And the day before yesterday, I married the woman of my dreams, and now we’ve been married for over twenty years.  (She looks the same, but I’m sure I’ve added some gray hairs, some wrinkles, and some pounds around my waistline.

It all can become depressing is we let these thoughts consume us.

For that reason, we must fight against the blur.

  • We must learn to stop and smell the roses.
  • We must learn to slow down and enjoy the beautiful moments of life.
  • We must learn to give thanks for the blessings of each moment, each day, and each relationship.
  • We must learn to prune our schedules, so we can spend our time on the things and with the people who matter most.
  • We must learn that in the frailty and brevity of life that we must be intentional in all things – in the words we share with others, in the actions we take, in the thoughts that run through our heads, and in the moments between the milestones of life.

Are you going to let life be a blur?  Or are you going to do something about it?

Make the most of every opportunity.

Let your words be seasoned with salt.

Embrace the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens of life.

In fact, suck the very marrow out of life with each breath you breathe, each step you take, and each move you make.

Don’t let your life be a blur.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  Isaiah 40:8 ESV

What’s the speedometer of your life say right now?  Are you going 100+ miles per hour?  Or are you going slowly these days?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

ten-keys-to-achieving-excellence

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

Pat Riley

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

I chose the second option.

Living a life that matters requires intentional striving for excellence.

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

10 Keys to Achieving Excellence

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

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

Steve Jobs

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

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

4-things-i-learned-when-grandpa-called-me

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

James Avery

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

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

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

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

Grandpa and My Niece

Grandpa and My Niece

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

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

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

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

the-parable-of-the-broken-glasses

I wrote ‘Soul Keeping‘ because we are taught more about how to care for our cars than how to steward our souls. But you cannot have an impactful life with an impoverished soul.

John Ortberg

When I was in first grade, my parents took me to the eye doctor where the optometrist determined I needed to wear corrective lenses (the fancy name for glasses) to correct a problem with my eyes.

For four or five years, I wore brown, plastic-framed glasses.  I looked like Ralphie from A Christmas Story (if you need an image).

Like Ralphie, I often broke my glasses horsing around with my friends.  The eye doctor was used to fixing my glasses on a monthly basis.

Eventually, the glasses did their job, and I was able to stop wearing them.  In fact, my vision was better than 20/20 for the longest time.

I stopped visiting the eye doctor for several years, because my vision was excellent.

Then I turned 40.

A long overdue visit to the eye doctor indicated my need for reading glasses.

I picked up my first pair of reading glasses, and I’ve been able to get a new pair each year as my reading vision has changed slightly along the way.  I use the new pair as my primary reading glasses, and I use the older pairs as backup glasses.  I have two pairs on my nightstand, and I put one pair in the car.  It’s nice to have the coverage in case I need to read something with small print.

This brings me to my story – my parable.

According to Wikipedia,

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.

This week, events transpired in my life that caused me to take pause.  I broke one of my pairs of backup glasses.

Tuesday night, I was responsible for facilitating a Toastmasters Table Topics and Humorous Speech Contest for my Area.  I arrived early at the location of the contest, so I could set up and greet contestants and attendees.  As I was getting out of my car, I grabbed my spare set of glasses, and I must have put them on the roof of my car as I was getting other contest material out of my car.  Once I was in the contest location, I forgot about the glasses.

The contest went well.  The speakers did a fantastic job presenting to the contest audience.  The judging team selected winners wisely.  And the audience enjoyed the experience (from what I could tell).  After the contest, I cleaned up the room and packed up my contest materials.  I said goodbye to the last few lingering attendees, and I climbed in my car to begin the journey home.

100 yards after pulling out of the parking lot, I heard a loud thumping noise on the roof of my car, and I immediately realized the source of the sound.  My glasses had flown off the top of my car.  It was dark, but I decided to make several passes on the busy road to see if I might find my glasses.  Disappointingly, I could find the glasses, so I drove home with the thought of trying to find them in the morning on my way to work.

The next morning, I made a few more passes in the busy morning traffic, but I could see the glasses from my car.  Bummer!

At lunch time, I decided to make one last effort to find the glasses thinking they may have landed in the longer grass along the road.  I parked my car in a parking lot, and walked down the side of the road looking back and forth as I went.  Just when I was about to give up and head back to my car, I caught a glimpse of a familiar sight – the inside cover of my glasses case.  Half of it was laying on the side of the road blending into the grey of the road surface.  I walked a few more feet and found the other half of the case.  But where were my glasses?

As I began the journey back to my parked car, I found my glasses on the side of the road!  My excitement was soon replaced by sadness as I quickly discovered the lenses were missing, and the frames were smashed to smithereens.  It looked like my glasses took a ride in my garbage disposal.

I picked up the pieces and headed back to my car.  (A blog post was surely on the way.)

I’ve had a lot of thoughts since the incident with my glasses.

First, I’m a little frustrated with my carelessness.  I wish I had gone back out to my car when I realized I needed them for the contest.

Second, I’m a little disappointed in my opulence.  Where I serve in Guatemala, glasses like these are a treasured possession for those with failing eyes.  I could have brought the glasses with me on a trip to Guatemala to give to someone who really needs them.  Instead, I decided to have backups for my backups.  I want to be a good steward of my resources, and this means saving and spending appropriately.  And it means giving appropriately too.  I don’t want to be a hoarder of the resources God gives me.  I want to use the resources God gives me to help others and to honor Him.

My broken glasses remind me to hang on tightly to the things that matter, and they remind me to let go of the things that would be better served in the hands of others.

Are you hanging on too tightly to something?  What can you do TODAY to let go?  What does it mean to be a good steward?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

EXIT STRATEGY

Begin with the end in mind.

Stephen Covey

I don’t want to get to the end of my life with gas left in my tank.  I also don’t want to make it to the end of my life with the feeling that I wasted my life.

I want my life to matter.  I want to make a difference.  And I want to give my all to my purposes and passions.

With this in mind, I am developing an exit strategy for life.  My goal isn’t to exit this world early.  Instead, I want to have lived my life to the fullest when I do exit this world.

When I received my copy of Ellory Wells‘ new book, Exit Strategy, I was excited to see how it related to my own thoughts on exit strategy.  I was intrigued by the sub-title, “The Exact Tactics to Transition from Where You Have to Be to Where You Want to Be.”

In Exit Strategy, Ellory tells his story of leaving corporate America and starting up his own business.  As I read his story, I got the clear picture that Ellory (like me) wants to do something amazing with his life, and he’s not content to simply exist.  I liked this part of the book!

Exit Strategy then maps out  process for launching your own business – for doing your own thing.  Ellory provides a step-by-step process for starting a business in today’s web-driven world.  This isn’t just theory.  Ellory’s instructions are based on his own experience and on the experience of his clients.

I know the instructions work, because I have been following much of this material over the past year as I have been working with Ellory with some of my own pursuits.

If you are thinking about stretching into a new business pursuit, I’d recommend you pick up a copy of Exit Strategy.  Then I’d recommend you send Ellory an email (his email is in the book).  I know he’d love to help you!

Whether you are thinking about starting a new business or not, I’d challenge you to think about your own exit strategy.

What are you doing TODAY to make sure you live your life to the fullest?  What is your exit strategy?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

10 ESSENTIALS FOR OVERCOMING THE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE

Stress happens.

How you handle stress matters.

My post today initially started as an explanation for a recent reduction in my weekly blog posts, and it turned into an all-out focus on handling the stress we face in life.  I’m not going to change the initial part of the post as I think it helps provide a window into the stress I’ve been experiencing recently.  I don’t know what stress you are dealing with lately, but I’m hoping today’s post will help you as you face life’s challenges.

What is on your goal list?

Are you giving attention to the goals you really want to accomplish?

You may have noticed a recent drop off in the number of posts I am releasing each week.  There’s a reason (actually, there are a few reasons):

  1. I’m working on my next book project.  A good percentage of my normal writing time is currently focused on this project.  With a busy work and family schedule, I have to be intentional with my time.  And in some cases, this means I have to give up something to get something else.  Once I get through this book project, I hope to post more frequently.  Until then, I’m learning to be content with a post or two per week.
  2. I’ve had a few “distractions” in my life lately.  Without going into too much detail, these distractions have been related to my job, my home, my family, and our upcoming missions trip to Guatemala.  Most of these things are great, but they have required a significant portion of my regular bandwidth.  For my job, I’m preparing to visit Chicago at the end of the month for an exclusive leadership development workshop.  The pre-work for this workshop will ensure I get the most out of the experience which will team me up with leaders from Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.  For my family, we are navigating the college selection process for the first time with our oldest child.  We are supporting our son as he works on his Eagle Scout project.  And we’re running between various activities at the track, the concert hall, and elsewhere.  My parents are also going through some health challenges and life transitions.  And our family is trying to put the finishing touches on our plans to go back to Guatemala this summer.  (You can support us here or here.)

Life is about choices.

If you are a “Go Getter” like me, you have to come to terms with this fact:  You can’t do everything.

Sometimes you have to let go of the good, so you can focus on the great.  And sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the things on your personal agenda, so you can focus on the things that come your way in the course of life.

As I’ve faced some of the recent challenges (and “distractions”), I’ve dealt with some anxiety, some sleepless nights, and some emotion.  To put it simply, I’ve experienced stress.  Stress is a normal part of life in today’s world.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t know handle ourselves when the stress levels climb.  As I work through my the stress in my life, I’ve developed a list to help me deal with the stress.  I’m hoping this will help you when you deal with stress.

10 Essentials For Overcoming the Stress in Your Life

  1. Eat right.  Eating junk only drags you down.  When stress happens, our eating habits are the first things to be compromised.  Junk in equals junk out.  Put the good stuff in to help you overcome the stresses you are juggling.  Eat regularly.  Balance your intake with proteins and plant-based carbohydrates.  Drink plenty of water.  Avoid excess sugar and caffeine.  Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
  2. Exercise.  When we get too busy, we often forget to take care of ourselves physically.  Regular exercise is paramount to dealing with an abundance of stress, and it’s essential for building you up for the future challenges you will face.  Regular cardio and strength training gives you more energy and helps build your immune system.
  3. Get sleep.  I struggle with this one.  We all need different amounts of sleep, but most of us need far more sleep that we actually get.  The past few months, I have returned to taking a nap or two on the weekend.  These short siestas help restore my energy levels to better handle the challenges of the upcoming week.  Try going to bed earlier (I’m preaching to myself now).  Turn off the electronics and the television.  Read a book.  Drink a warm glass of milk.  And head to bed early.
  4. Get fresh air.  Too often, we get stuck in the office all day.  Our only fresh air intake happens when we walk into the office at the beginning of the day and when we walk to our car at the end of the day.  Use your lunch time to take a quick walk or to visit a local park.  Breathe in the fresh air.
  5. Practice gratitude.  When stress levels begin to elevate, we tend to become more negative.  We forget to appreciate what is going on around us.  Find a way to practice gratitude.  Start a gratitude journal, and write in it every day.  Write down two or three things you appreciated about your day.  You’ll be surprised to see the impact of this discipline on your stress levels.
  6. Plug into a support system.  You may need a little help from your friends.  I’m in three or four groups that encourage me through tough times.  We all need a this kind of support system.  I meet with 13 other men on a weekly basis.  I meet with a small group of entrepreneurs every other week.  I meet with a group of families twice a month.  And I meet with a group of fellow managers every week at my office.  These meetings are essential to balancing the stresses of life.  These groups have been a place for me to let out some of the emotion I am dealing with and to calibrate my responses to whatever is happening in my life.  If the stress levels continue to rise, I’d highly recommend professional counseling.  Several years ago when I was going through a very stressful time in my life, I met with a counselor for several weeks.  These sessions helped.
  7. Stay connected with those who are closest to you.  Stress impacts our relationships with those we love.  In order to counterbalance this natural tendency, it’s imperative that we find ways to spend time together so we can connect.  My wife and I practice a weekly date night which helps.  Plan ahead for time away from the normal routines and pressures of life.  My wife and I are planning a trip to Vermont in June to celebrate our 20th anniversary and to simply connect away from home.  If you have children, date them too.  Take your son or daughter out for ice cream or for a bike ride.  Time together with those we love builds better relationships and builds a foundation for dealing with the stresses of life.
  8. Stay grounded in God’s word.  Don’t underestimate the power of God’s word in overcoming the challenges of life.  God’s word encourages, teaches, and reminds us of truths we must remember when life gets challenging.  One of the verses that came back to me recently is Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  9. Pray.  My prayer life has increased recently.  Pray for God’s intervention in the challenges you are facing.  Pray for wisdom, peace, and joy.  Pray for those who seem to be coming against you.  Pray that God would use the challenges you are facing now to help others later.  Stress often leads to bitterness, so we must pray that God would change our hearts.
  10. Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Keep going.  Don’t let the stress stop you from moving ahead.  Learn.  Take one step at a time.  And keep stretching!

I feel better already.

How about you?

How do you handle stress?  What do you do to overcome stress in your life?  Why do you think it’s important to address our response to stress?

If you are looking for additional help in handling stress, I think the 7 Week Stretch Challenge could help.  Sign up below: