Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.Henri Nouwen
Last week, I was on a call with a couple of other colleagues from Mexico and the United States. We get together virtually once a month to encourage each other and to help each other navigate the leadership gantlet we all find ourselves in as leaders in our company.
During the call, one of the leaders confessed she was so consumed by her work that she had absolutely no life outside of work. She shared she was somewhat jealous of me, because of the active life I lead outside of my job. She has been an employee of the company for 25 years, and her work has become her identity.
It’s not uncommon for men to ask this question whenever they run into someone they don’t really know. What do you do?
Maybe you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a preacher, an engineer, a businessman, an entrepreneur, a manager, or something else.
Here’s my initial answer to this question. I’m a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, an engineer, a manager, a leader, a writer, a speaker, a philanthropist, a Toastmaster, a Rotarian, a Pennsylvanian, an American, a friend. This list could go on.
What would happen if these things were taken away from me? How would I define myself?
When we define ourselves by our activities, our careers, our titles, our positions, our geographical homes, etc. we limit ourselves. This is not who we really are. We are more!
Recently, I saw Overcomer, the latest movie from the Kendrick Brothers. The movie encouraged me to look at my identity from a better angle. In the movie, one of the characters is encouraged to read Ephesians 1 and 2 to see who we really are through Christ.
Here’s what I discovered (or rediscovered) as a result of this exercise:
When your identity is found in Christ, your identity never changes. You are always a child of God.Tim Tebow
Let me ask you again. Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What defines you? Better yet, who defines you?
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.Washington Irving
Many of those close to me know I like to play the “Hot Seat Game” with people. The game works best when there is a small group of people has some type of relationship with each other, and it’s important for there to be a commitment to confidentiality when a small group decides to play the “Hot Seat Game.”
In the game, an individual is put on the “Hot Seat.” The rules of the game permit anyone else to ask absolutely any question of the person in the Hot Seat. And the rules of the game also permit the person in the Hot Seat to please the fifth (or not answer) any question.
Typically, the “Hot Seat Game” starts with pretty basic questions: What’s your favorite color? Where were you born? How many pets have you had in your life?
From there the “Hot Seat Game” gets a little deeper: What are your biggest weaknesses? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Have you ever done anything illegal?
Finally, the “Hot Seat Game” can go right to the jugular: How is your spiritual life right now? How is your marriage? What is your biggest personal struggle with sin? And here is my favorite: When was the last time you cried and why?
I have witnessed grown men break down in tears as they have answered this last question. They’ve told stories of losing loved ones, of dealing with divorce, of missed opportunities with children.
I’m not a big crier. I just don’t cry all that often. I cried when I lost my grandparents. I shed tears when I we had to put our family dog to sleep. And I’ve admittedly shed a couple of tears at the end of a television show or a meaningful movie – like It’s A Wonderful Life.
I think lots of men are afraid to shed tears or they simply don’t know how to let down their guards – to expose their hearts.
As I reflect back on times when I have cried, I realize the tears actually brought relief. They gave expression to the grief, the stress, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the thrill, the euphoria that I was experiencing at the time.
Yep. It was just a couple days ago when I had a small river of tears flowing down my left cheek.
The past few weeks have been an extremely busy, stressful, and exhausting time in my life. I have been battling a variety of challenging situations at work, and Leanne and I have been working together through a couple of tough transitions at home (don’t worry…our marriage is rock solid).
When I made it to Friday night, I suppose I was a bit more fragile than I realized. Leanne and I went to see the new Kendrick Brothers movie, Overcomer. The movie tells the story of a basketball/cross-country coach and a cross-country runner who are both struggling with their identities. Leanne and I both agree that the movie was fairly predictable, but we also agree that we would see it again (and again). The messages in the movie were pretty powerful.
At any rate, towards the end of the movie, tears started flowing down my left cheek. In a way, it was a sacred moment. The emotion evoked by the movie provided a place to release some of the other emotion from the past few weeks that had been bottled up inside me – emotion unexplained in words.
Crying is cleansing. There’s a reason for tears, happiness or sadness.Dionne Warwick
Crying is cleansing. I like that. Life can be so challenging, so diverse, so amazing and so difficult at the same time. Our tears help to wash and polish our lives. They bring definition and meaning to things we simply cannot express in any other way.
So here’s my question for you:
Figure it out for yourself. Write it down. Ponder this experience. Reflect. Then feel free to leave a comment if you are willing to share.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.Aristotle
In April of 2018, I started a streak.
I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps that day. 12,721 steps.
The next day, I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps again. 12,806 steps.
Then, I did it again for three days in a row. 13,515 steps.
The streak continues, and today I hit a significant milestone – 500 DAYS IN A ROW! (I have 14,460 steps as I type this, and I’m getting ready to go on a walk with Leanne.)
That’s right. For the past 500 days, I have walked at least 10,000 steps every day.
Some of those steps have taken place on a treadmill. Some of happened in airports throughout terminals and even around baggage claim carousels. I’ve walked in my basement. I’ve walked in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Guatemala. I’ve walked in rain, snow, sunshine, moonlight, and complete darkness. I’ve walked inside and outside. I’ve walked in extreme heat and extreme cold.
I’ve kept the streak alive one step at a time.
Walking every day has given me the opportunity to think, to listen, to enjoy God’ creation, to talk to other people (in person or on the phone), to learn, and to find money (I’ve probably found over $20 during these walks).
The Proclaimers recorded a song that is fitting for today – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles):
But I would walk 500 milesCharles S. Reid & Craig M. Reid – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
500 days of walking is just the beginning. I don’t know how long the streak will last, but I know it has been a great benefit for my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I will walk 500 more!
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:11
What habit do you need to start today? What habit do you need to quit today? And what habit do you need to do again tomorrow?
When I was a child, my parents measured my growth by marking my height on the door frame of one of the rooms in our house. I could see growth happening, because my mark kept getting higher on the wall. I eventually passed my mother. Then I passed my father. And eventually, my mark on the wall was over 6’5″ above the floor.
When it comes to my height, I stopped growing many years ago. But this doesn’t mean I stopped growing. I still pride myself on my appetite for personal growth. I read books. I listen to podcasts. I watch educational videos. And I hang out with smart people. I participate in these activities to make sure I keep growing.
Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident. If you want to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say), you have to be intentional.
Today, I’m excited to announce the release of Dan Black’s new eBook, The Little Book of Personal Growth.
In the short book, Dan unpacks the meaning of personal growth, and he provides a road map for helping readers create their own plan for personal growth. The book outlines the five stages of personal growth. Then Dan unveils the ten core benefits of engaging in regular personal growth. He discusses the components necessary for personal growth.
Dan does a great job recognizing that we have different learning styles. He describes nine methods readers can use for their own personal growth. And finally, he walks readers through a simple step-by-step process for developing a personal growth plan that will take you to higher heights on your personal growth chart.
(Please note: I received a preview copy of The Little Book of Personal Growth for free as a gift from Dan Black in exchange for my pre-purchase of his new eBook and for my agreement to participate on his launch team for this book. I was not required to provide a favorable review. I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life and your personal growth.
Also to note: There are affiliate links in this post. Should you purchase The Little Book of Personal Growth by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase. These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala. Thank you!)
I talk to young engineers and professionals all the time. They want to know my story, and they want to know what they need to do to get to the next level. It’s important for everyone to have a plan and goals for their career. For many, this means they are looking for the next promotion.
What do I have to do to get promoted?
It’s a fair question everyone must ask themselves, their co-workers, and their management, if they want to achieve their career ambitions. Over my 20+ year career, I have moved from an engineer to a project manager to an operations manager. Each step on the journey has required patience, persistence, and plenty of planned actions.
Today, I will help you identify six actions you should be taking today if you want to move closer to the promotion you desire.
Did you sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge yet? Sign up below!
I took time to read this book between Christmas and New Years, and it provided a few great insights and ideas for me to pursue as I seek to clarify my beliefs, values, and priorities.
While I’m still wrestling with Smith’s assertion that the pursuit of personal inner peace is the ultimate goal of man. I deeply agree with the thought that we can make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us by clarifying our beliefs, by confirming our governing values, and by intentionally managing our time.
The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?is a quick read that will challenge readers to fill the gaps they may have in their beliefs, values, and time. Personally, I was challenged after reading The 3 Gaps to write my own personal constitution, to define my governing values, and to practice the discipline of daily planning. If you are looking for a book with practical advice to help you stretch, you should consider picking up a copy of this book.
(Please note: I received a copy of The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? for free as a gift from Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence. I was not required to provide a favorable review. I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life.
Also to note: There are affiliate links in this post. Should you purchase The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase. These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala. Thank you!)
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.
Earlier this summer, I was elected to be president of my Toastmasters International club. It was an honor to be selected for this position, but it also comes with a lot of work. I have to kick-off and close our club’s bi-weekly meetings. I have to plan and lead our club’s executive committee meetings. And I have to interface with fellow officers, club members, and guests.
One of my responsibilities as the club president and member of the club executive committee is to create a Club Success Plan. Essentially, this is a document to record the club’s current status, challenges, and goals for the coming term. And the Club Success Plan provides a place to write down a plan for overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.
This week spent time completing the Club Success Plan, and I’m excited for the results when we look back at the plan throughout the term and at the end of the term in June.
As I was working on the plan, I reflected on the importance of writing a success plan for other areas of our lives.
What do you want to accomplish this year? What goals do you want to achieve?
Do you have a plan to get there?
Typically, we talk about goals at the beginning of the year. Everyone gets hyped up on New Year’s Resolutions. The enthusiasm lasts for a few weeks or even a few months before we settle back into our normal existence trying to survive the pushes and pulls of our busy lives.
By the time we get to this time of year, our resolutions and goals are long forgotten, and we are trying to make it to the next weekend.
As Benjamin Franklin said, many of us fail to achieve our goals because we fail to create a plan for getting where we want to go.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail. I like to succeed. I like to achieve. I like to make progress towards my goals.
Writing a personal success plan doesn’t have to take forever. You can write a success plan for yourself using these simple steps:
I made a decision to shrink my garden this year. I am just way too busy in this season of my life to keep up with my normally ambitious garden. This year my garden will be about one-third the size of last year. I will be using the square-foot gardening method to make the most of the space which now consists of four four-by-eight foot garden beds. One of the beds is dedicated to asparagus, and a quarter of another bed is dedicated to horseradish. This means I have approximately eighty square feet of garden space to plant.
Last night, Leanne and I planted two kinds of lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and kale. I’ll do another planting in 10 to 14 days. Around Mother’s Day, I will plant tomatoes, peppers, beans, and a few other vegetables that require warmer temperatures.
I like the work that goes into a productive garden. And I like the produce that eventually comes as the temperatures get warmer (as long as I keep the deer and groundhogs out of the garden). Produce will not happen unless I put the effort in to plant the seeds. A productive garden does not happen by accident.
This is true for many things in life.
My kids will not automatically turn out respectful and well-adjusted unless my wife and I put the work into them planting seeds that point them in the right direction.
My career will not just move in a desired direction unless I put the effort into it and take time to learn the skills and embrace the experience required to take me there.
My faith will not grow unless I take time to feed my soul with God’s Word and unless I plug into other believers who will spur me on to greater heights.
In all areas of our life, growth does not happen without hard work, without planting the right things into our lives, and without stretching ourselves.
Besides taking several days off between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I get to spend more time with my family. We’ll be traveling out to Western PA to celebrate with my wife’s family. I also like this time, because it gives me time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the year ahead.
I’m a big goal setting person. It helps me to stay on task with stretching towards things that keep me growing and learning.
For example, my 2014 goal list included exercising 250 days, running 1500 miles, and writing a book about track and field. Today, I will hit my 250th day of exercise. I am just 10 miles shy of my mileage goal, so I should surpass that later this week. And I wrote and self-published my first book, On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field in April.
There were a few goals I didn’t reach, and I’m okay with this.
I’ll be reviewing my list, and making new ones in the next week and a half.
I think it’s good to have goals, but it’s also good to frame them from the right mindset.
I want my goals to be in-line with bringing glory to God. I think he wants us to stretch and grow personally, and I think he wants to draw us closer to Him.
As we approach the year ahead, this is a great time to sit down, reflect, and revision the year ahead.
Be intentional about the year ahead. Live your life on purpose. Set goals, and go after them!