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      Today I’m Going Back to the Future

      TODAY I'M GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE

      Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies.  The concept of journeying through the space-time continuum to another time and another space is mind-bending to say the least.  And today, I am actually already at tomorrow.  Let me explain.  My friend, Ralph Mayhew, lives in Australia.  He is a leadership blogger, and he is hosting one of my guest articles.  The post went live at 5AM Thursday Australia time.  But it’s 2PM Wednesday here in my hometown.  It boggles my mind.  Today, I officially went back to the future.

      To see what I’m talking about, go visit my article – 7 Keys to Leading Yourself.  Click here to get to the article.

      Leave a comment over at Ralph’s site, then come back and let me know what you think.  And in your own way, you’ll be doing some amazing time travel of your own. 

      The Healthy Stretch of Leadership

      THE HEALTHY STRETCH OF LEADERSHIP

      I’ve been leading people for over 20 years now and in that time I’ve discovered leadership stretches us in 5 different ways. Being stretched is a good thing, it’s the opposite of letting us retreat into ourselves. When we retreat into ourselves, we find what we think is safety, comfort, rest, protection, but this is just a facade. What really happens is we become unhealthy, self-serving, risk averse, lethargic leaders with poor attitudes and hearts that can grow toxic.

      The apostle Paul issued the war cry of the stretched leader when he said ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Phil 1:21) My life for the cause regardless of the cost, as the ultimate cost will be worth all I have. So how are we stretched as leaders and what happens to us when we aren’t?

      I want to share with you what I’ve discovered about being stretched in leadership. Every leader begins the leadership journey with the same five components. The role of the leader is to steward these components toward anonymity, away from ambition, so as their influence is aligned to God’s influence, the cause they lead and the God whom they lead for is glorified. Allow me to elaborate.

      Stretch 1 – Passion into Wisdom

      Every leader is passionate when they first start. They are fired up, keen and excited, wanting to change the world. Passion however dilutes if it is not stretched. If passion is not pulled toward and informed by wisdom, passion at best fades to disengagement or at worst results in recklessness.

      When a passionate leader presents an idea or initiative to their people they should be seeking the wisdom and not approval of those they lead. Approval does not necessarily result in the success of the idea, but wisdom always does. The passionate leader needs to seek out wisdom, for maturity to take place.

      Stretch 2 – Trust into Integrity

      Integrity is a leader’s greatest asset; it is from integrity that influence flows. Every leader begins leading with an empty integrity account, but they are trusted to have influence, all be it in small amounts. If a leader chooses integrity always, the trust they build increases.

      Through every decision a leader either builds or bankrupts trust. Building trust is acting with integrity, so the trust others place in you is rewarded. To not build trust is to play the role of the hypocrite, pretending to be someone your followers will eventually discover you’re not. Leaders who seek integrity always hunger for the truth, whilst using it as a mirror.

      Stretch 3 – Invincibility into Humility

      When a leader realizes their weaknesses they begin to embrace humility. Every emerging leader is not aware of their weaknesses yet, as they’ve not been leading, but as a result they do not know what will disqualify them from leadership. They feel invincible.

      It takes courage to examine yourself and have others do the same, to discover your limitations, blind spots and weaknesses. People frequently think humility is just thinking less of yourself. Humility isn’t thinking of yourself less it’s thinking about yourself less. Leadership is not about you, it’s about the God whom you lead for and the people you lead, period!

      Stretch 4 – Confidence into Security

      Even the most unconfident leaders begin with confidence. It’s why they decided to step onto the leadership platform. The direction they steward their confidence however determines how long they remain on and how far-reaching their platform becomes. Insecurity is not a lack of confidence; it’s the investment of confidence in the wrong things.

      Every leader needs to explore what they have invested their confidence in and potentially reinvest it in something else. Insecurity breeds in us when we trust something that is untrustworthy, constantly changing, and ever unreliable. A leader needs to place their confidence in God and lead out of the security, which accompanies this.

      Stretch 5 – Commitment to Resilience

      Resilience is the most valuable trait a leader can have. Without it, leading is horrendously difficult. When a leader starts leading they are committed. That is until the first set back, knock down, disruption, heartbreak, frustration. It’s at that point they need to decide if they will grit their teeth and push on.

      Resilience is the repeated and constant decision to not give up, to stay committed. A leader needs to constantly make this decision and in so doing, deepens the well from which they lead. Commitments can come and go, or rise and fall on any number of variables, but resilience is a white-knuckle refusal to give up. The greatest leaders are resilient.

      Leading people will stretch you, it’s meant to, but you need to ensure you’re stretched in the right way. For more on this and to explore these and other concepts further you can pickup my latest book The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence.

      How are you stretched as a leader and what is the result of that stretching in your influence?

      ralphmayhew

      It’s an honor today to host Ralph Mayhew.  Ralph and I connected through the blog world several months ago at Joe Lalonde’s site.  Despite living on the other side of the world (Ralph lives in Australia), we share several common bonds: a passion for leadership and a passion for Christ.  I hope Ralph’s post today challenges you to become a better leader.  His new book is fantastic!  And I’d highly recommend you pick up your own copy if you’re serious about becoming a better leader.

       

      BIO:

      Ralph Mayhew’s brand new Amazon bestseller The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence, offers a fresh understanding of leadership and influence, and is available at www.theanonymousleader.com. He also blogs at www.ralphmayhew.com.

      Who Wants to Make a Difference? #YourLifeMatters

      WHO WANTS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE_

      Winston Churchill said, late in his life, that he had always “wanted to make a difference” in the world. Any student of history would have to say that Winston Churchill made a difference. He kept the free world from folding as England resisted the determined aggression of Germany in World War II. He buoyed the spirits of the English people at a time when rational thought would have concluded it was time to give up. He became, as much as anyone, the symbol of our refusal to let freedom be traded for fascism.

      The interesting thing is, almost everyone has a desire to make a difference in the world. Even when it has not surfaced in that formulation, no one wants to see their life as “meaningless.” On the one hand, it seems so futile to live and die without impact. One the other hand, it changes the very nature of our life to be involved in something of transcendent value.

      There are nearly as many ways to make a difference as there are people in the world. We certainly don’t have to make a difference in the same way our neighbor does, or our brother, or our best friend from high school. How we choose to make a difference has a great deal to do with where our most important priorities lie.

      There is a couple living in my home town who discovered they would not be able to have children. But they wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. There were a lot of things they could have done to achieve that goal. They chose to adopt an orphan from Viet Nam, left homeless at the end of that tragic war. Then they adopted a child from Korea. Then one from Brazil. And so on. At this point, they are past retirement age, and still have teenagers in their home. They have adopted 21 children, many from desperate situations in foreign countries.   Their choices have brought them great pain and great joy. However, no matter how you view the situation, it is clear that they have made a huge difference in the world, especially to those 21 children.

      Your efforts don’t have to be heroic to bring you happiness. Sometime simply helping the elderly in your area have companionship they would otherwise lack will do the trick. Or you may find satisfaction in the Big Brother program, or in helping bring cultural experiences to youth who would otherwise never experience them. Or you may make a difference by helping your neighborhood come together in friendship and uplifting association.

      How do you know you are making a difference? Other than the obvious fruits of your efforts, you know because you are happier when it happens. You spend less time dwelling on what you lack, and more time enjoying what you do. There is no single secret to happiness in this life. But I am assured that whatever formula you suggest will have “making a difference” as an integral part. It changes an existence into a life.

      *****

      Hyrum Smith is a distinguished author, speaker, and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of FranklinCovey®. For three decades, he has empowered people to effectively govern their personal and professional lives. Hyrum’s books and presentations have been acclaimed by American and international audiences. He combines wit and enthusiasm with a gift for communicating compelling principles that incite lasting personal change. You can visit him on the web at www.3gaps.com.

       

      You can read my review of Hyrum’s new book by clicking here.

      Do you want to make a difference?  What are you doing about this desire?

      The 10 Reasons Why Positive Thinking Might Be for You After All

      positive thinking

      Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.

      Willie Nelson

      When the average person hears the phrase “positive thinking,” they tend to think of a certain group of people. This phrase evokes the type of person who is always positive, the “hippie dippie” types that many of us consider ourselves to be the polar opposite of who we are. The truth is, positive thinking isn’t just for New Age kooks. Transitioning to a more positive outlook can be life-changing, even for those of who consider themselves to be confirmed cynics.

      If you want to improve your life and have an easier time of dealing with what life throws at you, then consider these 10 reasons why positive thinking might just be for you after all:

      1. Reduce Your Stress Levels

      You can’t control what life throws at you. However, you can in fact control how you respond to it.  When we become stressed, it isn’t because of what we’re experiencing, but rather how we’ve chosen to react to these situations. If you choose to take an even-tempered approach to a negative situation, not only will you experience less stress, but you’ll be far more adept at handling and overcoming said situation.

      2. Improve Your Physical Health

      Stress isn’t just mentally and emotionally exhausting. It can actually be overwhelmingly harmful to your physical health. It raises your blood pressure and increases your heart attack risk. It’s one of the reasons why x put such an emphasis on creating a calming environment; stress can be just as harmful to our bodies as substance abuse.

      3. Make Better Choices

      We don’t make good choices when we’re in a negative mindset.  This is usually the time when we reach for a drink or a fatty meal or say something that we regret later on.  Whether you’ve been struggling to get out of a toxic relationship or even a deadly addiction, sometimes all you need to do is to choose to start believing in yourself again.  The moment you muster up courage to even just find a drug rehab center or simply take the first step to getting out your self-hatred, life takes a turn for the better.  By approaching negative situations with a positive outlook and taking a moment to breathe, you’re less likely to exacerbate your situation by acting out in anger.

      4. Stick To Healthy Routines

      Those who think positively aren’t inclined to “punish themselves” by neglecting pertinent tasks or engaging in unhealthy behaviors. When your outlook is regularly positive, you’re more likely to stick to your daily routines, engage in healthy behaviors and avoid procrastinating. A positive outlook can make your day-to-day life far simpler.

      5. Be More Attractive

      “Stress wrinkles” aren’t a myth. Stress is up there next to smoking, sun exposure and excessive alcohol use on the list of things that age you prematurely. If you want to look younger and more vibrant, reducing your stress levels is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to do it. Remember, you can’t eliminate stressful situations from your life, but you can control how you react to them.

      6. Manage Your Weight

      Overeating and poor exercise habits are often fueled by unhappiness. When we’re unhappy, it’s hard to find the motivation to make better dietary and fitness choices. When life is approached with a positive outlook, however, people can easily find the motivation to take care of their health and fitness. Those who value their health and their body tend to have an easier time of making positive fitness and diet changes.

      7. Have Better Relationships

      Angry and unhappy people often end up pushing those they love away from them. Positive people, on the other hand, are pleasant to be around and attract great people into their lives. When you adapt a positive mindset, you’ll watch your relationships with romantic partners, friends and family members gradually become easier and more fulfilling.

      8. Laughter Is Literally The Best Medicine

      If you can find the humor in a negative experience, you can actually improve your health. The notion that laughter is the best medicine isn’t just a folksy old saying, it’s the truth. The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter has actual concrete health benefits, both for mental and physical wellness.

      9. Better Career and Financial Success

      If you’re stressed out about money, that might be the main reason why you have money woes in the first place. No matter where you are professionally or financially, merely having a better attitude about your situation can help you to better improve your standing in your career and the amount of money that you are earning.

      10. Just Plain Feel Better

      Little Orphan Annie wasn’t whistling Dixie when she said that the sun would come out tomorrow. The truth is, the world will continue turning whether you have a negative or positive attitude. However, the ride is far more pleasant if you choose the latter. With a positive attitude, you’ll just plain feel better.

      Consider these 10 reasons the next time you’re ready to respond negatively to an unfortunate situation. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control how we choose to respond. By adopting a positive outlook, you’ll be healthier, more successful and happier.

      How has positive thinking impacted your life?  Tell me about it in the comments.

      elliotToday’s article is a guest post by Elliot Caleira.  Elliot is a freelance writer in the self-mastery and health and wellness spaces. When he’s not writing you’ll find him cooking or teaching Portuguese classes.  Connect with Elliot on Twitter.

      Read more about how to guest post on Jon Stolpe Stretched by clicking here.

      The Backstory

      backstory

      I remember working with a co-author on an earlier book about the idea of co-active leadership. Because that book was an amalgam of fiction and non-fiction, we had to flesh it out with fully-drawn characters and an engaging plot in addition to making sure our points and theories are being developed fully.

      When we started exploring the backstory on our characters, we had to think: where did they come from, what did they do, and who were they in connection with prior to their arrival in the story? The bones of the story were solid, but the richness came in when we started to engage with the characters’ backgrounds. As we worked on this, we felt that the reader also began to care about them and either identify with them or find within them a curious and engaging human being that they want to know more about. The book then became a vortex into which all these stories arrived and swirled together and then get bumped out the other end into new stories all together.

      Isn’t that what transformation is all about?

      We go through our lives developing our stories, our beliefs, our emotional truths, our philosophies, our justifications and compensations for why we are the way we are. We reach a point in that story where our eyes open a bit and we see that much of our story no longer works for us and we start scrambling around “trying” to make it work, because this is our story after all.

      Many of us then create a new story all about “trying”. Others of us create stories about giving up, or hiding out, or pushing and forcing the world to change in some way to support this story that no longer works for us. At some point, some of us, maybe many of us, reach a point where we are exposed to ourselves completely and know that this story must change.

      At that point, a transformation is needed, a metamorphosis, a jump from one story to another, an inclusion or healing of the old story and the magical manifestation of the new one. This transformation can be an all-at-once experience that forever changes the hero or the heroines’ life story or it can be a series of mini transformations over a period of time with each mini transformation feeling, at the time, like stepping into an entirely different world.

      The backstories are what engage us, the reader or the audience. The struggles, the limiting beliefs, the dark times and the pain of the hero pulls us into the story. Once we are in the story we stay to see how the hero or heroine transforms and evolves from those places to where the bigger story is taking them. We need to know our own backstories and be entertained by them without believing them. We need to remember that they are stories, they are perspectives and the stories can always be either rewritten or they can move in new and surprising ways.

      Tell me, how do you wish to write your story?

      Henry Kimsey-House headshotRe-worked from original posts on Henry’s blog.

      Today’s article is a guest post by Henry Kimsey-House.  Henry Kimsey-House is the co-author of Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead and Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives. He is the co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) where he currently serves as Lead Designer. Learn more about Henry’s work at http://www.thecoaches.com or connect with him on Twitter.

      Read more about how to guest post on Jon Stolpe Stretched by clicking here.

      5 Fears That Can Control Your Life and How to Overcome Them

      5fears

      Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.

      W. Clement Stone

      Fear is an emotion that has important survival value in our lives, preventing us from engaging in dangerous activities.  But fear can also be an obstacle to your progress, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Often, it is past events that cause fear to become ingrained.  These fears can have a detrimental effect on your life, both in how you move forward professionally and how you move forward personally in understanding and insight.

      Here are a few of the most common fears and how they can take control of your life and prevent you from being the person you want to be:

      5 Fears That Can Control Your Life and How to Overcome Them

      1 – Fear of Disappointing Others

      The expectations others have of you can create a paralyzing fear of disappointing them and cause you to continue living a life that ultimately does not benefit you.  The expectations of parents are often the most powerful influencers in our lives, but it can also be among the most destructive, if adult children don’t take control of their own destinies and be the people they want to be.  This need to continually please others often makes them feel that they are in a disguise, unable to be their true selves and too fearful to make the changes that would be best for them.

      2 – Fear of Change

      Fear of change is one of the most universal fears among human beings.  People learn a multitude of survival skills that help them in their environments.  The act of changing these habits often produces anxiety, and even fear, as if taking a great risk.  Patients in drug rehab learn that they must learn to overcome this visceral fear of changing their lives in order to develop new and healthier habits for recovery.  Growing comfortable with change is a critical step in gaining control of your life and making the adjustments needed to reach your goals.

      3 – Fear of Social Disapproval

      Fear of “what people will say” is a concern that gets to the heart of people’s identity within their families and within their communities. Social approval and disapproval can be a powerful force that keeps people in line, but it can also prevent personal growth and exploration.  Shaking off the control of social disapproval will allow you to experiment with other ways to define yourself and will give you the permission you need to change your life.

      4 – Fear of Failure

      Although most people think wanting to succeed is a strong drive that propels people forward, the fear of making mistakes and failing can be a crippling force that controls some individuals’ lives.  These people may never even attempt new skills or experiences for fear of falling on their faces in some way that humiliates them.  Overcoming this fear requires a great deal of self-talk and self-encouragement.  It also requires permission to make mistakes and do things badly in the beginning, allowing time to improve until they can succeed. If you are one of the individuals who cannot move forward because of fear of failure, take the time to learn ways to support yourself when moving outside your comfort zone and trying new things.  These skills can be the ticket to opening up a brand new world of experiences.

      5 – Fear of Separation

      The fears of separation and abandonment are deep psychological concerns that affect many individuals.  The attachments that people build over a lifetime can feel like they are indispensable to daily life.  Any changes that threaten these relationships can be seen as too dangerous to implement.  The change would leave the individual without the safety nets to which they are accustomed.  However, these relationships are more flexible and lasting than people realize, and they can withstand changes in life.  Overcoming your deepest fears about separation from your support community can help to you expand your activities and experiences, without the loss of those you most depend upon.

      Confronting the fears that rule your life can be a frightening proposition.  However, it can be one of the most critical steps in allowing you the freedom to re-design your life to allow you to be your most authentic self.  Counseling can help individuals explore negative aspects of their relationships with others.   Meditation can help to soothe anxiety about change and fear of failing.  Getting out to enjoy hobbies, classes or other activities can help to strengthen relationship skills, so that you feel more confident stepping away from familiar circles.

      How has fear impacted your life?  How has fear stretched you?  How have you overcome your fear?

      elliotToday’s article is a guest post by Elliot Caleira.  Elliot is a freelance writer in the self-mastery and health and wellness spaces. When he’s not writing you’ll find him cooking or teaching Portuguese classes.  Connect with Elliot on Twitter.

      Read more about how to guest post on Jon Stolpe Stretched by clicking here.

      6 Types of Content That Will STRETCH Your Mind

      stretch your mind

      When you think of the word “stretch,” what comes to mind?

      Maybe you thought of physical exercise, which requires you to stretch your muscles. You might have thought about stretching toward your financial or career goals. Perhaps you even thought of a tall tale you heard recently, thinking, “That’s a stretch.”

      You can stretch in many different ways, but the most important stretch takes place within your mind. Your mind is the source of your emotions, actions, and words. Therefore, it’s vital that you take good care of your mind by feeding it great content.

      So what kind of content will help stretch your mind? These are the six most important types:

      1. Books. Choose books that will help you grow and become a better person and leader. It’s important to read books from a variety of perspectives and subjects. This will keep you fresh and prevent you from getting into a mental rut. You should include great fiction books (and even a few books that aren’t necessarily great, but entertaining) because you need to be inspired by great stories. (If you’re a person of faith, the Bible is the most important book you should be reading.)
      2. Podcasts. Podcasts are free and don’t necessarily require extra time. You can listen to them while you’re driving, exercising, or doing other activities. I listen to a wide variety of podcasts, including some just for fun. Don’t limit yourself to content focused on business or productivity. Be sure to listen to podcasts that are fun and enjoyable.
      3. Movies. Movies blend storytelling, moving images, and music to transport us into other worlds. Movies can also change your perspective and give you experiences you can’t get any other way. Movies can speak to your heart and mind while sharpening your creativity and leadership.
      4. Classes. Classes are a great way to increase your knowledge and skills in a specific area. Over the last couple of years I have taken courses on writing for large websites, self-publishing, online teaching, and business. Some of these were free but others were not. (I don’t think of training as an expense. It’s an investment.) Classes are a great way to get specialized knowledge and stay relevant in your field.
      5. Magazines. I subscribe to a few magazines related to business and creativity, but the danger of periodicals is that the content quickly goes out of date. I have moved almost exclusively to reading content online (rather than print magazines), but the print magazines I still read have a lot of value.
      6. Blogs. I subscribe to a few dozen newsletters and use the online service unroll.me to “roll them up” into one daily email digest. That way, I can skim through the content without having dozens of emails clog my inbox.Books. Choose books that will help you grow and become a better person and leader. It’s important to read books from a variety of perspectives and subjects. This will keep you fresh and prevent you from getting into a mental rut. You should include great fiction books (and even a few books that aren’t necessarily great, but entertaining) because you need to be inspired by great stories. (If you’re a person of faith, the Bible is the most important book you should be reading.)

      The kind of content you put into your mind will determine your thoughts and actions. Make sure you’re reading, watching, and listening to great content every day.

      I love this quote from James Allen’s classic book As a Man Thinketh:

      All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the   direct result of his own thoughts. . . . A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.

      Who do you want to be, and where do you want to go? The answer will determine what to put in your mind. Earl Nightingale said it best in his classic work, The Strangest Secret: “We become what we think about.”

      So what are you thinking about? The answer to that question will determine how much you stretch your mind and eventually determine the quality of your life.

      Do you have a plan for reading and taking in other great content? What would happen if you scheduled just fifteen minutes a day for reading?

      kent sandersThis post is adapted from the book The Artist’s Suitcase: 26 Essentials for the Creative Journey, available September 1st.

      Bio: Kent Sanders writes about art, creativity, and productivity at KentSanders.net. He also teaches art, film, theology, and guitar at St. Louis Christian College in Florissant, Missouri.

      Special thanks to Kent Sanders for guest posting here today.  Please consider ordering his new book (The Artist’s Suitcase: 26 Essentials for the Creative Journey) by clicking here.

      When Is It Time To Switch Jobs? (@WashburnWriter)

      rail switch

      Photo credit: Kool Cats Photography on Flickr CC

      “It’s time for a change.”

      That’s the phrase I often hear around our house, usually referring to the need for me to have a special meeting with our diaper-wearing two-year-old.

      It’s also the message I was feeling a few years ago when I made a big decision in my life – the decision to switch jobs.

      Have you been there?

      It hasn’t been something that I’ve done very often and I’ve never taken it lightly.

      For me, in fact, this was only the third time, at least in the “real world”.

      (I won’t count when I left Arby’s for McDonalds or moved on from cleaning up after dogs to mowing lawns)

      My example

      Long before I had even thought about my first real job, my ideas of what it meant to be a hard worker were being shaped by the example of my parents.

      My dad, especially, when he wasn’t making memories with me, was helping lay out in my mind what an employee should look like.

      He eventually retired after working 45 years at the same company. So I always held up his example as my ideal.

      To me, that exemplified commitment and loyalty, things that I wanted to show to my future employers.

      Getting Started

      My first job out of college was at a great organization that I loved, and I thought I would be there long-term.

      However, I left after four years in order for my wife and I to move closer to family. At that point, I already found myself having to put to death the ideal that I had set-up and accept that maybe my path would be different than my dad’s.

      Years into my second job, I had to make a similar decision when faced with the prospect of massive layoffs coming down the line.

      Third Times a Charm?

      Soon, I found myself starting over again with a new employer.

      It took time to settle in and find my groove, but I was able to do that and, within several years, I was pretty comfortable there. Maybe too comfortable.

      Then a funny thing happened. I started to get stretched.

      I was learning a lot about leadership and company culture from books, podcasts, and friends. I began looking at my employer and my role there in a new light.

      As I was growing, I began to wonder if my company would grow with me in those areas or not and I even met with company leaders to discuss my thoughts.

      At the same time, I had a “chance” conversation with a good friend about where he worked, the way they did business and what they stood for.

      So much of what he said resonated with what I was feeling inside, but I didn’t know what to make of it just yet.

      Time for a change?

      In the weeks that followed, I continued to pursue change at my job while at the same time praying about the possibility that maybe God had been moving in me to prepare me for something else.

      How do we know for sure in these situations? There’s usually no big billboard or writing in the sky telling us what to do.

      I believe we have to pray, listen, look around us at how God’s working, and trust our gut.

      Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t an accident that I had that conversation with my friend or that I’d been learning and growing. God had been preparing me for something else and it was time for a change.

      It still wasn’t easy to walk into the office of my friend and boss and tell him, but I felt it was the right move.

       

      It’s been two years since I made that decision and I’m so glad I did.

      I had never even heard of my current employer before that conversation with my friend, but I couldn’t imagine a place that more closely matches who I am, what I believe, and what God is molding me into.

      What about you? How do you know when it’s time for a change?

      Answer in the comments below…

      shawn washburn head-shot-220x300This is a guest post by my friend, Shawn Washburn.  Shawn is a Christ-follower, husband, father, friend, son, and brother. He has a beautiful wife, three growing boys, and a sweet baby girl.  He spent his whole career in mechanical engineering, doing mostly product design but he’s now involved in manufacturing engineering at a great company.  His other passions are coaching, basketball, reading, learning, laughing, playing and resting.  I had the privilege of hanging out with Shawn at Grove City College where we lived on the same floor for two years.  He recently started his own blog, Washburn Writer.  Trust me, you have to go check it out, subscribe, and leave him a comment.  Don’t forget to tell him I sent you.

      If you are interesting in sharing your stretch marks with The Stretched Community, let me know.  I’d love to feature you here as a guest blogger.

      Stretched On The Road

      road-273818_640

      Today, I’m traveling.  I’ll be back.

      If you want to read or listen to more great content by me, please stop by these places:

      5 Ideas For Teaching Our Sons over at Daddy Press

      My son was in a special band concert last night for the area’s best band musicians in seventh through ninth grade.  He had the opportunity to play his trumpet in both the concert band and jazz band portions of the concert.  Sometimes, it can be a challenge to see our son during concerts because the trumpets are usually tucked a few rows behind the flutes, clarinets, and other instruments.  His seat for the concert band portion of this program put him right in my view this time, and it was nice to see him as he played.

      I noticed my son was wearing a necktie for the program, and it struck me that I can’t remember spending a lot of time teaching him how to tie a necktie.  I have to wear a necktie every day for my job, so I can put one on without much thought.  But he rarely wears a necktie.  So I started thinking.  How did he learn how to do this?  He must have learned either by watching me or by following a YouTube instructional video.  I’m hoping it’s the first one.

      Teaching our sons is not an option.  It’s a responsibility! [Read more by clicking here.]

      7 Habits That Build A Lasting Marriage over at The Good Men Project

      A few weeks ago, I visited my wife’s family for the holidays.  As part of the visit, I spent a fair amount of time with my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Uncle Dave is in his mid-eighties. He has always had a wit and charm about him.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to see that Uncle Dave is starting to lose a little pep in his step.  He has struggled to stay alert and to remember things he normally would recall with ease.  This visit in particular, I could see how he is heading further down the path of Alzheimer’s (though I’m not sure if he has officially been diagnosed).
      Uncle Dave and Aunt Donna have been married for over thirty years – second marriages for both of them.  They have always had an active love affair with each other.  They used to work together.  They golf together.  And they go out for coffee every morning together.  Their habits have clearly bolstered their marriage.
      During my visit, it was obvious that Uncle Dave’s mental health was frustrating Aunt Donna.  She appeared more tired than normal, and she struggled at times trying to keep Dave in-line at meal times.  Throughout my visit, I thought a lot about her and the hard times she is having as a result of Dave’s fading memory.  The day I left for home, our family went to church together.  In the middle of the service, I noticed the two of them holding hands.  I couldn’t help but smile. I even snapped a picture while nobody was paying attention.  This small gesture reminded me of the commitment they made to each other and the one I made to my wife.  Even when times get tough, I ultimately want a marriage that goes the distance.
      Marriage is hard.  According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in America end in divorce.  Throw health, job, or parenting challenges into the mix, and it doesn’t get any easier.  It takes commitment, diligence, and discipline to overcome these challenges.  [Read the rest of the article by clicking here.]

      Jon Stolpe on Learning to Stretch {Podcast Episode #74} on the Right Where You Are Podcast with Tammy Helfrich

      Click here to listen to the podcast.

      Please stop by each of these.  Read.  Listen.  Leave a comment.  Then come back and answer today’s question.

      Which article or appearance was your favorite?  Why?

      Encouraging Children To Write Thank You Notes

      Twins Thank You Note

      While I’m away in Guatemala, several people have stepped up to share their stretching stories with The Stretched Community.  Today, I have the honor and privilege of presenting Heidi Bender. Heidi blogs regularly at Tons of Thanks.  Please check out Heidi’s post and leave an answer to her question.  Afterwards, go check out her blog.  Her contact information along with a short bio can be found at the end of the post.  Thanks!

      Encouraging children to write thank you notes

      I discovered Jon’s blog mid-way through the 90 Day Thank You Note Challenge.  One of my favorite posts during the challenge was when Jon shared the thank you note that his son wrote when his braces were removed. I do not have any children of my own. However, I feel happy and appreciated whenever I receive a thank you note from my nieces and nephews.

      Recently, two of my 13-year-old nieces went to summer camp for a week. They went on different weeks. I sent them each $5 when they were there to spend at the camp store. A couple of weeks later I received a nice hand written thank you note from them.

      My nieces are twins, so they each wrote on a side of the same note card. Their notes were short and simple and conveyed their appreciation in two sentences. And the note made my day!

      Would you like your kids to be known as the kids that write thank you notes? There are people who remember which kids send notes and which do not (my grandma, for example). I’ve come up with a several suggestions to help your kids stretch by writing thank you notes. Help them appreciate the value of expressing gratitude.

      7 ways to encourage children to write thank you notes:

      1. Set a good example when writing thank you notes of your own. Your child will likely pick up on your attitude towards them. If you feel that they are a chore, then they will also feel that way when it is their turn to write a note. If you complain, they will complain.
      2. Let them know the reason why we write thank you notes. Hopefully, you are writing them because you are grateful for what you have received. Help them understand we are not entitled to the gifts that we receive from others.
      3. Let them see you writing them. Do not save this a task to be completed after they are in bed. If they see you writing maybe they will ask questions and take an interest. If they have never seen you write one or talk about thank you notes, they may be very surprised when they graduate high school and are expected to write a lot of them for graduation gifts.
      4. Show them how to write one. Explain that it is not a complicated process. If you are not sure how to write a thank you note, check out these 5 easy steps.
      5. Send your child a thank you note for something they have done. They will learn first-hand how good it feels to be thanked! Recognition goes a long way. You could hand deliver it or put it on their pillow. It may have a greater impact if they receive it the mail. This could be thanking them for cleaning their room or taking the garbage out when asked or for a gift they gave you.
      6. If they are not old enough to write yet, have them draw a picture. I have enjoyed all the hand drawn pictures I have received from my nieces and nephews when they were younger. I proudly displayed them on my refrigerator.
      7. Help them make it a habit. Whenever they receive a gift, get in the routine of having them writing a thank you note within a few days or a week. The longer it is put off the more likely it is for it to be forgotten or to feel like it is too late to send it.

      Do your children write thank you notes? What tips would you add to the list? What impact do you think teaching your kids to write thank you notes now will have on their life as they grow up and into adulthood?

      About the Author

      Heidi Bender is on a mission to help others write thank you notes. She lives in southeast Michigan with her husband and their 3 cats. She also enjoys bike riding, reading, spending time with family, and playing the organ. She also blogs about her adventure of learning how to play the organ as an adult at http://www.organistheidi.com.

      You can found her thank you note writing tips, stories, and how to guides at http://www.tonsofthanks.com and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tonsofthanks.

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