“There is no success without hardship.”Sophocles
At one time or another, we all endure some time of hardship in our lives. I’m not hear to measure or compare hardships; I’m simply making an observation that from time to time life can seem really hard. I’m kind of in one of those seasons right now. Without going into detail, I feel like I have the weight of the world hanging on my shoulders. I wish I could simply snap my fingers and everything would be fixed, but it’s just not that easy. The hardship I’m enduring will take time to resolve.
Often, hardships take time to navigate and even slog through. Patience is required as we take one difficult step at a time.
When we find ourselves in times of hardship, I’ve found it helpful to do the following:
I don’t know what hardships you may be facing in your life right now. I pray you’d find hope, peace, courage, and wisdom to persevere. If you are like me, you desire the easier, more comfortable road. Perhaps, God’s working through the junk in our lives for a better purpose, a bright future. We may not understand fully the reasons for our hardship, but we do have a God who can work through and redeem the tough times in our lives.
You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.George Burns
Friday night, I received a bit of a jolt when I went to get our mail. When I opened the mailbox, there was an envelope addressed to me from AARP with an indication on the front “Notification of Member Benefits.” According to the AARP website, “AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.” In order to be eligible for AARP (which I believe stands for American Association of Retired People), you have to be 50 years of age. Early in December (the 8th if you want to mark it on your calendar), I will be turning 50; hence, the invitation to join AARP landed in my mailbox this week.
Age is a funny thing. When we are younger, we can’t wait to get older. Somewhere in our twenties or thirties, we are happy with our age. In our forties, we just wish things would slow down a little bit. And I’ve heard many in their fifties and beyond wishing they were younger again.
When I was in Minnesota just over a week ago to celebrate my Grandpa Miller’s life, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my parents. My dad, who just turned 75 this week, is no longer graying. His hair is pretty white now, and to be honest he looks more and more like my Grandpa Stolpe. My mom, who is 73, is experiencing the impact of Alzheimer’s. She needs more and more help to manage medication, to dress, and do other things that used to come so natural to her. It is humbling to realize I will be there age in 23-25 years, and I may have my own battles that come with aging.
My Grandpa Miller used to say he still felt like he was 18 years old – even into his early 80’s he would make this proclamation. As he moved more into his late 80’s and early 90’s, his comments changed a little bit. From his waist down, he felt like he was in his 90’s. Above his waist, he still felt like he was in his 20’s or 50’s depending on the day. I had the opportunity to see him in March in person and then again via Facetime in his final days, and it was clear to me that Grandpa was ready to hang up his cleats on his earthly life and continue on with Jesus in Heaven. Grandpa lived to 94 years old.
A couple of years ago, I listed to a book by Dan Sullivan called “My Plan for Living to 156.” After listening to this book, I began to tell people that I wanted to live to 129 years old. This would give me the opportunity to live in three different centuries. It seems kind of idealistic now that I think about it. After all, most people who live into their late 80’s and beyond deal with significant physical and cognitive impairments not to mention they frequently experience more loneliness as friends and loved ones face their own mortality. Watching Grandpa suffer the past few years has perhaps caused me to rethink the goal of living to 129.
As I approach my 50th birthday, I don’t want it to be a reason for sadness. While I may take time to reflect (like I’m doing right now), I want it to be an opportunity to celebrate what God has done in and through my life and what He plans for me in the future.
I recently listened to another book by Michael Clinton called “ROAR into the second half of your life (Before It’s Too Late).” In the book, he encourages readers to embrace their age and to celebrate and use the wisdom gained from age and experience. I shared this with my Dad the other day, and he too talked about the excitement and sense of peace he has at this stage of life. This is how I want to be. I don’t want to look back with regret. I don’t want to look forward with fear or anxiety. I want to embrace the present. I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to keep stretching. I want to keep learning. I want to make a difference.
Meanwhile, I’ll have to do a little more research to see about signing up for AARP.
They will still bear fruit in old age,they will stay fresh and green.Psalm 92:14 (NIV)
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”William Wallace
I recently watched VAL, a documentary about actor, Val Kilmer. You may remember Kilmer as Ice Man in the hit movie, Top Gun. He’s also played key roles in other movies like Tombstone, Batman Forever, The Doors, and Willow. He had all the success you might expect from a movie start who has been part of many, many movies, and he had the good looks to go with it. Relatively recently, he developed throat cancer which has caused a tremendous interruption to his life and disastrous impact to his voice.
The documentary tells the story of Val Kilmer both before and after his cancer diagnosis, and I think it also provides a glimpse of hope we can find even when life doesn’t quite go as we expect it to. Here’s the trailer to give you a little taste. The documentary is available on Amazon Prime, and I’d recommend giving it two hours of your time.
The documentary was also a reminder that life is fleeting. We don’t know exactly what we might encounter as we journey through life. One thing is for sure, our days on Earth are finite.
This fact has been hitting home for me on a much more personal level these past two or three weeks as my family watches my Grandpa Miller in his last days. At 94 years old, he has lived a long life. He is a retired USPS mail carrier (he loved his job). He served in the U.S. Army in Germany in World War II. He was always very particular about his lawn and his cars for which he always paid cash. Grandpa was frugal. He was a meat and potatoes guy. More than these things, he loved Jesus, and he loved introducing people to Jesus. Over the past few years as his physical body has been failing, he has remained committed to praying (I wrote about this in a recent blog post).
Grandpa is tired and worn out. He is ready to go home – to his heavenly home.
What will you do with time you have left? How will you live your life? Will you live with regret always looking in the rear view mirror of your life? Or will you live with hope anticipating the good things yet to come?
I love how the Apostle Paul encourages us to make the most of every opportunity:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)
It’s important for us to consider our lives and to make the most of every opportunity.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”Psalm 90:12 (NIV)
“For everybody in their busy lives, you need to invest in sharpening your tools, and you need to invest in longevity.”Ryan Holmes
This morning on my walk (today is day 1,226 in my 10,000 steps a day streak), I crossed paths with one of my neighbors. He commented on how I was looking thinner. Honestly, I was flattered, but I explained to him I’d like to lose 10-15 pounds. (My height hides it pretty well.) He indicated that he also needed to lose 15 pounds, and he went on to tell me that he really needed to give up his daily Pop Tarts. I explained that I would have the same problem with Pop Tarts and an even bigger problem with ice cream if we kept them in the house on a regular basis. He then stated that he was going to get rid of his Pop Tarts. Five minutes later, I received a video text message from him crying as he threw his Pop Tarts in the trash. Our exchange ended with a text message back from me, “Be strong and courageous.”
We all have things to work on in our lives. We could be better in our eating habits, our exercise habits, our reading habits, our television viewing habits. I could go on. We each benefit when we take take to sharpen our skills and improve our habits.
In some cases this sharpening or improvement can happen with our own efforts.
But sharpening or self-improvement happens in a better way when we involve others in the sharpening process.
King Solomon said “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
We need friends in our lives who will sharpen us, who will encourage us, who will call us on the carpet, who will spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Who are those friends in your life? Who sharpens you? Who helps you become a better person?
If you don’t have an answer to these questions, I’d encourage you to search it out. I have found these kinds of friendships through my marriage, through my involvement at church, through my community at the gym, through a variety of community groups, and right in my own neighborhood.
I have also found sharpening through the Stretched Men Group, the mastermind group I founded to help men take the next steps in their journey. If you are interested in stepping into this kind of sharpening relationship, leave me a comment. I plan to launch the next semester at the beginning of 2022.
I’m thankful I ran into my neighbor this morning. Together we both have a shot at reaching our goal of losing 10-15 pounds and in improving ourselves for the future.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
“Accountability breeds response-ability.”Stephen Covey
We all need a little accountability in our lives – that necessary kick in the butt necessary to keep us on the right path.
I’m working on my High Performance Leadership project necessary to earn my Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM) for Toastmasters International. For those unfamiliar, Toastmasters International is a world-wide organization of local clubs designed to help people improve their leadership and communication skills. And the DTM is the highest level of achievement in the organization (kind of like the Eagle Scout Rank associated with Scouting). In order to earn the DTM, I’ve given over 50 speeches and completed many leadership activities and roles.
The High Performance Leadership (HPL) project is the capstone necessary to earn the DTM, and I’ve been putting off my project for over a year. With a deadline of June 30, 2021 (which was extended a year thanks to the COVID pandemic), I only have a month to finalize the requirements of this project and to submit my paperwork which is required to make the DTM official.
To help move me along in this process and to ensure I meet the requirements by the deadline, I asked a couple of co-workers and fellow Toastmasters to hold me accountable. Last week, I made significant progress towards my goal thanks to the timely and repeated “prodding” of these individuals.
We need accountability in our lives.
My wife is one of my accountability partners for life, marriage, and family. I meet with a group of guys weekly who also hold me accountable in areas of faith, fitness, and finances. I meet with a group of entrepreneurs bi-weekly who hold each other accountable to moving forward in our businesses and side pursuits. And I meet with a group of leaders in my company on a monthly basis to hold each other accountable to leading well in our organization.
The idea of accountability can be scary. After all, we have to be transparent in order for accountability to be effective. We have to be willing to share our fears and our failings with others. Accountability is worth overcoming these fears.
Accountability is powerful. It can push us over obstacles holding us back, and accountability allows us to rise to our full potential.
One of the reasons I started the Stretched Men Group several years ago was to provide a place where men could be held accountable to stretch and take steps forward to become better husbands, better fathers, better leaders, and better men. If you are interested in joining this kind of a group, let me know (or visit StretchedMenGroup.com) by leaving a comment below.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”Gail Sheehy
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I used Sunday morning before church as a time for writing. I took my laptop to a local Starbucks or business that offered free WiFi, and I wrote my weekly blog post.
When the pandemic forced me to write from home, I noticed my writing time was becoming more interrupted and less consistent. My wife noticed this trend as well, and she recently encouraged me to get back out to write.
This morning, I’m writing from the back patio of the Sunshine Cafe in Limerick, PA. (By the way, this is a fantastic place for breakfast. The food is good. The waitstaff is friendly. This morning, I tried the avocado toast which was delicious along with my usual decaf coffee.) The change in scenery and routine has been just what I needed.
I spent my first 30 minutes reflecting on the past week and planning for the week ahead. Then I opened up my laptop (actually my iPad) to write this post. And I’ll have some time to do some reading before heading to church at Christ’s Church of the Valley this morning.
This is just the change I needed. In this year of renew, we may need to change things up from time to time. While I’m a proponent of disciplines, routines, and habits, I’m realizing it’s okay and even healthy to change things up every once in a while.
What change do you need to make to find renewal in you life? How has change been a good thing for you?
“There are two tests in life, more important than any other test. On Monday morning, when you wake up, do you feel in the pit of your stomach you can’t wait to go to work? And when you’re ready to go home Friday afternoon, do you say, ‘I can’t wait to go home?’”Chuck Schumer
It’s Monday night.
How was your Monday?
For many of us, Monday has become a curse word – a word that implies dread, stress, and hopelessness.
Why is that?
I’m thinking Monday has taken on such a negative reputation because so many fail to find work that brings fulfillment. Instead, many workers simply take on a job that pays the bills.
Our work matters. What we do every day for over 1/3 of our days during the work week has the possibility to leave a lasting mark. It also has the potential to simply be a waste of our time.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my time when it comes to my work.
As I approach my 50th birthday at the end of this calendar year, I’ve begun doing a lot of self examination. While I intend on keeping busy contributing to society for the rest of my living years, I’m realizing that I probably have 10-15 years left before I “retire” from work as I know it. I want those 10-15 years to matter. I want to do work that fulfills me and encourages others. I want to do work that utilizing my gifts, my talents, my skills, my knowledge, and my experience, and I want to do work that helps others along the way. I want to do work that contributes to my community and my world.
I’ve begun doing more homework to help me navigate this period of self examination. Specifically, I’ve most recently been reading through Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob Buford, 48 Days to the Work and Life You Love by Dan Miller, and The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman.
I don’t want to dread Mondays. I want to be excited about my work. I want to pursue work that aligns with my vocational calling – the place where my skills meet my passions meets my opportunities.
How are you feeling about Mondays? What steps do you need to take to have a better outlook on your work? How could an improved work outlook make a difference in your life?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.C.S. Lewis
On Friday, I celebrated a work milestone. January 8, 1996 was my start date at what is now Siemens. That means I have been working for the same organization for the past 25 years.
I still have working years ahead of me, and I trust there will be other milestones along my career pathway. Nonetheless, it’s healthy to pause for a few moments to celebrate this milestone.
In my year of renew, I have actually discovered renewal by thinking about my experiences so far. Reflecting on these experiences remind me that we can find joy and satisfaction in our work. Sometimes we lose sight of this when we dwell on the day-to-day challenges we face.
With this in mind, I wanted to list here some of the things I’ve experienced as a result of my time at Siemens:
I’m sure I could list many other specific experiences from my time at Siemens so far. This list will do for now. It has reminded me of the blessing of my job. I’ve had a place to grow, to learn, and to leave my mark. While I don’t know what the next 5, 10, 15, or even 25 years may bring as I continue down my career path, I’m excited to step back into the office tomorrow as I continue on at Siemens.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
People learn and digest information in different ways. Some learn well by reading the written word. And some people learn better by listening to the written word.
I fall somewhere in between. I like to read, but I also love to listen to podcasts and audio books.
Since releasing this book and my second book (Rooftop Reflections), I’ve had several inquiries about the availability of my books in an audio format. The thought of recording an audio book scared me a little bit as I wasn’t sure of the technology to use to make this happen.
With the help of some good friends, I learned some important information about the tools I needed to record an audio book. I recently ordered these tools, and I have begun recording the audio version of On Track.
Today, I share with you the audio Introduction to On Track. I hope you enjoy! And with a little time and hard work, my audio book will be available for Audible.
“Don’t settle for what life gives you; make life better and build something.”Ashton Kutcher
Have you ever found yourself in a place where it seems like life is sucking more out of you than you are getting back in return?
Have you ever asked yourself why you are doing what you are doing?
Have you ever wondered if you are in the right place, the right job, or the right role?
I recently found myself asking some of these same types of questions.
I’ve been at my current place of employment for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been in my current role for over three years. This has been an extremely challenging year as we navigated the challenges and distractions brought on my COVID-19 in the middle of having our best year ever from a revenue standpoint. Instead of proactively bringing new things into my team to help elevate us to the next level, I have often felt the stresses and pressures of responding the a variety of “issues” brought on by corporate direction, product developments, and resource restrictions. (I want to be cautious in how I describe this. I happen to work for a great company with a history of innovation and success. Sometimes, I can lose sight of this fact in the day to day minutia.)
Meanwhile, I have felt a lack of creativity, time, and energy for some of the things I have enjoyed on the side of work – writing, speaking, etc.
I shared these feelings this week with a close group of advisors. And they offered some fantastic advice.
First, COVID-19 and our recent move to a new home are both extreme events requiring a lot of time and attention. We live, work, and play in seasons. Sometimes the seasons of life require us to “muscle” through hard times. Sometimes the seasons of life require more focus on work. Sometimes the seasons of life provide more time for pressing into deeper areas of exploration towards our areas of passion.
Second, they reminded me of the importance of delegation. Delegation (which I’ve written about here in the past) is an excellent tool for passing knowledge on to others. It is also an great way to enable myself to do the things I like to do. As a natural people pleaser with perfectionistic (or maybe it’s OCD) tendencies, I tend to do more things myself which takes me away from things I’d rather be doing as the leader in my department and in turn leaves me depleted of energy and zest for my work. Delegation is a must in order to replenish my energy and enthusiasm.
Third, it is okay to explore new things and to consider a possible pivot. According to scientists, we are essentially completely new people every seven years as old, dead cells are replaced by new cells throughout our bodies. It goes without saying as we become new people there may be shifts in our passions and our approaches to work and life. For some, this may mean a seismic shift in our careers and jobs. For others, this may simply mean smaller shifts in our approach to our current work or activities. One of my advisors suggested I read Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. I am someone who desires stability in my life and is terrified of change, it’s important that I learn how to bend. I need to give myself permission to change.
Finally, understanding what brings me life and what takes life out of me is important for determining my path forward. In Sleeping with Bread (Holding What Gives You Life), authors Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn, encourage readers to daily ask two questions as a means of finding meaning and direction for life. These two questions are: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Asked another way: When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me? As a result of the conversation with my advisors, I have begun answering these questions in my journal. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will take time to review my daily responses to find patterns that could help give me direction on how to make the most out of life.
Recently, I’ve been reading Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty. In the book, he encourages readers to look for purpose in our work. He suggests we look at our jobs and our activities through a lens of purpose, passion, skills, and calling.
As we look for fulfillment in our lives, it’s a good idea to reflect on our purpose. Why are we here? How are we serving others through what we do? How are we best utilizing and enhancing our skills to meet our areas of passion?
By the way, we all need a group of advisors who can help us through our times of questioning, though our times when we are stuck, or through our times when we simply can’t see the path forward. If you are interested in being part of a group like this, I’d encourage you to check out the Stretched Men Group. This is a mastermind group for men looking to move forward in their parenting path, their marriage path, their career path, their faith path, and their life path. Spots are currently open. If you are interested in learning more about the group and how you can become involved, check out StretchedMenGroup.com.