Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Writing Changed My Life

What do you get when you discover a talent you didn't know you possess and you pursue it daily?  There are two answers.  The world says, "He's crazy.  Look at him wasting his time.  Who does he think he is?  He's no New York Times Bestseller."  Here's my answer:

I am crazy.  I don't fit in.  I'm one of those misfits you hope you're not sitting next to on a long plane ride.  The Evil One has used every dirty trick in the book to try and stop me from doing the one thing I was born to do -- write.  He's a loser.  I'm calling Him out.  Sure, He planted seeds of doubt all over the planet and He convinced a lot of people to abandon their passions.  I know the final score.  I know the end of the story.  I wake up every morning inspired.  It took a long time for me to learn the music scales.  Now, I'm ready to play.  The keyboard is my trumpet.  Cyberspace is my venue.  I don't need a sellout crowd.  My Master wants me to play, even if there is only one audience member.  He says if you're willing to lay down your life for another, you're okay in His book.

My hope for you is that you pursue your dream(s).  I encourage you to become deaf to the voices of the naysayers.  I challenge you to be the best version of yourself that only you can be.  And if the world tells you you're crazy.  Nod your head and agree.  The world needs more crazy people.  What do you think? 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Are Your Dreams On Life Support?

Miranda Lambert walked onto the outdoor stage last night and sang her heart out.  The weather outside was 68º.  In between songs, I looked up at the night sky and noticed the Big Dipper overhead.  I asked my family to check it out.  The last time I remember star gazing with my whole family, the Big Dipper was in the same spot.  That was ten years ago on a summer night at a Christian camp in the San Bernadino mountains.  I looked up and felt some kind of connection to Heaven.  I also felt something inside of me urging me to dream.  My wife felt the same thing inside.  When we talked about it, we discovered we were both being challenged to raise our sails up to full mast and let the winds of the Holy Spirit lead us.  Then, we went home and returned to our regular lives.  Our dreams went on life support.

Miranda Lambert closed with these words, "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to live our dreams."  Her words touched me.  I looked at my wife and three children and knew in my heart that I was living a life with my sails at full mast.  Never again will my dreams need life support.  I trust God's plan for my life.  Through all the storms in my life, especially the recent ones that produced tornadic winds, torrential rains, and record floods, we enjoyed a special moment last night that was only possible because we decided to live the dream.

What steps are you willing to take today to take your dreams off of life support and set them free?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Final Approach

"The landing strip is in sight, son, and you have the controls.  You're clear to land."  Our youngest son watched his two older siblings on their 18th birthdays as they touched down into adulthood; today it's his turn to move from the co-pilot's seat to the pilot's chair.  My wife and I are so proud of him.

I learned long ago that teaching your children to fly is perhaps the greatest thrill a parent can have.  I like airplane stories because we can all relate to the similarities.  When a child sits in front of the controls for the first time, everything appears so overwhelming.  There are times when the plane stalls or when there is a malfunction.  I often taught our children, "Keep your eyes on the runway.  Set goals.  Learn how to use all the talents you were born with.  When the plane lands on your 18th birthday, it will be time for mom and dad to get out and let you fly solo."  That day has arrived.  Happy birthday, son.  Congratulations -- you've earned your wings.  We love you!

Our oldest son joked, "Well, my 18th birthday was more of a touch and go... at least I found the runway."

My wife and I are entering a new era.  We no longer have minor children.  Our babies are all adults now.  Our prayer for them is that they keep in touch with the control tower and that they're never afraid to soar to new heights.  Some day it will be their turn to teach their own children to fly.  Before they blink, they will be saying, "it's time for your final approach, you're clear to land."  And they will know first-hand what a joy it is to be a parent.

What analogies did your parents use with you when you were growing up?  Please share your memories in the comments section below.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Celebrating Serendipity

Some people call it luck.  Others call it fate.  I call it serendipity -- unexpected events that happen when when you're searching for something else.  They are "happy accidents."  Just because it's not what you were expecting, it doesn't mean it's not everything you've been waiting for.

Today marks one year since we rolled the doors at my day job for the first time and crowds of people came in to see what all the buzz was about.  I got the opportunity to shake hands with the founder of the company and the new CEO who was accompanying him for our grand opening.  Our marketing team, located in a remote area surrounded by corn fields, set a world record.  One year later, I'm still pinching myself.

The best way I can describe my life is that it's a series of happy accidents.  I'm just beginning to grasp how the life I carefully mapped out for myself pales in comparison to the one God is revealing, one day at a time.

May your day be filled with unexpected surprises that bring about happy outcomes.  Would you like to share a serendipitous moment in your life?  Please add to the story by clicking the comments button below.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

7 Things Worth Pursuing

Do you have a bucket list?  If so, how did you decide what to put on your to do list and how do you manage to complete them?  The reason I ask is because many of the people I meet tell me they're unsure about where they're going with their lives.  Your answers in the comments section at the end of today's story may help someone who is struggling.  Here are seven things I'm working on in my life:
  1. Forgiveness.  This is a continuous challenge.  My old list was wiped clean years ago.  It felt good to finally let go of all the grudges I carried.  I still struggle sometimes when people around me fall short of their commitments.  It's better to forgive quickly than to let the hurt magnify.
  2. Authenticity.  I really appreciate it when someone trusts me enough to share their weaknesses.  Early in my career, one of my mentors touted a "fake it until you make it" strategy.  I hid my flaws and secretly hoped no one would ever see me fail.  Many who attempted to get close to me found smoke and mirrors.  I was a master at creating illusions.  Now, I pursue authenticity.
  3. Balance.  My type A personality sometimes interferes with living in the present.  I get restless when I'm not working on the "check list."  There's a time to work and a time to play.  I'm learning to find the right balance between the two.
  4. Competency.  One of my business partners shared how he felt about the lessons we learned building a business from the ground up.  He said, "Mully, we both earned honorary PhD's for what we've been through together."  My years as an entrepreneur opened my eyes to all that I don't know.  I want to spend every day of my life learning something new, mainly in the area of writing and public speaking.  This requires a minimum of one hour per day dedicated to learning new technology, increasing my vocabulary and practicing my writing skills.
  5. Relationship building.  Relationships are a two-way street.  I want to do my best to be a better friend, a better dad, and a better husband.  My commitment is to give more than I take.  This is a life-long pursuit.  Every blog story I write invites my readers to share something in the comments section.  My hope is that more readers will be willing to share a part of themselves for the benefit of others.
  6. Love.  The easy part about love has to do with people who mean something to me.  The challenge is to love the ones who are outside my circle of friends and family, the ones who prefer to attack others rather than live in harmony.  The best way I can do this is to look for something good inside them.
  7. Perseverance.  This is a daily assignment.  Each day is a new day.  It comes with its unique set of challenges.  Like a marathon, the only way to reach the finish line is to complete each mile on my daily course.  I feel good knowing that today's story is the 1,400th consecutive blog message I've written.  My resolve is to keep this up every day until it's time to kick the bucket.
Now it's your turn.  What's on your bucket list?  If you prefer to keep your comments private, please email me.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Portrait of a Red Solo Dot

All my life I've been surrounded by family.  In grade school, there was at least one Mulligan in every grade.  Thanks to my cousin, we doubled up in our grade for eight years.  The one year they allowed us to share the same classroom in the fifth grade, I recall our homeroom teacher on the last day of school telling us, "you two need to spend the whole summer together -- talking."

Her idea was brilliant.  We remained joined together at the hip until high school.   We competed against each other in tennis.  My cousin's team won the high school state championship all four years.  We faced each other in a dramatic match on my home court during our senior year.  I invited all my friends to come cheer for me but that didn't change the outcome.  I asked myself, is this guy unbeatableMaybe I should team up with him in doubles when we're older?  My cousin attended college in California; by the time I caught up with him he was already relocating back to Arizona.  Our California home was always filled to capacity by Mulligans who visited regularly.  We even talked one brave sister into moving into our neighborhood so we could continue the tradition our parents started when all the cousins attended the same school.

The state of Iowa now sports a red solo dot in the heartland of America.  We are the lone Mulligans in this great state.  Fortunately, the town we live in is a lot like Cheers -- everyone knows your name.  And we tell our children, "before you date anyone, find out if you're related."

What are the odds that this red solo dot family would move 1,800 miles, relocate in a small town, and discover one of our children wrestles on the same high school team and in the same weight class as one of his cousins on his mom's side of the family?  Deja vu?  I say, "let's have a party."  Yes, it may be true we're the only Mulligans in Iowa, however, we're now connected to some amazing people from the other side of the family tree and this town where our red solo dot is placed is a happy place to entertain friends and family.

Do you have a comment to share about how you stay connected to your family?  Click the comment button below to add to the conversation.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What Your Goals Say About You

Show me your goals and I'll get a pretty good picture of where you're headed.  And if your goals are written, your odds of success increase dramatically.  Here are three things your goals say about you:
  1. You desire to live your life with purpose.
  2. You have found the reason(s) why you're here.
  3. You are confident about the direction you're headed.
Take a few minutes today and ask yourself this question, "Where do I want to be in five years?"

Be specific.  Paint a detailed picture of your life, five years from today.  Write everything down and put it in an envelope.  Put today's date on the outside of the envelope.  Put it somewhere where you will find it in five years.  You don't have to seal it.  You are free to look at your goals as often as you wish.  The surprising thing about this exercise is that you will be much better off in five years even if you don't look at your list until five years from today.  The reason for this is that your subconscious remembers everything you write down.  Your brain has a template to follow.  And you will join an elite group of people who get things done.

Would you like to share your answer to the question in the comments section below?  I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Joy of Writing in Stage IV Rapids

The moment my oldest son handed me my 50th birthday gift, I knew I was headed for the thrill of my life.  I locked myself in my bedroom and read Self Publishing and Marketing from the Trenches, written by my mentor, Peter H. Zindler, cover to cover.  One week later, Peter invited me to join his writers critique group.  The first day I met them, I shared how I wanted to self publish my first book in time to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, eight months later.  Peter looked at Byron, the other leader of the group -- they both smiled.  They knew all about the stage IV rapids ahead of me on the course.

I fell out of the raft so many times during those critique sessions I almost drowned.  The experience was exhilarating.  After I crossed the finish line, Peter told me he never met a writer as crazy as me.  "It normally takes years to write a book.  What you did seemed impossible,"  he told me.

I replied, "Peter, I just followed the advice you gave me in your book."

I'm back in the rapids again and Peter is now living on the other side of the world.  I can see him and his wife shaking their heads.  This time, I'm in a lone kayak and the rapids are bigger than ever.  Any writing expert observing my uncanny behavior would shudder.  I can't hear the voices of the naysayers on the river banks yelling at me to get out the water.  I'm too busy keeping my head above water.  I know my destiny and this is where I belong.

My oldest son summarized it best the first time we explored white water rafting together at the Kern River in California.  After getting knocked out of our raft and bounced around on the rocks, we finally made it to safe waters.  He looked at me and said, "Dad, that was really fun.  Let's do it again."

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like you were navigating in Stage IV rapids?  Please share your experience in the comments section below.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How To Bring Out Best In Others

Most of my life I have been involved in coaching.  My college education was paid for by giving tennis lessons.  I didn't know much about soccer but that didn't stop me from coaching my children when they signed up to play.  Our pet dog, Lady, joined the fun and I taught her how to score goals in our backyard practice sessions.  In the business world, I offered pointers to my team-mates that I learned by trial and error.  The biggest lesson I learned from my experiences is that the student's success is dependent on the coach's ability to inspire confidence.  If you are a parent, coach, or manager, these ideas may help you bring out the best in others:
  1. Catch others doing something right.  It doesn't matter that the ball is going in the wrong direction when they hit it -- what matters is that your student made contact.  You can build on that.
  2. Avoid criticizing the errors.  Errors are part of the learning process.  So are moments of brilliance.  By focusing on the mistakes and not recognizing the times when your student shines, your student loses confidence and gives up.
  3. Be humble.  Remember the times when you were learning something new.  Your student needs to know you stumbled in the beginning and that you're not super man.  Great coaches are willing to share how they failed early in their career.  
Do you remember your favorite teacher?  What is it that made him or her so special?  What do you do to bring out the best in others?  Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Check Your Love Gauge

How long do your relationships last?  If you're embarrassed by your answer, chances are you're not taking the time to replenish the fuel in your love tank.  Your love tank is like a checking account.  When you take more than you deposit, you will eventually run out of funds.  Couples who have been on the road for 25+ years understand their love tank is shared by two people.  They check their love gauge often and make sure both parties are refueling.

The type of fuel you put in your love tank will affect your miles per gallon.  Each relationship is unique.  The best way to avoid running on empty is to discover your partner's octane requirements.  Read the Five Love Languages to keep your love tank full.  Click here for the link.  My wife and I are about a year away from reaching the twenty-five year mile marker.  We are both careful to keep our eyes on the love gauge to avoid running on fumes.

What is your favorite love language?  What octane does your partner prefer?  How many years have you been on the road without running out of gas?  Don't forget to add your comments below.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Fishing Story

1,393 days ago I cast my fishing rod into cyberspace for the first time.  There are people observing my strange ways, and they ask, "what the hell are you doing?"  They think I'm wasting my time.  How many fishermen do you know who fish every day without catching anything?

If you want to blame anyone, you can blame my mentor.  Issaiah 55:8 offers a clue...“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  Jesus is teaching me to fish like no other.  I'm in search of one fish.  It may take an entire lifetime to accomplish my mission.  I don't know where this fish lives or what language he or she speaks.  I just know the fish exists somewhere in deep waters.  Here is my plan to reel this fish in:
  1. Keep fishing every day for the rest of my life.
  2. Keep learning new ways to fish.  Modern technology allows my stories to be translated into any language my fish understands.
  3. Remember my purpose in life:  to catch the one fish who believes he or she can't be caught.
There is a chance I may show up at the pearly gates empty-handed.  If St. Peter challenges me, I already know what I'm going to say...  "Peter,  I left my fishing pole out there in cyberspace and my blog stories are still floating around.  The big one is finally nibbling and I'm going to need your help to reel it in."

Do you have a fish story to share?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Value of Teamwork

One by one, birds of multiple species zeroed in the squirrel outside my bedroom window this morning.  The birds swooped in like kamikazes.  I don't know what the squirrel was doing, however, the birds worked together to drive him out, even though he was bigger and stronger.  The attack was relentless.  Eventually, the squirrel retreated.

The incident reminds me of the times in my life when I wonder if my contributions make a difference.  When we are alone the enemy appears invincible, however, our strength is multiplied when we join a group and work on a common cause just as the birds each contributed this morning to drive out the invader.

If you are having trouble getting things done, try joining a group.  The group will benefit from your talents and you will benefit from their help.  Do you have any experiences to share about the value of teamwork?  Please leave your comments below.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

3 Gifts You Leave When You Die: Love, Memories and a Compass

Two things in life are certain:  death and taxes.  And when death is knocking, there are three gifts you leave for the living -- love, memories and a compass.
  1. Love:  In 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul writes love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  The people you love will be forever changed because of the love you give.
  2. Memories:  How will people remember you?  Did you give your time generously?  Will the memories others have of you inspire them to dream big?  I still remember the stories my grandparents shared with me when I was a young boy.  Memories of them guide me when I'm pondering a challenging question.
  3. A compass:  There are times in my life when I feel like I'm navigating in the dark.  Although my tracks may sometimes resemble a lost rabbit thumping around in the snow,  my compass always points to Jesus.  I pray that all my actions serve as a compass pointing to the cornerstone upon which my life is built, Jesus.  Where will others end up when they follow your compass once you are out of this world?
Avoid keeping these three gifts wrapped up and hidden.  Open them up and share them.  They are best used while your heart is still beating and they will remain in this world long after you are gone.   Are you ready to unwrap your gifts and give them away today?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Are You Ready For a Hope Weigh In?

You are what you eat.  Some foods are good for you; others get you into trouble.  Two foods on opposite ends of the spectrum are hope and despair.  You can tell which one is prominent by a person's posture and body language.  Drooping shoulders and a head looking downward are dead giveaways despair is the main course while a warm smile and a firm handshake indicate healthy doses of hope are on the daily menu.

Today is a good day to step on the scales for a hope weigh in.  Answer the following questions to determine how much hope is in your body mass:
  1. How do you feel about your prospects for your future?
  2. Do you believe you can make a difference?
  3. How is your body posture?
  4. What do your friends and family think about your prospects?
  5. Are you willing to change your diet and cut out anything that has despair in the ingredients?
Anyone looking at my life before my relocation to Iowa from California over one year ago may have given me slim chances for rebuilding my life.  After all, I sold my home for considerably less than I paid for it, volunteered to be laid off at a business I co-founded, and left California without any money or a job.  I did make sure that hope was stashed away in the moving truck.  It was all I needed.

Ever since I can remember, I have chosen the breakfast of champions.  I eat the same meals every day, in good times and in bad.  I sprinkle hope lavishly on everything I consume.  My healthy diet is what allows so many good outcomes in my life, especially at those times when I need all the help I can get.  How about you?  Are you ready to step on the scales?  Feel free to share your comments below.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day To All The Dads

Happy Father's Day to all the dads.  May you be surrounded by loving family and may you enjoy your special day.  I was treated to breakfast in bed this morning by my precious children.  I will spend the day with them counting my blessings.  I'm barbecuing steaks on my Weber grill tonight.  It was a parting gift from my dad before he said his last good-bye.  He could barbecue like no other.  I will do my best to imitate his world famous steaks and raise a toast to him while we are all gathered together at the dining room table.  See you tomorrow.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Simple Moment

Another storm greeted us shortly after midnight last night.  We left our bedroom window open so we could feel the cool air 68º air and hear the sounds of nature.  Our son mowed the yard yesterday before the storm hit.  The early morning smell of fresh cut grass adds a special touch to a simple moment.  I feel like I'm on a camping trip.  Two love birds huddle together on a tree branch, forming the outline of a Valentine.  Their sweet song floats to our window on a gentle breeze while the trees sway in the background.  A blend of dark and white clouds are adrift.  My wife reads a daily chapter from "Simple Abundance."  We're both on the same page.  This is our simple moment.

May your day be filled with simple moments that bring you joy.  Savor these moments.  They're the ingredients of a good life.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Do You Feel the Zeal?

Zeal -- Enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance. 

You can't change your past mistakes.  You don't have to keep living them over and over either.  Doing this prevents you from living your life to its fullest.  It takes away from the joy of today.  There's something in my gut that tells me, "This is your moment.  You are living at the right time and the right place -- you have everything you need at your fingertips to accomplish your destiny."  I don't know this, I feel this.  It's what zeal is all about.  My hope for you today is that this message strikes a chord.  If you're not feeling the zeal, I have some questions for you:
  1. If you could change one thing in your life today that would ignite the flames inside you yearning to burn, what would it be?
  2. What price are you willing to pay to make that change?
  3. How much pain will you suffer if you choose not to ignite that flame?
I experienced one of those moments yesterday morning near the end of my writing session.  I was so deeply engrossed in my story that I completely lost track of time.  What seemed like minutes turned out to be hours.  I missed my self-imposed writing deadline by thirty minutes without even realizing it.  My readers expect these stories to appear every morning at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  I missed that target yesterday because I was feeling the zeal so strongly that time itself seemed to stop.  This passion carries over into every area of my life -- parenting, dating my wife, working, dreaming, etc.  I vow to live my life with zeal.  How about you?  Are you in?  Humor me and add a comment below that says, "I'm in."  Or, if you like to keep your name private, send me an email.  You don't have to give me your name.  Email me by clicking here and put "I'm in" in the subject line.  Have a great day!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Do You See Opportunity?

Opportunity wears many disguises.  You won't always find it in familiar places.  Here are ten places where opportunity may be lurking in your life:
  1. Rejection.  This is painful.  I've experienced this many times.  The good news here is that rejection is the feedback necessary to identify areas of your life that need attention.  Rejection shines a light on your weak areas.  If you can see the light, you can get better.
  2. Job loss.  For many, their job is their identity.  When a lay-off comes, they are lost.  Those who accept a job loss as part of a world that is rapidly changing and adapt find new opportunity.
  3. Natural disasters.  Forced evacuations have a way of bringing people together.  I survived two wildfires during my time in Southern California.  Both evacuations lasted about a week.  During that time, I really got to know my neighbors.  I also witnessed the human heart.  There's nothing better than knowing there are people out there who care about you, especially when you're in the middle of a wildfire, tornado or other kind of natural disaster.
  4. Loss of a loved one.  Some of the greatest caregivers on our planet are the ones who lost someone they loved.  They know the pain and the hurt and they use this pain to help others in similar situations.  Use your loss to help others and you will find comfort.
  5. The end of the rope.  This is a scary place.  Maybe you find yourself hanging by a thread today.  The world keeps telling you, "hang on!"  I heard a different voice the day I found myself at the end of my rope.  The voice said, "let go."  The day I let go of the rope and put my faith in God I began to see all kinds of new opportunities in my life.
  6. Dead ends.  If you are like me, you can't stand it when the road you've been on for many years turns out to be a dead end.  If you are willing to turn around and head in a different direction, you will find new roads filled with new opportunities.  
  7. Defeat.  You may feel good when you are on a winning streak and everything is going well in your life, however, your opportunity for the greatest growth appears when you have been knocked down.  Ask any professional athlete how he or she made it to the top and they will tell you it comes from learning lessons in your losses.  Your opponent is keen on identifying your weaknesses.  They may never be exposed until you are defeated.  
  8. When someone hurts you.  You can spend your lifetime thinking about all those sucker punches you got when your guard was down, or you can forgive the person(s) who hurt you.  Forgiveness is an opportunity to be an example instead of a victim.
  9. When you feel like a misfit.  There is great opportunity for anyone willing to swim upstream when the rest of the world is going in the opposite direction.  Try it.  You will be ridiculed and you will be misunderstood.  It's worth it.
  10. When others tell you that you are a failure or that what you are seeking is impossible.  This is one of my favorites.  I was a young kid when I bought my first condo.  The first lender I spoke with took one look at me and laughed.  The next lender found a way to help me.  The first broker I spoke with on a job interview in my early twenties told me he only hired experienced realtors.  By the time we were done speaking, he hired me.  After I shook hands with him, I told him, "I'll be ready to start as soon as I get my real estate license."  When I relocated to the Midwest over one year ago, I immediately started looking at property, even though I had no job and no money.  97 people out of 100 told me there was no hope.  The other three said, "let's talk."  My wife and I agreed to purchase the home on the top of our list.  We set up a rent to own program with the seller which was converted to a real estate contract once we both secured jobs.  These examples are only the tip of the iceberg.  I see opportunity every time someone says, "you can't do that" or "it's impossible."
Where are your opportunities?  Are you looking in the right places?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

7 Ways To Defeat Your Fears

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." ~ Matthew 14:27

It's been almost a year since we lost one of our team-mates at work.  Ryan and his girlfriend were in a tragic motorcycle accident that took his life and left his girlfriend in critical condition.  Her recovery is amazing.  And she just did something recently most of us would never dream of...she got a motorcycle license.  Someday she plans to buy the same bike her boyfriend was killed on.

Fear is something we all have.  Jesus talks about fear more than any other subject.  He knows how the Enemy uses fear to stop us in our tracks.  If you find yourself struggling with fear, here are seven tips to help you:
  1. Fear lives in the shadows.  Turn the light on.  It helps to see what you're dealing with.
  2. Understand where fear comes from.  It does not come from God.  It is a road block to God.
  3. Love is stronger than fear.  The greater your love is, the weaker your fear becomes.
  4. Fear comes from having trust issues.  Learn to trust and watch your fears dissipate.
  5. Remember what the final score will be.  Your team wins.  Fear is the only weapon the Enemy has to try to confuse you and distract you.  Keep your eyes on the scoreboard and remind the Enemy the outcome has already been determined.
  6. Fear can be converted into high octane gas;  it gives you all the fuel you need to move forward.  Use it to fill up your tank and charge ahead.
  7. The greatest fear most of us have is about death.  Jesus conquered death.  It's no longer an issue.  Death is simply a doorway to eternal life.
I salute all the people in this world who found a way to defeat their fears.  I congratulate Ryan's girlfriend for deciding fear will not be a part of her life.  And I challenge you to defeat your fears.  These seven ideas are a starting point.  Please add your suggestions to the story in the comments section below.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Are You Ready For Judgement Day?

If you asked 100 people, "are you ready for judgement day?", how many do you think would answer affirmatively?  How would you answer?  What is the basis for your answer?  Remember, no one can answer this question for you.  And if you happen to be an atheist, this question is for you:  Have you ever considered the possibility that you're wrong about your opinion that there is no God?

Imagine this scenario:  You're dead.  In front of you is Jesus.  He doesn't say anything.  He pushes a button and a movie screen turns on.  You are the star of the movie.  The first scene is you as a baby.  Your entire life is played before your eyes.  Everything you did, right up until the moment you died is in the movie.  The way you treated others is replayed on the movie screen.  At the end of the movie, Jesus asks you, "would you mind evaluating your life?"

What kind of movie did you see?  Was it a love story?  How did you interact with everyone else?

If you saw a horror flick or if the movie you watched was lackluster, here's some good news for you -- you're not dead.  You may not win any Academy Awards for your performance in this world, however, if you believe in the Director and follow Him, when judgement day comes, He will introduce you to His Father, the One who wrote the original screen play for your life.  Today is a good day to get familiar with the script.  The other actors around you are here to help you.  It's a good idea to love them, even when they mistreat you or hurt you.  Your job is to give the performance of your life.  The only critic who counts is Jesus.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How Do You Know When the Time Is Right?

Are you having trouble making a decision because you're not sure about the timing?  If you find yourself struggling to find the right time, you may want to consider the fear factor.  Fear has a way of creeping into our lives.  It tempts us to delay important decisions.  Keep in mind that the perfect time to do something will never come.  Here are some ideas to ponder about the right time to act:
  1. What do you want to accomplish with your life before you die?
  2. How much time will your activities listed in #1 take?
  3. Is there a point where your age will become a factor with regards to completing an activity?
  4. What do you need today to begin working on an item listed in #1?
  5. What price will you pay for waiting too long to make an important decision?
  6. Do you have any clue about God's timing?
  7. Do you know anyone who has been in a similar situation?  If so, what sort of timing sense did they have?
  8. How would you rate your timing making important decisions in the past?
  9. If you could remove fear from the decision-making process, would you be able to make a decision today?
  10. Which has bigger consequences:  Never making a decision or making a decision that is less than perfect?
I made a decision long ago to stop making excuses about timing.  The person who raises a family, publishes books, pursues his or her passions, etc, is the person who discovers the best time to start is today, not tomorrow.  Tomorrow may never come.  Today is here now.  It comes with 1,440 minutes. Is 1,440 minutes enough time for you to make an important decision?  Please let me know if this story helps you to know when the time is right.  Your comments below are much appreciated.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why Do You Do The Things You Do?

Does this photo remind you of anything?  The first question you may ask when you come home to a mess like this is, "What are you doing?"  That's not the right question.  The answer is obvious.  The real question is "Why are doing this?"

We adopted a second dog as a companion for our Sheltie when our children were young.  The first few times we left Lucky alone, our home looked like burglars invaded.  The corners of all our cushions were chewed up and our vertical blinds were broken into pieces.  Lucky was having trouble with some "why" questions, like:

 "Why are these strangers leaving me alone?" 

"Why don't I get to play outside?"

"Why is this other dog following me around?"

We went to some animal experts seeking help.  We were told our new pet was suffering from separation anxiety.  This explained why he wailed like a baby every time we headed out the door without him.  It explained why he pretended to be a running back busting through the defense every time he saw the end zone just past an open front door.

Once we understood why our new pet was behaving so strangely, we were able to help him overcome his anxiety issues.  The same thing is true with the people around you.  If you seek to understand why they do the things they do, or why you do the things you do, you can eventually modify behaviors.  Those children pictured above have a need to explore.  They will do well on camping trips.  When guided properly, they will become the next generation of inventors and leaders.  Children are experts at asking the "why" questions.  How about you?  Are you asking enough why questions?  Please add your comments below.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Do You Believe In God-incidences?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when something happened that appeared to be more than a coincidence?  I like to call these moments "God-incidences" because their timing is out of this world and they seem to be directed by some kind of higher authority.

The most recent "God-incidence" my family witnessed has to do with our youngest son's upcoming18th birthday.  Country singer, Miranda Lambert, decided to appear in concert in a neighboring town when another band had to drop out.  She happens to be one of our son's favorites.  She also happens to be performing for one night only... on our son's birthday.  And when my wife called to check on ticket availability, there were only ten tickets left!  We bought enough for our whole family.

One of the best God-incidences of all times has to do with my dad.  About a week before he passed away, our pastor visited him and he brought his Bible.  They had a private conversation.  When our pastor departed, he left his Bible behind.  My dad said, "son, you need to return this Bible right away.  It contains the keys to the gates of Heaven."  One week later, my dad used the keys.  He found them at the perfect time.

How is your timing?  Any God-incidences in your life?  Please share your story in the comments section below.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Why Being Adaptable Reduces Stress

I'm one of those people who thrives on the chaos.  Most days, I'm really not sure what to expect.  The one thing I can count on is that each day will look quite different from the one I planned the day before.  Here are some suggestions to help you deal with unexpected change in your day:
  1. Consider your daily goals as a template for the day -- they are your starting point, not the finished product.
  2. Welcome the variety that comes from unplanned opportunities -- they add flavor to your day.
  3. Expect chaos.  You are not a robot and neither are the people around you.  Be prepared for unforeseen circumstances that are not on your calendar.
  4. Appreciate the unplanned interruptions -- they give you the opportunity to showcase your flexibility.
  5. Understand that your advancement opportunities come from your ability to handle unexpected situations.
When your attitude towards change is flexible, you will find yourself at peace, even when your world seems to be collapsing.  Others will seek you out to help them survive.  How do you feel about being adaptable?  Please add your comments below.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

One Simple Rule

Life may appear complicated at times.  I remember a time in my younger years when I entered a half Iron Man competition in Kauai.  The first portion of the 1.2 mile swim seemed effortless.  Then I turned around.  The ocean current was now opposing me rather than carrying me.  My arms tired.  I felt like I was barely moving.  Exhausted swimmers behind me were being yanked out of the water by the life guards.  I refused to quit.  The closer I got to shore, the more intense the current became.  I felt like I was swimming in a rip tide.  Finally, I reached the pier.  I held on to the first beam while the ocean tried one last time to suck me back out.  I waited for the next wave so I could use it to advance to the next beam.  It took forever to reach the beach.  I barely made the cut-off time.  Everyone behind me got disqualified.

I found my bike easily.  All the other competitors were already on the bike course.  I climbed on to my bike and pedaled for 56 miles.  My body was weak but my mind was focused.  I kept thinking about the thirteen mile run at the end.  I told myself, just get to the end of the bike ride, then walk if you have to, you can do it.  I never got the chance.  I finished the bike ride too late and was the first biker disqualified for being too slow on the course.  The race officials needed to re-open the highway.  It was an epic failure.  My pain was doubled because this was the second time I got disqualified in a half-iron man competition.  At least I made it further this time than the first race where my chain broke thirty miles into the bike ride.

Here's where the simple rule applies.  I follow it every day.  It works like this:

Be a little bit better today than you were yesterday. 

That's it!  It works for parenting.  It works in relationships.  It works in every area of your life.  And someday I will cross the finish line in a half-iron man race.  The first two competitions were my practice runs.  The third time, I plan to cross the finish line.  How about you?  Do you believe you can be better today than you were yesterday?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reality Check

The world I live in is not so simple.  There are rules.  Imagine you're a writer.  You are surrounded my loving people who inspire you.  You observe them doing extraordinary things.  You are so impressed you want to share your life with the whole world.  There's only one problem...your loved ones have no desire to be in the public domain.  What do you do?

I came up with a crazy solution.  This works for me because I'm a little bit on the crazy side.  Here's how I manage to share my life without invading privacy issues at home or work:
  1. Create fictional characters.  Some of my characters in my books may resemble people I know and love, however, they aren't real people. 
  2. Deny. Deny. Deny.  If anyone sees themselves in my characters, I remind them my stories are fiction.  The only character in my novel who is real is Jesus, even though many readers think He is fictional.
  3. Substitute inanimate objects when needed.  I started taking pictures of my soccer ball, my tennis racket and my racket cover when my family refused to appear on Facebook.  These inanimate objects became the life of the party.  Strangers asked me to be in the photographs with my lifeless buddies.  Wilson, Ramona and Bro have their own personalities and they are now featured in the novel I'm penning.
  4. Don't talk about your work in front of others.  Just write.  I live in two worlds -- the real one and the imaginary one.  Keeping them separate keeps the peace.  If a family member reads one of my stories, that's a bonus for me.  If they see themselves in my characters, that's a coincidence.
  5. When others tell you you're crazy, agree with them.  Who wants to argue with a crazy man?  This is simple, yet effective.
It's a good idea to do a reality check every day.  Keep your characters fictional and your life real.  Understand it's okay to be a little bit crazy.  Many Bible stories are based on people who saw things and heard things.  By modern day standards, they're lunatics.  In the old days, they were called prophets.  The label I prefer is, "writer."  And if you want to call me crazy -- I agree.  Your comments are welcome below.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Happens When You Pursue Your Passions?

Today's story is about three Mulligans.  There are many more all over the country, however, due to self-imposed boundaries, they mostly reside in a sort of witness protection program.  I restrict family stories to Mulligans who choose to cross the line and enter the public domain.  Here a three examples of Mulligans who decided long ago to pursue their passions.  One lives in a cave, the other on an island, and the third in a van.  All three are blood related:

  1. Mulligan #1 ~ the cave dweller:  He's identified by 808.  His red solo dot is located somewhere in the heartland of America.  His blog stories are published daily at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  He has a day job, however, his employer, much like his family, encourages web anonymity, so his stories are limited in nature.  His favorite topics are about faith, hope, love and perseverance.  He is always looking for ways to do things better, especially in the writing world.  Visit his Cyber-bistro to observe his latest creation, a novel he is developing one chapter at a time in front of visitors and guests.  Click here to enter the Cyber-bistro.
  2. Mulligan #2 ~ from Mulligan's Island:  He headed south of the border to pursue his dreams and found them on Mulligan's Island.  He tours all over North America sharing his music with fans in three countries.  Click here to check out my awesome cousin.
  3. Mulligan #3 ~ He lives in a van:  His love for Sierra Nevada beer inspired him to enter a song he composed in a contest.  He won.  Then he teamed up with his buddies in a band that tours all over the country.  While on the road, they post YouTube videos from their van.  One of their van sessions has gone viral and has been viewed over 2 million times.  Last week, they made national news two days in a row.  Click here to check out another cool cousin, backing up the singers who backed him up in his award-winning Sierra Nevada song.
Whether you live in a cave, on an island, or call your van home, if you are pursuing your passions, you can make a difference in the world.  If you find yourself around a Mulligan today, give him or her a big hug.  One or two of them may be coming to a town near you.  Tell 'em the caveman sent you.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Are You a Diamond in the Rough?

My dad had a favorite saying.  In his eyes, everything was "world famous."   Every time he barbecued for family and friends, he served world famous hamburgers.  No burger was ever exactly the same because he was always tinkering with the ingredients, searching for that diamond in the rough.  At Mulligan's bar, he served "world famous" green bagels.  Everything and everyone in his eyes was world famous.

Take a look at the world around you.  Observe the people you are in contact with.  What do you see?  Are they diamonds or are they still developing their hidden talents?  Now, look in the mirror.  Ask yourself the same questions.  Do you see the diamond in the rough?  If you are having trouble recognizing your own special and unique qualities, how will the world spot them?

I made an important discovery over four years ago, almost by accident.  I asked God to show me what He sees through His eyes when He looks at me.  It was life-changing.  That discovery led to an important follow-up question..."what am I supposed to do with my diamond?"  The question was asked in the form of a prayer.  Here was my answer:  "Share it."

According to Urban Dictionary, a diamond in the rough is "someone (or something) that has hidden exceptional characteristics and/or future potential, but currently lacks the final touches that would make them (or it) truly stand out from the crowd."

You may have some work to do in order to make your talents shine.  The cutting and polishing process may take a lifetime.  Don't ever give up.  The diamond within you is one-of-a-kind.  I know my dad would be the first to say you're world-famous.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

10 Lessons Your Mistakes Teach You

The other day one of our regional bosses at my day job spent some time with our marketing team.  "How are we doing?"  I asked.  Her answer wasn't a surprise -- it was a confirmation that our fledgling team was on the right track.  We're getting ready to celebrate one year together in a new market for our company.  I promised my boss I would stay under the social media radar with regards to my day job because our company does not like attention unless it comes from the people we serve.  After the meeting was over, I told my boss, "I've made a lot a mistakes here."

Our general manager replied, "Me too.  Mistakes are how you learn to do your job better.  If you're not making mistakes, you're not finding ways to be your best."

My attitude about mistakes has changed over the years.  I used to be afraid of them.  Now, I welcome them.  Here are ten lessons mistakes teach you:
  1. You are not perfect.  The sooner you learn that errors are a part of your world, the sooner you will stop trying to be perfect.  The world does not expect you to be perfect.  Why should you?
  2. If you require the people around you to be perfect,  they will stop trying new ideas.
  3. Mistakes identify areas where there is room for personal growth in yourself and in the people around you.
  4. People soon forget your mistakes, however, they long remember your superior achievements.
  5. Mistakes are not the final product of your efforts, only the necessary ingredients to accomplish your desired outcome.
  6. Mistakes teach you to laugh.  The best comedians are the ones who can laugh at themselves and the mistakes they make.  Without mistakes, they would have no material.
  7. Mistakes are road signs that point you to future promotions.
  8. Mistakes are the dress rehearsals that prepare you for the times when the best version of you is called upon for the performance of your life.
  9. Mistakes are part of Spring training.  No matter how far you advance, Spring training is an annual requirement to help you be your best on the field of life.
  10. Mistakes remind you that you are the creature, not the Creator.  Your Creator designed you to make mistakes so you could test all the wrong paths, eventually finding the right path that leads you back to Him.
What is the greatest mistake you ever made that helped you become the person you are today?  Please add your thoughts below.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

In the Name of Love

Let all that you do be done in love. ~ Corinthians 16:14

Our daughter has the above quote posted as her cover photo on her Facebook page.  It's the first thing anyone sees when they click on her page.  The verse is simple, yet challenging.  How many people do you know who live their lives by this statement?  Would you give yourself a passing grade if you evaluated all your actions using Corinthians 16:14 as a benchmark?

Here are ten questions to consider:
  1. Do I feel jealous when someone around me shines?
  2. Do I feel a need to be the center of attention?
  3. Does anger ever influence my behavior towards others?
  4. Do I have any enemies?
  5. Do I hold onto grudges?
  6. How quickly do I forgive others when they hurt me?
  7. How many people around me am I willing to give up my life for?
  8. What could I do to improve my love for others?
  9. What is holding you back from loving others?
  10. If you could change one thing about yourself to make yourself more loveable, what would it be?
These questions are for your use only.  I know what my weak areas are and I thank our daughter for posting this on her FB page.  May your day be filled with love.