Saturday, August 31, 2013

How Do You Get Better?

No matter who you are or what you do, you have the ability to improve.  Most people want to be a better spouse, parent, employer, employee, etc.  The challenge is in the "how."  They want to know how to improve but they don't know where to start.  This is one of my favorite topics.  The answer is in your mindset.  Ask yourself this question:  Am I capable of being better today than I was yesterday?  If the answer is "yes," you have already won half the battle.  If the answer is "no," we have work to do.  Here is the strategy I use to improve:
  1. Every morning when you wake up, put a mental list together of my top priorities for the day.
  2. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to get better results today than I got yesterday?
  3. Throw out everything that didn't work yesterday and look for new approaches to become better today.
  4. Put a high value on small improvements.  For example, the biggest challenge in my life right now is my mountain of debt.  This problem didn't suddenly appear in my life, it's the result of a life-time of bad habits.  When I go to bed tonight, I will think about all the choices I made today about reducing my debt.  The goal is to do one thing better today about reducing my debt.  That one thing will add up to 365 things at the end of each year.  If I keep improving, eventually I will be debt free.
  5. Never give up.  Big problems are really a bunch of small challenges connected to each other.  Concentrate on one small challenge today.  Don't get overwhelmed by the big picture.  Your problem is like a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Find a way to connect two pieces of your puzzle today.  You don't need to complete the whole puzzle.  If you stay with it, eventually your puzzle will be complete, your problem will be solved and you will gain the self confidence necessary to get better at anything.
Now it's your turn to share one area of your life you want to improve.  Please leave your comments below.

Friday, August 30, 2013

How Accountability Partners Help You Cross the Finish Line

Your goals are in place.  You feel great about your strategy.  Then, reality sets in.  The obstacles look intimidating.  Self-doubt creeps in.  What do you do to stay motivated?  Maybe it's time to bring in an accountability partner.  Depending on the size of your goal(s), you may want more than one.  You can apply these ideas to any area of your life.  Here are some suggestions:
  1. Surround yourself with people who care about you and your goals.  Make sure you share why your goals are important to you.  Their job is to remind you why you are in the race on days when you feel like giving up.  
  2. Help your accountability partner(s) with their goals.  Your reward is doubled when you cross finish line together.
  3. Be specific about your goals so your accountability partners know what to expect from you.  My first writers group was led by two senior members who clearly defined how each member was accountable.  Everyone was expected to write a minimum of ten pages, distribute enough copies for each group member to critique and then return twice each month with individual critiques.  Every member who joined was expected to complete his or her manuscript.  The success rate was very close to 100%.  
  4. Your deadlines are your mile markers.  You can set any pace you want.  Make sure you share your desired pace with your accountability partners so they can check in to see how you're doing.  My accountability partners read my blog every day.  If they check in at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, and the blog is MIA, they hunt me down.  I get text messages similar to this:  I didn't see your blog this morning, is everything okay?  They don't want to hear excuses.  They keep me on the race course, one day at a time.
  5. Accountability partners offer a fresh point of view.  If you are working on weight loss, they can share how they overcame specific challenges.  If you are preparing for an event, like a marathon, triathlon, or something really crazy, like a swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco, these accountability partners can help you design a training program they can supervise.
The most important thing to remember about accountability is that it's a two-way street.  It sure is great to have them in your life to help you cross the finish line.  Remember to give back and help others stay on course.  The more you give, the more you will receive.  And don't forget to say thank you.  If you are one of my accountability partners from the business world, the blog world or my personal life, I want you know how grateful I am for your willingness to help out.  Thank you!

Please share how you use accountability partners in your life.  How do you choose them and what areas of your life are you using them for?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Happy Four Year Blogiversary

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:58

I'm celebrating my four year blogiversary today.  My first blog story, Coming Out of the Cave, was the beginning of four years of daily writing.  Can you imagine doing something for 1,461 consecutive days?  On that first day, I made two promises -- to write every day for the rest of my life, and to do something daily to improve my writing skills.  Here are some lessons I learned along the way...
  • Start with a picture.  Pictures draw readers into your stories. 
  • Add your favorite quotes or Bible verses.  My Facebook friends are always posting positive and encouraging quotes that inspire some of my stories.
  • Share from your heart.  You have a story inside you that can help others.  Readers want authenticity. 
  • There's never been a better time to connect with others than right now.  Everything you need is at your fingertips.  Investing fifteen minutes of your time every day is enough to learn how to use all the free tools you need to build a social network.
  • Google rewards consistency.  The number one reason my stories rank so high on the Google search results is because I contribute one story every day.  Higher visibility draws in more readers which boosts the rankings even higher.
  • The best way to find your voice is to use it.  The more I write, the easier it gets, especially when I pick topics I'm passionate about.
  • Less is more.  Keep your stories brief and leave your readers wanting more.  Give them a reason to come back every day.  They don't want "War and Peace" in your daily blog.  What they do appreciate is a snippet about your daily challenges.  I like to conclude with a lesson I learned and invite my readers to add their comments.
  • Your blog is your cyber-sandbox.  There are no rules.  You have a blank canvass in front of you.  Play.  Have fun.  Experiment.  Invite others to play with you.
Thank you for stopping by today.  These last four years have flown by so quickly.  I really appreciate it when you send me an email or leave a comment.  Some of you out there may feel like the parents of a musician who brings home a tuba and doesn't know how to play.  The sounds you hear through the walls make you cringe, like someone is scratching their fingernails on a chalk board.  Don't worry.  I'm getting the hang of it.  I promise you I will never give up.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.  Don't forget to add your comment below.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Swim in the Sea of Contentment

Contentment:  A state of happiness and satisfaction.

I listened to a song this morning written by a 96-year-old man who claims he is neither a singer nor a songwriter.  Fred Stobaugh found the love of his life seventy-five years ago.  One month after she left this world, Fred expressed his love for her in a song he wrote and entered in a contest.  His song didn't fit the criteria for the contest, however, the folks were so touched they turned Fred's love song into an amazing tribute.  The photos in the video show two love birds spending their lives together swimming in a sea of contentment.  Click on the YouTube video below to hear Fred's amazing song.  When you're done, ask yourself, am I ready to take a swim in the sea of contentment?  Please share your answers in the comments section below.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's Inside Your Treasure Chest?

Imagine for a moment that you are walking on a beach.  You discover a treasure chest washed up on the shore.  It's heavy.  The outside is weather-beaten.  It appears to be very old. There is a lock on the outside.  A crowd gathers.  A locksmith steps forward to offer you help with the lock.  You think about all the riches that are inside.  The atmosphere around you is like being in Las Vegas at a gambling table.  The crowd cheers when the lock is picked.  You throw open the lid.  The only sound you hear is from the ocean waves crashing.  There's no gold.  No silver.  Nothing but a stack of spiral notebooks filled with hand-written notes.  The crowd disperses.  You open up one of the notebooks and begin reading.  You discover that these are love letters.  There are two authors -- a husband and a wife.  The notebooks belonging to the wife are neat and expressive.  The notebooks from the husband are difficult to read because the penmanship is erratic.  You can't stop reading because each love letter is filled with so much emotion and heart.  You wonder, who are these people?

I know the answer.  This is my own treasure chest.  It has thousands of love letters inside it.  Some were penned at the lowest points in my life when I thought I was drowning.  Others were written during times of mountain-top experiences.  When our lives are over, we plan to turn over our treasure chest to our children.  They will decide whether to share the treasure chest or cast it into the ocean.  This is what we will leave behind.  Our memories are our most valuable treasures.  Our love for one another is more valuable than all the gold and silver in the world.

Please ponder for a moment what items you would like to place in your treasure chest.  When you leave this world, who will you pass your treasure chest to?  Thanks for sharing your answers in the comments section below.  I look forward to reading about your treasures.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Do You Measure Your Blessings?

One of the most treasured blessings in my life measures 5 feet, four inches tall.  Three more blessings initially weighed in at six pounds, 14 ounces; six pounds, 12 ounces and six pounds, eight ounces.  Other blessings are intangible and impossible to measure.  To the untrained eye, these types of blessings look more like storms or are disguised as wildfires.  Here are some examples of blessings I failed to properly categorize:
  1. Unemployment.
  2. Short sale of my home.
  3. Loss of A+ credit rating.
  4. Investment losses.
  5. Countless earthquakes, two wildfires, several blizzards and tornadic winds.
"How can these be blessings?" you ask.  Just as storms leave us with brilliant rainbows in the aftermath or as wildfires inspire new life to spring forth from the ashes,  I feel like a new person today.  I have a greater appreciation for my family, my friends and my faith.  I found tranquility.  I discovered that I can be happy in all circumstances.  Here's the best blessing of all:  I am now a fearless follower of Jesus Christ.  I believe He is with me always.  And my prayer for you today is that your blessings are so enormous your scale breaks.

Please share how you measure the blessings in your life.  Have a great day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why You Should Become Fluent in Your Spouse's Love Language

Love is spoken in many languages, often without words.  Those who excel in love understand one basic principle --  it's all about the right love language.  I recommend five steps to help you become a better lover.
  1. Click here to link to the 5 Love Languages and find out what your love language is.
  2. Ask your love to take the test.
  3. Share the results.
  4. Use the results to express yourself in your partner's favorite love language.
  5. Do something everyday to become fluent in your partner's love language.
Once you master your spouse's love language, examine your relationships with your parents, your children, your friends and other people you are in regular contact with.  If you are having trouble communicating with others, odds are you aren't speaking their favorite love language.

Would you like to share what your favorite love language is?  Please leave your comments below.  Thanks for participating.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What are you celebrating today?

What's going on in your life worth celebrating today?  Is it a new baby?  A grand-baby?  Maybe a new job or promotion?  Perhaps you hit a new milestone in your weight-loss goal?  Whatever it is, make sure you make the time to celebrate.  For me, the answer is simple -- I'm celebrating because my wife and I are on the same page in the same chapter of the same book.  Our hopes, dreams and goals are in alignment.  Even after over twenty-four years of marriage, we still date.  Tonight is our date night.  We'll be trying out a new restaurant.

If you're having trouble finding something worth celebrating, here are three suggestions:
  1. Faith --  This is the belief in a power greater than you capable of watching over you.
  2. Hope -- This is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
  3. Love -- The best feeling in the world.  It's the joy of knowing God wrote a script for your life.  It's a love story.  Savor it.  Celebrate it.  
Don't forget to click the comment button and share what you are celebrating today.  Thanks for joining the conversation.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Overcome Your Fear of Mistakes

I noticed the weed you see pictured on the right last night in my backyard at sunset.  There it was -- a single wild plant calling out to me at the end of my day.  I stooped down to observe its beauty and complexity.  For most people, weeds are unwanted, like pesky mosquitoes at a picnic.  They are like mistakes we try to keep out of our lives.  Weeds, like mistakes, have a purpose.  They're here to make sure our topsoil doesn't erode and wash away into the ocean.  Weeds penetrate soil unsuitable for other plants and prepare it so other plants can move in and thrive.  Mistakes are what pave the way for you to thrive.  Once you understand how valuable your mistakes are, you will never look at your weeds the same way again.  You will overcome any fear of failure lurking in your garden.  Here are some ideas to cultivate:
  1. Mistakes are necessary.  They are the pioneer weeds that venture into unknown areas of opportunity.  You need them to prepare the soil for future cash crops.
  2. Allow mistakes to stay in your life so you can learn from them and increase your yields.  Pulling up weeds too soon will damage your crop.  Jesus advised his followers to let the weeds (tares) grow up with the wheat until the harvest to protect the wheat from being uprooted.
  3. Preventing mistakes exposes your topsoil to erosion.  Nothing can grow once all your topsoil washes away.  You are in danger of losing your crop when you don't allow mistakes in your life. 
  4. Weeds help you recover from a wildfire.  Any time you experience a serious setback, the first thing you will notice is how fast all the weeds return.  Don't be afraid of them.  They are here for your protection.  As long as you see weeds, you know your creativity is preserved.
  5. Your mistakes make you a better gardener.  The more willing you are to make mistakes, the better your garden will look to the world.
You don't need to fear the weed, embrace it.  Admire all it has to teach you.  Imitate its aggressive nature and its fearless ability to thrive in all situations.  The weed isn't afraid when the wind blows or when the storm arrives.  It was created for a purpose.  So are you.  The answer is found in Genesis 1:28...Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply."

Are you ready to overcome your fear of mistakes?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    Are You Keeping Up With Your Social Media?

    Do you remember the first time you activated your AOL account and your computer announced, "You've got mail"?  The year was 1989.  The internet was not yet a part of our world.  Facebook wasn't on the scene.  Portable phones were too large to fit in our jacket pockets so we placed them in our automobiles.  I remember the year like it was yesterday.  It was the year I changed my relationship status from "single" to "married."  We became parents two years later -- the same year the internet was born.  Our daughter and MySpace both arrived in 1993. showed up the following year.   In the summer of 1995, our family reached its full size when our youngest son was born.  Facebook was celebrating its one year anniversary.

    Today, Kodak is in bankruptcy court and Instagram has over 100 million active users.  Twitter just turned seven.  I told my cell phone rep that three out of five in our family prefer sticking with "dumb phones."  He looked at me with the same puzzled look a teenager gives you when you tell him or her to be home by 9:00 pm.  "'Dumb phones' cost the same as smart phones," he replied.  "Nobody buys them anymore.  I suppose I could order one for you if that's what you really want," he said.  We walked out with two smart phones.

    What does the future bring?  Will the Borg show up at our door and threaten to assimilate us?  If so, maybe we will collectively respond, "Too late; we are already assimilated."  Perhaps we will be so over-connected that we will even look like the Borg.  What's your opinion?  Are you keeping up with your social media?  Please share your thoughts by clicking the comment button below.

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Word of the Day: Inscrutable

    Inscrutable:  Impossible to understand or interpret; impenetrable; mysterious.

    Words are the most powerful weapons in a writer's arsenal.  They are the link that bond the reader to the writer.  My daily quest to find one choice morsel every day yields abundant treasures.  The word inscrutable pierces my heart like a silver bullet.  I'm mesmerized by it.  It's the perfect word to describe one of the main characters in my novel.  It's also one of the few words in my vocabulary that offer some kind of glimpse into the Holy Trinity -- The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Jesus left behind clues that are like a trail of bread crumbs. Each is a fragment from a world we cannot see.  He spoke in parables.  Everything he said is layered in mystery.  Here are some examples:
    • Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? ~ John 14:9.
    •  The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. ~ Matthew 13:44
    • 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
    • For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:11
    • To hang on to your life is to lose it. To let go of your life is to save it. – John 12:25
    • I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me. – John 14:6
    • All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ~ Matthew 11:27
    Have you discovered any new words lately that inspire you?  Please share in the comments section below.

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Your Most Powerful Advocate

    My wife and I sharing a mountain-top experience near Julian, California.

    How many times in your life have you enjoyed a mountain-top experience so powerful it took your breath away?  My first experience was racing down Mulligan mountain in Prescott, Arizona on a family vacation.  My younger cousin led the dual by a single stride.  I was behind him gasping for air, pushing myself to my limits.  My upper body stretched ahead of my legs in a failed attempt to pass him at the finish line and I tumbled.  Breath-taking?  Oh yes! 

    I found myself gasping for air once again while ascending the Grand Canyon with my buddies from work.  The view at the top was worth all the aches and pains, even the Montezuma's Revenge.  Once we completed our hike, we believed we could accomplish anything.  Several of these men became my business partners.

    The photo above is extra special because my wife accompanied me.  For twenty-four years, we have been on a non-stop adventure with a myriad of peaks and valleys.  She is my number one advocate on earth and she always takes my breath away.

    My favorite mountain-top experience didn't happen on top of a mountain.  I was sitting inside a church.  My pastor placed his hands on my head using an ancient ritual which invokes the Holy Spirit.  It was the climax of a three-day retreat.  Some people claimed nothing happened.  Others saw brilliant colors.  I saw a vision of my enemies.  There was a bright figure standing to my right.  My enemies were in a line facing me.  It was a very long line.  I was at peace.  I was thanking whoever was standing next to me for all the people in my life.  When I opened my eyes, the church was nearly empty.  I felt like I was floating on the clouds.  My most powerful Advocate, the One who moves mountains and who takes my breath away, gave me the best mountain-top experience ever.  I found my most powerful advocate.  Without saying one word, He changed me.  I no longer hate my enemies; I see the good in them and I understand why they are in my life.

    This same Spirit that gave me my new life is available for you.  If you ask Him to meet you, He will come to you no matter where you are -- on a peak or in the deepest valley.  He doesn't care where you live, what church you attend, or even if you happen to be a non-believer.  He cares about you.  He is ready to be your most powerful advocate.  Are you ready?  Please leave a comment about your experience.

    Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. ~ Jeremiah 33:3

    Monday, August 19, 2013

    Garbage in, garbage out

     Are you sick and tired of the poor results you're getting in life?  You have two choices:
    1. Keep doing things the same way every day.
    2. Try some new programming.
    If you pick option #1, you are going with the "insanity approach"  -- doing things the same way every day and expecting different results.  Good luck.  You can complain all you want about how miserable your situation is but that won't change the outcome.  You will attract a significant number of insane people into your life because misery loves company.  Everyone else will keep their distance until you are willing to try option #2.

    If you go with door #2 and stop feeding your mind and body garbage, the garbage will disappear.  The insane people in your life will turn on you.  They live on the garbage you produce.  If they are unsuccessful in their attempts to get you to change back, they will no longer want to associate with you.  These people are insane, however, they are not garbage.  They can stop the insanity at any time but they hate change or they fear change.  They would rather walk away from a sane person than change their ways.

    I read a quote a few months ago that goes like this, I'm going to live like no one else so I can live like no one else.  The quote was about changing your spending habits so you can become debt free.  There are some people I know who are not insane.  They don't expect different results because they are content to live mired in debt.  They believe car payments are normal.  They believe house payments are a forever deal.  They look at me when they see me driving my clunker and think to themselves, poor thing!  They have no clue I'm thinking the same thing when I wonder about their huge monthly payments.

    Which option are you going to choose?  Remember, not choosing is a choice.  Not choosing defaults to the first option.  The second choice is painful.  If you're ready to clear out the garbage in your life, please share what changes you are going to make in the comments section below.

    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Twin Tidbits

    Twins run in our family.  One of my sisters sent me this picture from her kitchen yesterday.  I texted back, I had one about two months ago.  This is the same sister who got a twin rose bloom at her home the day our dad, also a twin, passed away.  The twin rose bloomed near the place where our dad sat on the front porch visiting with his twin during his bout with cancer.

    The odds of a double yolk are about one in a thousand.  In my lifetime, I've only seen a twin rose bloom from a single bud one time and that was the day our dad left this world.  Are all these twins a coincidence?  Maybe.  Is the timing of the double rose blooming next to my dad's favorite hangout spot on the day of his death a coincidence?  Maybe.  For me and my family, these twin appearances are a double blessing that remind us of our dad. 

    Have you ever seen a double rose or broken open a twin yolk?  Are there twins in your family?  Please share your comments below.

    Saturday, August 17, 2013

    Crank Up Your Dazzle

    Dazzle:  To amaze, overwhelm, or bewilder with spectacular display.

    I shot the photo above on my way to my day job.  When I got home at the end of the day, I tinkered with the features on my cell phone to magnify the intensity level of the clouds.  The border was the icing on the cake.  My wife looked at the photo and said, "Wow, it looks like a post card."  The difference between dazzle and fizzle has to do with how much you apply your own creativity.  Here are three ideas to help you with your dazzle-o-meter:
    1. Practice, practice, practice.
    2. See the beauty that is all around you and use it to ignite your senses.
    3. "Play the sunset" -- click on the YouTube video below for instructions.
    In Mr. Holland's Opus, Richard Dryfus teaches his student that music is more than notes on a page.  I recommend you watch the movie for the rest of the story.  The shy clarinet student featured in the video learned to shine because she discovered her inner dazzle and found a way to share it with others.

    What part of your life are you planning to crank up with dazzle?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Be the Best Version of Yourself You Can Be

    Today's blog is inspired by a long-time blog reader and supporter.  He sent me these encouraging words in a recent comment:  Be the best version of yourself you can be.

    For me, his words are a seven-course meal that take time to fully digest.  How does one go about this?  I don't see anything in his comment about being the best copy-cat of someone else.  Being the best at anything requires a willingness to experiment with all the variations until you find the right solution.  When others evaluate you, they may not appreciate what they see because you are still experimenting and you are a work-in-progress.

    You made it this far because there are people in your life who love you and care about you.  Your parents took care of you when you were helpless.  Your teachers taught you basic skills.  You are now at a point in your life where you are identifying your uniqueness.  Keep experimenting.  Test the limits of your own imagination.  Don't be afraid to be an original.  Remember to share who you are with the world.  The world needs you.  Are you ready?  What are you going to do today to help you become the best version of yourself you can be?  Please share your answers below in the comments section.

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Win With a Relentless Strategy

    The reason most people fail to accomplish their goals is because they give up too soon.  They put a plan together and follow it.  Then something gets in the way.  The strategy may be right, however, the will to keep fighting when the chips are down isn't there.  The solution is in the word "relentless," which means showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace.  For me, relentless is more than a word -- it's a way of life.  It's an attitude.

    There are days when winning appears impossible.  Those are the days when I tell myself,  one inch.  I must advance one inch. It may not seem like much, however, one inch becomes a foot.  The foot turns into yards.  And the yards lead to victory.  It's all about staying in the game.  Please share your thoughts about how this applies to your life. 

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    How Do You Defeat a High-Value Target?

    Enemy number one in my personal life is debt.  He lurks in the shadows and never leaves my side.  His presence reminds me of an old saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  My enemy has powerful allies who use clever tactics to capture their victims and rob them of their financial freedom.  In order to defeat this enemy, I'm declaring him a "high-value target."  Here is my plan to snuff him out forever:
    1. Enlist my family to fight against our common enemy.  The enemy is too strong to defeat all alone.  I need my wife and children to be at my side during this mission.
    2. Cut off enemy supply lines.  Debt infiltrates through credit card email offers and internet solicitations.  Even though I put my name on the "do not call list," the enemy continues to assault me.  I no longer answer the phone when an unknown caller invades.
    3. Concentrate all resources on the weakest link.  The idea is simple and effective.  Eliminating the bill with the smallest balance provides confidence to stay in the fight.  Once a debt is eliminated, like a car payment, there is more fire power for the next bill.  At the top of the list is our mortgage.  Once all other debts are eliminated, our mortgage will be the last hurdle.  We will keep fighting until the enemy is gone forever.
    The small choices I make ever day help.  I only make purchases that are necessary.  I pack my own lunches.  Every dollar I save helps.  This is a war I plan to win.  How about you?  What is your high-value target?  Is it weight-loss?  How will you win?  Please share your ideas below.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Field of Tennis Dreams

    City Mayor, Frank Murphy, greeted me and my tennis friend, Dr. Terry Kappel, at the front door of City Hall last night.  "Welcome.  What topic are you here for?"  He asked while shaking hands.

    "Tennis," I replied.  "My name is Michael Mulligan."

    Terry and I took our seats in the front row.  We didn't have to wait too long to speak since we were listed number four on the agenda.  A large crowd filled up the room due to a controversial issue regarding the city streets.  Mayor Murphy opened up a public hearing fifteen minutes into the city hall meeting and allowed both sides to present their views.  Once they shared their opinions about the city streets, my buddy and I were asked to give our input about the tennis courts.

    "I'm an outsider from California who moved here over a year ago," I stated to city council members.  "I play competitive tennis with Dr. Kappel and Jerry Powell from Powell Funeral Homes.  The grass growing in between the cracks on the high school tennis courts here in this community make the courts unsafe.  Unfortunately, we have to drive to Iowa City to play.  Please consider re-surfacing the tennis courts so we can play in the community where we live."

    The council members asked us a series of questions.  The director of the multimillion recreational facility located on the property adjacent to my home was present in the audience.  One of the council members asked her, "Is it possible to find space to build new tennis courts at the rec center?"

    "We're pretty crowded now," she responded.  "The soccer and baseball fields are already at capacity.  Can I get back to you?"

    The next question was directed at me.  "Michael, if you had a choice, where would you prefer to play, the rec center or the high school?"

    "I prefer the rec center," I answered.  "It's an amazing place.  New tennis courts at the rec center would be a great complement and it would attract more tennis players.  Tennis is a sport people of all ages can play.  I can see a lot of people in their retirement years using the courts at the rec center and the youth would have one more option."

    Mayor Murphy thanked us for our time and advised us they would get bids on resurfacing the dilapidated tennis courts at the high school and compare them to bids for new tennis courts at the rec center.

    Before I exited City Hall, one of the council members said, "Michael, you're no longer an outsider.  You're now a part of our community."

    Terry and I thanked the council members for listening to us and we walked outside.

    "How would you rate our conversation with the council?"  I asked.

    "A ten," Terry answered.  That's the same rating I give my new community.  Thanks to the generosity of the Holden family, the city of Williamsburg is one of the best places in the world to live.  40% of the world's corn comes from seed developed by the Holden family.  When the family sold their business to Monsanto, they donated some of the proceeds from the one billion dollar sale back to the community.  The Holden's funded a first-class rec center and a retirement center so beautiful, it's referred to by locals as "the castle."

    I look forward to the day when people ask me where I play tennis and I answer, "in my backyard, right next to the cornfields."  I'm truly home now and I'm living in a real-life field of dreams.  Have you ever appeared before City Hall to present an idea?  Please share what happened in the comments section below.

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    One Rung at a Time

    Each day is one rung on your ladder.  It may seem a little scary when you look up.  Are you intimidated?  Try focusing on the next rung above you.  You have all day to master it.  Don't let anything distract you.  Don't listen to the voices at the bottom taunting you.  They have no idea how amazing the view is from your perspective.  The good news is that everyday you advance one more rung, your view of the world around you gets better.

    I'm working on something exciting in my personal life.  Tune in tomorrow and I'll share my experience with you.  Please share how you're doing on your life's ladder.  What motivates you to keep climbing, one rung at a time?

    Sunday, August 11, 2013

    Push the Reset Button

    My wife is a pro at pushing the reset button every morning when she wakes up.  No matter how challenging her day was the day before, she finds a way to leave it all behind.  My job is to give her space in the morning while she is "resetting."

    If you are having trouble letting go of yesterday, try these tips:
    1. Give yourself five minutes of prayer time when you first wake up.  Ask for Divine help to handle your day.
    2. Subscribe to K-love radio for positive and encouraging daily Bible verses.  Here is today's verse: "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. ~ James 5:16 NLT"  Click here to subscribe. 
    3. Be thankful for all the lessons you learned yesterday.  Those lessons will help you make wiser choices today.  Today will not be a repeat of yesterday.  This is your opportunity to apply what you learned yesterday to everything life has to offer you.
    Now it's your turn to add your ideas.  What do you do to push the reset button on your new day?  Please share your comments below.  Thanks for your contributions.

    Saturday, August 10, 2013

    Get Twisted Like a Pretzel

    Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. ~ Isaiah 40:31

    Are you looking for a way to get over your trust issues?  The solution is rather simple.  Think of yourself twisted to God like a pretzel.  The definition of trust in Hebrew is "to attach oneself."  The word is important enough that it's mentioned 134 times in the King James version of the Bible.

    There was a time not long ago in my life when my own pretzel looked more like a single broken pretzel stick rather than the picture above.  I had serious trust issues.  My choice to become a writer comes from a single word I found in an ancient text, God's word.  The word does not show up in the modern translations.  Bible readers struggle to understand the meaning of verses because words have different meanings in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  There is no single one way to translate words from ancient texts.  The word I discovered is "publish."  For me, the word was a request from God.  I sensed God was asking me to share my experience of being "twisted to Him like a pretzel" to help others trust Him.

    You don't have to find God.  He's already looking for you.  He can reshape your broken pretzel stick into something marvelous.  Give it a try.  Don't forget to publish your results.  Leave your comment below.  Share your pretzel experience with the world.

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Do You Know How to Renew Your Mind?

    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:2

    The Bible verse above is one of my personal favorites.  I'm drawn to it because I love puzzles.  It offers a way out of the maze for people like me who struggle to find their place in a world filled with chaos.

    We all have familiar patterns and routines we follow daily.  We sit in the same place in our houses of worship.  We commute to our jobs by using the same familiar streets.  What happens when our routines become so mundane that we become stagnant?

    The best example I can offer you about being transformed comes from my personal life.  Nearly four years ago I sensed I was in a rut.  I was so plugged into this world that my mind was on cruise control.  The only one in the car who noticed was my wife.  She wanted to turn off the cruise control.  My children sided with me.  They liked the familiarity of our surroundings and our daily patterns.  God sent me some speed bumps to get my attention.  I realized it was time for something new.

    These last eighteen months have been a test for me.  All my familiar patterns are 1,800 miles away.  Everything is new.  My car doesn't even have a cruise control option.  I don't need it.  I don't even desire it.  The one thing that I feel on the inside is that I'm 1,800 miles closer to God's will.  There aren't any speed bumps where I live.  There is only one traffic light on my twenty-two mile commute to my day job.  I feel transformed.  My mind is wide awake and alert. 

    How about you?  Do you know how to renew your mind?  Are you able to test and approve what God's will is?  Please share your answers in the comments section below.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Did You Notice Today is 808?

    When my business partner returned from his vacation in Hawaii many years ago, he gave me a cap inscribed with 808 on the front, the area code for Hawaii.  It's more than just a number to me.  I proposed while on vacation in the 808 area code and she said yes.  The police use 808 as a code for disturbing the peace.  For me, it's a symbol for finding a connection to peace.  Everywhere Jesus visited, He said, "peace be with you."  He is the Alpha and the Omega... the Beginning and the End.  All you have to do to see the infinity symbols in the number 808 is rotate the eights 90º in either direction.  All by itself, the number zero has no meaning.  Once the 8's are added on both sides, the zero is connected.  The number has value.  Others see 808 and are attracted to it.  That's because Jesus is in my logo.  Others claim to see 808 everywhere.  God is everywhere.  808 is just one of the infinite area codes He uses to dial your number and get your attention.

    When you type "what is the meaning of 808" in the Google search bar, you get over 15 million results.  Maybe you're wondering, how did this Socalmulligan808 blog end up #13 in the rankings out of 15 million results?  How did he get so lucky?  There is no magic here, I publish stories every morning at 8:08 AM.  When you do this 1,400+ days in a row, Google thinks you're relevant.  The only reason I have something relevant to say is because of the One I'm connected to.  Connect yourself to the infinity symbols and notice what happens.  You won't have to search for anything else.  You will discover peace.  True peace.  Everlasting peace.  The kind of peace that may make you want to shout at the top of your lungs.  Be careful.  The 911 operator may have to call out "808" for disturbing the peace.  The police might end up at your doorstep.  If you hear them knocking at your door, make sure you open it and say, "peace be with you."

    Are there any special numbers in your life?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    The Dominoes Are Falling

    I have one word to describe the events of the last twenty-four hours:  Serendipity.  Serendipity is defined as a "happy accident."  Choirs of angels are singing and I'm adding a few personal Hallelujahs.  Somewhere out there a Divine choreographer is at work.  Psalms 72:18 tells us: "Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds."

    Next week I will share more about how the dominoes are falling.  What a joy it is to see God revealing His plans.  Check in next week and I will share the details.  Don't forget to share a "happy accident" in your life.  How did it make you feel?  Click the comments button below to add to the conversation.  Thanks!

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    Is Your Best Enough?

    At the end of each day, I ask myself, did I give my best today?

    If the answer to the question is yes, there is no reason to beat yourself up, even if the outcome is less than you hoped for.  This is something I struggle with because I'm a results person.  The challenge is to remember that you have more information at the end of your day than you did at the beginning.  You are actually one day smarter because you have new feedback to help you make better choices tomorrow when you begin your day.

    Here is a great question to ask yourself at the end of the day:

    What did I learn today that will help me improve my performance tomorrow?

    Any kind of feedback you get will help you improve.  Some days have more strikeouts.  These days give you the negative feedback you need to get more hits.  We all like the home runs but sometimes the opponents we face don't give us that satisfaction.  Thank those pitchers.  They're helping you to get better.  And don't forget to pat yourself on the back for giving it your best.

    Do you believe your best is enough?  What do you do to stay motivated when you feel like you're in a slump?  Please add your comments below.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    How's Your Credibility?

    The truth.  The whole truth.  Nothing but the truth.  That's what credibility means to me.  Truth is the essence of quality relationships.  It's about saying what you mean.  It's about delivering on the promises you make.

    Here are some examples about credibility from my day job:
    1. Number of absences since day 1:  0.
    2. Number of tardies since day 1:  0.
    And a few more examples from my blog writing:
    1. Number of days missed since day 1 on August 29, 2009:  0.
    2. Number of tardies:  less than 5, all due to power outages, computer glitches, or human error.
    3. Number of times I failed to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth:  0.
    I like to keep things simple.  The One I follow has been around since the beginning of time.  He arrived late one time and someone close to Him died.  The world thought He was late, however, the One who sent Him asked Him to delay His arrival for a specific reason:  to establish credibility about who He is.  Raising people from the dead adds credibility to what you say.  Conquering death is the exclamation mark.

    I do my best every day to imitate the One I follow.  His credentials are impeccable.  He is the epitome of credibility.  He can help you with your credibility if you invite Him to live in your heart today.  Don't worry about your past.  You can start with a clean slate today.  Promise yourself you will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  If you would like to add to the conversation, please click the comment button below.

    Sunday, August 4, 2013

    What is the Unknown X in Your Life?

    We all have unknown variables in our lives.  I remember my high school algebra teacher explaining, "all you have to do is isolate the x and you will solve the equation."

    Here is a question I never asked Mr. Wessel:  "What is the meaning of life?"

    I know what you're thinking.  Oh no, a math problem.  I'm outta here.

    Relax.  I'm the guy in my family who is two standard deviations to the left of all the valedictorians.  I like to keep things simple, especially when it comes to helping you solve for the unknown x in your life.

    Are you still with me?

    Before we proceed, please allow me to share an important disclaimer:  I don't have all the answers.  My world is often filled with a great deal of clutter.  I've been on a mission these last few years to simplify my life.  I'm getting closer and closer to the unknown X but I still have a long way to go.

    Since the beginning of time, our ancestors have been asking the same questions.  The entire Old Testament foretells of a solution.  In the New Testament, the unknown X is revealed to a chosen group.  "This is not the solution we are seeking," said everyone but the misfits.

    There are a lot of people in my family who agree with me when I say, "anyone who can turn water into wine is worth getting to know."

    Unfortunately, the world was not ready for the new math.  Rather than embrace the solution, they rejected it.  The unknown X was crucified.  On the third day, everything changed.  He rose from the dead.  Forty days later, He disappeared.  Ten days after that, the winds started blowing.  Followers suddenly understood.  The unknown X became known.

    What is the unknown X in your life?  Maybe the follow-up question is:  who is the unknown X in your life?  If you want the answer to be revealed to you, all you have to do is ask.  Go ahead.  Give it a try.  Let me know when you discover the unknown X in your life.  Your comments are appreciated.

    Saturday, August 3, 2013

    Cyber-web Connections Lure Readers

    My cyber-sandbox is looking more like a spider web every day.  At the center is my personal blog.  Everything is connected.  The idea is to locate distant readers and draw them in.  Like a spider, I must resist the temptation to give up when the web is attacked or damaged.  Spiders don't whine.  They rebuild.  They use the negative feedback from others to improve on the design or make it more resilient.

    Here's a sneak peek at some projects I'm working on to attract more readers:
    1. I volunteered at my day job to become the reporter for our "outpost."  My duties include writing stories and submitting them for publication in the company's national magazine.  I submitted my first story earlier this week.   I'm super excited my boss gave me this opportunity.
    2. I joined the Yahoo Contributor Network.  This is a great way for writers to connect with world-wide readers.  I can submit stories based on my available time.  Click here for a link to my public profile.
    3. I set up a Disqus account to keep track of conversations that begin when readers comment on over 1,400 blog stories.  I'm notified as soon as someone responds to a comment I make on their website or if a new reader leaves me a comment.  It's easy to use and it's free.  Click here to sign up.
    The best part about building a web is connecting to others.  This personal blog will always be a gathering place for readers to go backstage and interact.  My only request is that you allow me up to 24 hours to respond to an email or a comment.  Do you have any ideas to add to today's story?  What are you doing to attract more readers?  You can email your ideas by clicking here, or post your comments below.  Thanks for visiting.

    Friday, August 2, 2013

    Marketing 808

    "Eighth floor, please."  Today we're meeting in room 808 for the rest of the story they didn't teach you in Marketing 101.  Before I offer my tips, I want to share my marketing experience at Arizona State University.  I was a junior transfer student from a community college who was footing the bill for my classes by offering tennis lessons.  There was a conflict in my schedule with my marketing class.  I didn't want to give up my lesson revenue or drop marketing so I cut a deal with the professor.  She allowed me to skip class once a week as long as one of the other students took notes and shared them with me.  I managed a "B" even though I was only in the classroom 2/3 of the semester.  And I made enough money to pay cash for my classes.  The marketing class at ASU was a great introduction.  Here are some ideas I learned in my advanced years:
    1. Own your time slot.  You can do what the rest of the world does and release your stories on the hour, just like your favorite television shows, or you can separate yourself from the pack and go with something like 8:08.  Once you decide on an off-the-wall time slot, make it a part of your brand.  Every story I release is at 8:08.  Twice a day, it's 8:08, no matter where in the world my readers live.  When they look at the time and notice it's 8:08, I hope they think of me and tune in.  
    2. Tell the story behind your brand name.  What is it that makes your time slot unique?  Is your brand name related to something like the number of your favorite Bible verse? What is it in the verse that defines who you are to your readers?  Remember, your readers are searching for something.  Give them the answer in a creative brand name that matches what they're looking for.  Every day, I get at least one new reader who found me because they wanted to know the meaning of 808.  My brand name draws them in.  Once they're here, half of the battle is already won.
    3. Maximize your brand name.  Have you noticed how many times I used 808 in today's blog story?  It's subliminal.  If you wake up tomorrow and notice 8:08 on your clock and decide to check in on me, then you will know how powerful this idea is.  It's like a silly song you can't get out of your head.
    4. Tweet once a day.  I use Hootsuite because I can write the title of my story in the "compose a message" section and then place a link to my blog in the link section.  After I add the link,   I shrink it so there is space left over for others to retweet it and spread the message.  This is really easy to use and it's free.
    5. Never stop learning.  We are on the 8th floor together today, however, the elevator is still going up.  There is so much to learn.  If you are serious about building a name for yourself, you have to keep up with all the new changes.
    Class is dismissed.  Thanks for stopping by today.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.  If you like today's story, no apple is necessary; I would love it if you leave a comment instead.  Please share how you will use these ideas for your marketing plan.

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    The Power of an Hour

    Are you ready to turn your world upside down?  If you're unhappy with the results you're getting, maybe it's time for a make-over.  Before you get carried away and start tearing everything apart, consider how one small cosmetic improvement can change everything.  Consider renovating one hour of your life.  That's an investment of about 4% of your time.  Here's how it works:
    1. Ask yourself, what is my favorite hour of the day?  For me, my most productive time is when I first wake up.  I feel alert and ready to tackle my day.  The sun is peeking out over the horizon, the birds are chattering and my mind is well-rested.  This is my hour of power.
    2. Designate your favorite hour as your hour of power.  You will need to re-shuffle your day to absorb all the necessary tasks you need to get done in the other twenty-three hours of your day.  From now on, your hour of power belongs to you.  This is your investment in yourself.  If anyone interrupts you, they're cheating you.  If you allow interruptions, you're cheating yourself.
    3. Decide what's important to you.  Take your time with this.  One way to discover what matters most is to ask yourself, how do I want to be remembered when I'm no longer on this earth?  Is it a painting?  A song?  A poem?  Maybe a memoir or a novel?  Search deep for the answer.  You are uniquely qualified to do something only you can do.  Once you find your answer, you will know how to invest in your daily hour of power.
    4. Commit to your hour of power every day for the rest of your life.  Remember, this is your hour.  This is your time.  The world can get along fine without you for one hour a day.  You need to be firm about when visiting hours are closed.
    5. Use your hour wisely.  This is not the time to drift.  Make a plan for your hour.  Follow the plan.
    I started my hour of power nearly four years ago when I became a writer.  There were many critics who told me, "you're wasting your time."  Others told me, "don't quit your day job."  Three or four people read my first blog story.  I stuck with my routine.  If my monthly readership remains constant at 10,000 page views per month, I will reach the one million mark in seven short years.  That's seven more years of waking up in the morning and investing in my hour of power.  The same formula works to keep me focused on my books.  Click here to see how I'm using my hour of power to pen my e-serial novel, The Caveman in the Mirror.  It's free to all my blog readers.  There's no magic to writing a book.  I release one chapter a week as I'm writing it.  My readers expect one new chapter every Friday morning at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  By sticking to my hour of power, I can write a whole series of books during my lifetime.

    Are you ready for a make-over?  Please share how you plan to use your hour of power by clicking the comment button below.  Thanks for your participation.