Thursday, July 31, 2014
There's a place I go every morning at sunrise. Once I enter, time itself ceases. It reminds me of spelunking in Arizona, the act of exploring underground caves. There are so many hidden treasures in these caverns waiting to be discovered. They are unpolished gems. I'm mesmerized. This place in the middle of nowhere is where I found myself. I've been visiting here for 1,800 consecutive days. These blog stories are my excavations from the chasms inside my brain. They are the tip of the iceberg. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my stories with you.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions ~ Albert Einstein
If you're struggling with your lack of imagination, consider today's blog story a brain teaser. Although the prayer is 2,000 years old, if you allow your mind to wander between the lines, your imagination IQ will soar. Ready? Here goes...
Our Father who art in Heaven. Pause. Think about God and his Home.
Hallowed be Thy name. Pause. Ponder how Holy God is.
Thy Kingdom come. Pause. Can you see the world around you transforming into a world that resembles God's Kingdom?
Thy will be done. Pause. Imagine what the world can look like when His will replaces our own.
On earth as it is in Heaven. Pause. Imagine our world without poverty, sickness, war or hatred.
Give us this day our daily bread. Pause. Can you see yourself getting everything you need today?
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us. Pause. I admit this took a lot of imagination for me to see myself forgiving my enemies. Don't move forward until you can imagine yourself forgiving your enemies. I promise, your world will look completely different.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Pause. Pretend you're hiking alongside a steep cliff. Your guide in front of you instructs you to keep your eyes on him and avoid looking down. The climb is treacherous but you stay on the path as long as you concentrate on your guide and follow him.
Amen. Pause. Congratulations. Your imagination IQ is ascending. I challenge you to repeat this exercise daily. Remember the pauses. They are the rest notes that give the music you hear added intensity.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
What price are you willing to pay to reach your goals? It goes beyond dollars and cents. Your goals also require your commitment of time and talent. The price you pay varies depending on your age and experience. I recommend grouping your goals so you get maximum value for your investment of time, talent and treasure. This is called synergy – the combined goals are worth more than the sum of each individual goal. Another way of describing this is when 1+1+1= 5. Here are some examples...
- You desire weight loss, debt reduction, and more quality time with your family. You decide to combine all three goals into one. Once a week, you go to the park with your family and pack a lunch consisting of fruit and veggies instead of McDonald's. You find yourself slimmer, your bank account healthier, and your family life better. Everyone in the family wins including future generations.
- You want to be a homeowner, have enough savings for retirement, and enjoy nice vacations. Time to put all three goals together. There are many areas all over the country that have affordable housing. They are surrounded by abundant lakes and rivers. By relocating your family, your cost of living decreases while your value of living increases. You can pay your mortgage off sooner and put the extra money in your retirement account.
- Your goals are to have better quality relationships, make a difference in the world and have more balance in your life. It's time to turn of the TV, cut down on all the time you spend on social media pages and go out and volunteer for a project in your community. The time you spend with other like-minded people will enhance your relationships, give you a sense that your contributions are making the world better and a feeling you have better balance in your life.
Monday, July 28, 2014
One of my mentors taught me an interesting lesson about confidence. He said, "fake it 'til you make it." Whether you're faking it or making it, you're doing one thing... taking action. Action is what turns your dreams into reality. Inspiration is an action word. So is perspiration. Thomas Edison said genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Do the work. Live the dream. Your actions prove who you are.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
There it is. I see it. It's on the other side of the boundary line marked "comfort zone." The first time I jumped the fence it was scary. My heart raced. I stumbled. My knees bruised. I retreated. Funny thing about opportunity. It's knocking on our doors every morning at sunrise. It keeps inviting. One morning, my wife grabbed my hand and asked, "are you ready?" She pointed to a place beyond the horizon and smiled. I asked her, "how far away is it?" She answered, "I don't know but I'm ready for a new opportunity." The rest of the story is a fairy tale, unfolding before my eyes one page at at time.
Go ahead. Give yourself permission to explore the unknown. You're the only person who can determine what you're capable of, as long as you are willing to risk going too far.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
I'm thankful for all the positive influences in my life. I believe I'm still standing today because of the many prayer warriors amongst my friends and family members. There's no other way to explain the blanket of protection I feel. Prayer makes a difference. It's a game changer.
Here's my prayer for you today...
Gracious and loving Father, I come to you today to offer thanks for the opportunity to share your presence in my life with others. You gave us your only Son, Jesus, so we can be made new again. Please help the person reading this prayer become alive again. Make your presence known. Wash away all sin. I ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Peace be with you, my friend.
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
Friday, July 25, 2014
The pyramid builders got the job done. They found a way to win. No computers. No electricity. Just a bunch of limestone and a large labor force. I read an article the other day about how they poured water in front of the blocks of limestone in order to lower the resistance and allow the stone to glide across the wet sand. The story inspired me to take a look at my life and find better ways to solve the current challenges I face. Try these ideas and see if they make a difference in your life...
- Every problem needs a deadline. Without a deadline, you can't calculate how much time you have to solve the problem and it drags on forever. Give yourself a deadline to solve your problem and stick to it.
- Break the problem down into smaller parts. The Egyptians built the great pyramids one stone at a time. Focus your energy on one component at a time and don't move on until the first stone is in its proper place.
- Find the best way to move the stone. Can you ask others to help you? Is there a more efficient method? Experiment.
- Rest before you get tired. Your project will fail if you burn out. It's like driving a car and running out of gas before you reach your destination. Refuel while there's still gas in your tank so you can go the distance.
- Avoid distractions. This was easy for ancient civilizations. They weren't tempted by television or video games. Stay focused until your problem is solved.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
I'm glad I woke up this morning. There are some things in my personal life I'm working on that need some adjusting. I believe my test scores need some improvement. The words of my Kindergarten teacher written on my first report card are as true today as they were almost fifty years ago... I think he can do better.
Today is a new day. I'm going to put my heart into this day and raise my scores. It's all about continuous improvement. How about you? Are you satisfied with your grade or do you think you can raise the bar?
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
"What's for dinner?" I asked when I greeted my wife last night. "It's a surprise," she answered. I grabbed a bottle of beer and hustled down to the basement where our youngest son was waiting to watch a prerecorded match-up between the Padres and Cubs. I took my first bite of my heavily seasoned surprise, served on a hot dog bun. My wife peeked out from behind her book to get some feedback. I tried a bite of the side dish. "The Zucchini is amazing," I responded, withholding comment on the main course. I searched for the proper words but I couldn't find them.
"This is the best Zucchini I ever tasted," I said. "Thanks for being so positive," she said. I congratulated her for making our food dollars stretch. Rather than throw out something none of us liked, she took a mulligan and tried enhancing it. That's why I love her. She's full of surprises. Most of them put a smile on my face. All life is an experiment. Go for it. The more experiments you make, the better.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
"This candy is evil," declared one of my co-workers. "I'm done eating it." She did something few of us do, she found a way to change her desire for something most of us can't resist. It's not easy to change your appetite for something so tempting, like sweets or excessive spending. I'm working on both and I'm on target. It's life-changing. Here's my secret:
In order to change your appetite, you need to give your brain something more desirable. Your brain controls your taste buds. If you can paint a better picture of what your life will become, then your brain will be willing to avoid short-term temptations. There are two ways to win...
- Hope for gain. Imagine what your body will look like when you reach your goals. See yourself wearing slim jeans or wearing a swim suit at the beach. Visualize how fun it will be to go on nicer vacations that you pay cash for.
- Fear of loss. This is a powerful appetite changer. Show your brain what your life will be like if you don't change your appetite. This is like to TV shows where troubled kids visit prison for a day and get a chance to meet their future room-mates. The scarier the picture, the better your chances are that you will change your appetite.
Monday, July 21, 2014
I know a few people close to me who choose not to forgive. They may never know the peace you find when you let go of past grudges and forgive. It's impossible to hold on and let go at the same time. Everything changes when you choose to let go.
Imagine you're holding a bunch of grudges in your hand. They're like balloons. Maybe you're afraid of what will happen if you let go of all of them at once. Let go of one. That grudge is now gone forever. Do you feel better? If the answer is yes, let go of another balloon. Keep repeating. Watch all the balloons floating away. Today is a new day. Your grudges are gone forever. Have a great day.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
My schedule this week is one of the oddest ever. In order to accomplish my most important tasks, I'm doing some re-arranging. This blog post was written 48 hours early. So, the question of the day is, "when is the best time to handle your most important task?"
The answer depends on your time constraints and your body rhythms. My most productive time of the day is when I first wake up. I like to handle my top priorities first and then proceed to everything else. The key is to assign time to each important task so it gets done.
Please share your best time for handling your most important tasks in the comments section below. I would love to hear your ideas.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Saying no can be scary. Others may think your no is a sign of rejection. The truth is you're capable of doing just about anything but you can't do everything. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And you're fooling yourself if you think you can please everybody.
Here are some suggestions to help you soften to blow of your no:
- "Let me think about it." Say this to give yourself time to ponder if the request can be handled.
- "Not yet." Say this when you want to help but you're overburdened at this time.
- "So and so can do a better job." Recommend an alternative person who may have more time and talent to handle the request.
- "Sorry, I'm all booked up." Say this when you're already overloaded.
- "No." Sometimes softening the blow doesn't work. You need to be firm with your kids, telemarketers, debt collectors, and anyone else who won't stop pestering you. Ask to be removed from the mailing lists. Put your name on the "do not call list."
Friday, July 18, 2014
Your brain tells you not to jump off a tall building but your heart says not to worry because you can fly. I listened to my brain for a long time. Eventually, my heart won the debate. And I discovered I can fly. My recommendation for you today is to walk, run or fly to wherever your heart leads you. Love is worth it. Love conquers all. Go ahead. Take the first step.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Bonus: Something welcome and often unexpected that accompanies and enhances something that is itself good.
It doesn't feel like twenty-five years of marriage. I'm still pinching myself. If I had been born sixty years earlier, odds are I would already be at the end of the life expectancy table. Welcome to bonus time. It's like adding extra minutes to a soccer game. I'm treating each day as a gift and I'm not taking anything for granted.
What's the best thing you can do when someone gives you a gift? I believe the answer is to use your gift to the fullest of your ability. That means healthy eating, daily exercise and surrounding yourself with others who appreciate all the opportunities in front of them. For me, it means taking a moment to say thanks to all the people far and near who helped me to reach bonus time. It also means giving back. I promise to give something back every day until the clock expires. How about you? Are you living in bonus time? What are you going to do today that enhances something that is itself good?
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
"What's your secret?" the manager asked when she approached our table after learning my wife and I were celebrating our silver anniversary at her restaurant. "I asked the same question to a couple I met last week who were celebrating their golden anniversary," I responded. The husband smiled and then gestured zipping his lips. The wife answered, "my faith." They were the cutest couple and I believe their answers will help both of us during our next twenty-five years together.
After the manager walked away, my wife and I explored the topic and we both agreed that being flexible is vital. This was especially true with our anniversary celebration. I was in charge of the plans and every detail was organized, all in secret. Then, one of my tennis team-mates from California called to tell me he was passing through on his vacation and wanted to play some tennis. It was the same day we were celebrating our anniversary. Our son needed to use our car for a road trip. The weather was unpredictable. I juggled some things around. Then I got a voice message that made me nervous. The owner of the bed and breakfast got flooded out the day before check in. Our room was not available.
My wife looked me in the eyes as I explained all the last-minute adjustments I made to pull of a celebration she described as a "10." She said, "You see, I told you, it's all about being flexible." I nodded my head in agreement. "Here's to the next twenty-five years," I said. "Happy anniversary."
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Twenty-five years ago she said yes. It was the beginning of a journey that lasts a life time. My hair is silver in honor of today's anniversary. Hers is golden, a preview of what's ahead twenty-five years from today. The best way to describe our lives together is like visiting Disneyland. We began in Frontierland, spend our days in Adventureland, and look forward to Tomorrowland. What a joy it is to have someone next to me as we explore new opportunities.
I'm offline today so I can savor this day without any social media interruptions. This story was prepared in advance in order to honor my commitment to share all the good Jesus is doing in my life. And when I look into my wife's eyes, I smile and say to myself, "What a wonderful world." Thank you Jesus, for my e-ticket ride, and for giving me such an amazing companion to share my life with. Happy Anniversary, my love.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Today is our oldest son's first day in Ireland. He left his computer behind. Before departing yesterday, he told my wife, "I want to be in the moment." I will never forget how he declared to me at the beginning of the year, "I'm going to Ireland." He didn't care how many hurdles there were, like the application process which included writing an essay and a series of interviews. Or the financial challenges. Ryan was all in. He wasn't going to let anything get in his way.
Ryan and I share a common hero, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, a fictional star fleet character who grew up in Riverside, Iowa, about a forty-five minute drive from my new hometown. Ryan relates to the young Kirk who frequently bucked the status quo and who figured a way out of the "Kobayashi Maru," a scenario designed to test a cadet's reaction to a no-win scenario. Kirk found a way to win. So does our son. The key is to be in the moment – wherever you are, be all there. That's how you find your destiny, by living your life one day at a time and savoring every precious minute.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Forte – a thing at which someone excels.
Zone – an area that is different from other areas in a particular way.
Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm in the zone"? Those who find "the zone" seem to be nearly flawless. I believe this is an area where your top strengths intersect with a territory most others rarely experience. It's so far out that Rod Serling might even label it the twilight zone. The truth is it doesn't have to be science fiction. Your forte zone is within you.
I found my forte zone one morning when I woke up nearly five years ago. It was an experience that changed the course of my whole life. I floundered at first. It was like wandering around in the dark. But I knew I belonged in this strange new world. I knew I was a writer even though I had no technical training or experience other than penning private love letters to my wife of twenty-four years and three hundred and sixty-three days. Sometimes I get lost in the forte zone and lose track of time and space. It's a great feeling. Anyone who spends time developing their unique talents can find their own forte zone. I believe one person who devotes his or her life to developing and sharing their unique gifts has the ability to change the world. Are you that person? Cue the Twilight Zone music. You are about to enter
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Is your stress-o-meter about to explode? If you answered yes, I can relate. I've been there many times. Don't worry. Today's blog is all about helping you find serenity. Here are seven tips to help you reduce stress:
- Sleep more. Your body needs rest. Don't cheat yourself to try to get more done. Mistakes go up and stress increases when you're not well-rested.
- Exercise. Take one minute out of your day and do some pushups or stomach crunches. This will raise the endorphin levels in your brain and help you cope with stress.
- Stay away from negative people. Think of them as thieves who want to rob you of your happiness. Don't let them near you.
- Organize your life. Clutter adds to stress. Start with making your bed when you wake up. A little bit of organizing every day will keep you out of the danger zone.
- Spend time with happy people.
- Take naps. It's amazing how five or ten minutes of silence can help you get back on track.
- Stay away from sugar. Your body will function better if you avoid junk food. I prefer to eat a banana or an orange on my breaks instead of candy bars. You don't need to put your body on a sugar roller coaster ride that causes your stress-o-meter to burst when your sugar levels crash.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Our oldest son posted this picture on my FB page last week when he sent birthday wishes. We were navigating the Kern River in California during a time when the rapids were scary. We fell out of our kayak and bounced around like rag dolls. The experience was quite different from the nursery rhyme, row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. I'm doing my best these days to keep my boat above water during a busy season in my life.
When the river gets too turbulent, adjustments are necessary. I'm learning not to carry too much stuff in the boat. Sometimes, tasks need to be put on hold. Course adjustments are necessary. The trick is to keep rowing. Calm waters are ahead. I'll see you tomorrow.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
My freshman opponent walked onto the tennis courts with his coach watching outside the fence. He stared at me nervously while I prepared to hit the first ball, then threw his hands up in the air as soon as he noticed I was left-handed. My opponent turned to his coach and yelled, "he's left-handed!" Then he slammed his racket to the ground and mumbled to himself. One of my first high school competitive matches was over before it began. His coach walked away in disgust. I learned an important lesson that day – the will to win (or lose) is in your head. As Vince Lombardi said, "winning isn't everything, but the will to win is everything."
The will to win transcends all playbooks. A necessary component is the will to prepare to win. It means learning from your past defeats and making the modifications necessary for the best results in future challenges. Winning is a habit. So is losing. If you don't like the results you're getting, ask yourself what you can do to change your habits. Every morning when you wake up, tell your brain, "I have the will to win today." Don't make excuses. And if your opponent happens to be left-handed and you're facing him on the tennis courts, smile and tell him how much you love a good challenge.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
There are two reasons people throw hot potatoes at you. Either they genuinely care about what you're thinking and feeling about an issue or they want to blow you up. I have an easy method to determine their motives – throw it back. You won't get burned. All you need to do is ask a question. My favorite question is, "why do you ask?" Now they have the hot potato. Another one that works is, "why is that important to you?" If they're trying to burn you, they'll end up blowing themselves up because you tossed the hot potato back in the form of a why question and you thwarted their attack.
Here are some sample questions people ask when they want to pick a fight:
What church do you go to?
Are you a Republican or Democrat?
Can you believe what's going on at the border?
These questions may look innocent on the surface. Caution. You may not be dealing with someone who is trying to get to know you better. These questions may be more like ticking time bombs. If you toss back a why question and they say something like, "all Democrats are socialists," you now know you're in the danger zone. Or if they say, "Only people from my faith go to Heaven," you're very close to entering World War III.
Once you understand where the other person is coming from, you're in a better position to have an intelligent discussion. Don't be afraid to toss back the hot potato and keep tossing it until you uncover the hidden motives.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Do you ever feel like a Chameleon? You change your colors to fit your environment so you blend in with the crowd. Chameleons do this naturally to avoid being eaten by predators. Politicians do this to win votes. God has different ideas. When Jesus began his ministry, many expected a Chameleon, someone who followed their laws and blended in with their culture. Surprise! Jesus wasn't what anyone expected. He never blended in with the crowd. He revealed his true colors and it led to crucifixion. And Jesus expects the same from his followers. He wants his sheep to hear his voice and follow him.
The world is calling you to be a Chameleon today. Resist the temptation. Show your true colors, even if it causes you pain and suffering. Never be afraid to tell others who you follow. Jesus will lead you to a place where you will fit in perfectly. How will you answer his call? Chameleon or true colors?
Monday, July 7, 2014
I taught my mother how to play chess when I was a young boy. She learned quickly how the pieces moved but had trouble winning. In order to make the game fair, I volunteered to remove some of my pieces from the board. This helped me become more efficient with less.
I woke up this morning to work on my daily blog and the power cut out. My laptop battery was nearly depleted. It was like reliving the moment when I was trying to win a chess game armed with a handful of pawns. The power came back but the internet was still down. So, here I am, blogging from my cell phone in order to post before my deadline.
It's amazing what you can accomplish when you master the art of adapting. Concentrate on what you have and don't complain about what you lack. In the end, you will be able to declare, "checkmate!"
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Have you ever asked yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" I use this as a tool to keep my fears in check. It works. I imagine a future event and see everything unraveling. Then I figure out a solution so I can survive. My imagination is always more terrifying than reality. That's what fear is – false evidence appearing real.
My hope for you today is that you don't allow fear to get in the way of your destiny. Follow the scout motto, be prepared. Fear is an allusion. It lurks in the shadows. Turn the light on. Live your dreams.
Saturday, July 5, 2014
The ten day count-down to our 25th wedding anniversary begins today. My wife has no clue what we're doing. It's a secret. Her probing questions go unanswered. I believe there's no better way to tell her I love her than action. Actions are what back up the words. I know her love language well. For my wife, it's all about acts of service. That's why our anniversary celebration is a great way for me to show her how much I love her. Every detail in the planning is an act of service she will appreciate.
I celebrated my birthday yesterday with my wife and our youngest son at Adventureland. It's Iowa's version of Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. My wife took my hand and we strolled through the park for hours. That's my love language – physical touch. It's the best way for her to say I love you.
Our son felt some love yesterday, too. His love language is quality time. Every time he saw us sitting in the bleachers for his football games and his wrestling matches we were silently telling him, "I love you."
There are two other love languages your loved ones may prefer you to use – words of affirmation and receiving gifts. If you are serious about learning the best way to say I love you, find out which of the five you need to become fluent in. Here's a link to help you discover the best way to say I love you. Click here.
Friday, July 4, 2014
The world will celebrate the life of Louis Zamperini in five months when Angelina Jolie, his friend and neighbor, releases her movie about his life. Louis is one of my favorite heroes. I listened to Unbroken, a book on CD about Zamporini's life while driving from California to Iowa two years ago. My tennis team-mate was right when he handed me the CD to listen to on my way home. Chris said, "this guy will inspire you." The best compliment Chris gave me was when he told me he thought about my life when he first listened to the book on CD. Louis Zamperini is a true hero. Unbroken is now one of my favorite buzz words.
Louis Zamperini left this world on July 2nd. He was 97-years old. He will be missed. Make sure you see Unbroken this December. And remember what Louis Zamperini said the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation..."Don't give up, don't give in. There's always an answer to everything."
Thursday, July 3, 2014
It's challenging to navigate when you're underwater, especially when the conditions are murky. I wondered how low I could sink without an implosion. My debts were squeezing me like a Boa constrictor on steroids. I knew I needed help. Jesus answered my SOS call and he took command. That's when everything changed. We headed for the surface and my commander ordered, "up periscope." I see a whole new world on the horizon but few others float above water. It reminds me of something I read in a book my wife checked out at the library – you've got to live like no one else so you can live like no one else. It makes sense. Most of us live in debt. We are stuck at the bottom of the sea. Few ships sail above water. Here's what I'm doing to reach the surface and sail in the right direction:
- Up periscope – This new point of view gives me the opportunity to see what my world looks like when I'm debt free.
- Cut the anchors – This includes car loans, credit cards and any other debts that weigh me down. I'm learning to live within my means.
- Load the torpedo bay – An emergency account is necessary to battle against unknown attackers. The best defense is a strong offense. My goal is a six month supply of cash to handle any emergencies.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
My bedroom window is open this morning and a gentle 56º breeze is filling the room. The birds are singing and the trees are swaying. I'm awestruck at how beautiful everything looks after the storm. The grass is lush green. It's a perfect summer day. I have a deep feeling of gratitude today. It's not because of the weather. It's because I found peace. The puzzle pieces of my life are coming together. It spans generations, old and new. I'm happy to be connected to you. Thanks for visiting today.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I opened the sliding glass door to our patio yesterday and shot this video during a massive Iowa storm. A lightning bolt struck our home at :06 seconds, knocking out our TV in the basement. I was standing inside when the bolt hit. The TV was hooked up to a surge protector but that didn't help. Our chihuahua ran under the dining room table and barked while the power blinked several times.
About thirty seconds prior to the strike I was praying while watching the tornadic winds thrash the surrounding trees and whip the clouds around as if they were in a high-speed blender. Sheets of rain were pounding our tiny Midwest town. I looked up and prayed, "Show me your power, Oh Lord." I don't really know why I chose those words but that was what popped into my head just before our home took a direct hit by a bolt of lightning. The thunder was not instantaneous. It shows up a couple of seconds later. It's a mystery to me why I didn't hear the thunder as soon as the bolt struck our home – just like it's a mystery how God chooses to answer our prayers. His response was quick, direct, flashy and thunderous. It gives new meaning to the Bible verse, "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all peoples on earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." ~ Revelation 1:7
What is your prayer today? Do you expect an answer? Just remember this, if you ask God to show you his power, make sure you're standing inside your home and your TV is unplugged. Surge protectors are useless against his awesome power. He will answer but he doesn't want any distractions.