Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Final Day of Review


It's judgment day – 2014.  I'm looking over my wins and losses for the year in order to assess what areas of my life can be improved upon.  Overall, this has been a great year in the learning department.  I haven't fully mastered the art of letting go.  The final exam takes place on January 4th when we say farewell to our youngest son.  The flight plan for his future has been filed and he's ready for takeoff.  I'm thankful for the opportunity I was given to raise our children.

Perhaps my biggest area of concern going into the New Year is that I stay on course and avoid slipping into past negative behaviors.  Life really is a continuing education course you never  graduate from until you die.  It's not about setting goals on January 1 and breaking them three weeks later.  It's about doing your best day in and day out.  It's about being flexible and making adjustments when life throws you a curve ball.  It's about staying in the game no matter how challenging it may be.

My greatest hope for the New Year and beyond is that I don't squander opportunities.  I plan to continue making adjustments in my areas of weakness while fine tuning my personal strengths.  Annual reviews are important for those wanting to maximize the blessings they've been given.  Be careful.  Don't be too hard on yourself.  If you were perfect, your name would be Jesus and I'd be writing stories about you instead of him.  But you're not perfect and neither am I.  So let's keep moving forward together and let's keep learning from our past trials and our experiences together.

The last part of my annual review is in the gratitude department.  I give this part of my life an A+.  I don't think a day has gone by where I haven't found at least three things or people I'm thankful for.  I'm thankful for every trial I've faced this last year and all previous years.  They have been lessons.  I'm thankful for my awesome family, extended family and friends.  And I'm thankful for those who choose to read these stories.  At least one of you out there in the blog world has read every story since the beginning over 1,900 days ago.  It's nice to know others care, especially when a shark is spotted in the water.  Yes, I'm learning not freak out when danger lurks.  Thank you.  I'll see you next year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The End of the Year is Like a Used Tube of Toothpaste


I'm squeezing out as much as I can from these last two days of 2014 before the year is all used up.  The new tube is already in the bathroom drawer, waiting to be opened but it's not time yet.  I'm planning on attending $5 movie night with my family this evening to watch Unbroken.  It will be my last family movie night before becoming an empty nester.  It's strange to look at my life and know I'm on the last few pages of the parenting chapter.  It's like a good book that I don't want to put down.  I think to myself, what's the final lesson I want to teach my son before he leaves?  The answer is inside that tube of toothpaste you see pictured above.  Life is a tube of toothpaste.  Some discard it before it's used up because it's too hard to find what's left of the toothpaste.  Others forget to use it on a daily basis because they're too rushed to brush their teeth.  Or they forget they're out of toothpaste and don't replace it.  The New Year sneaks up on them and they're not ready for the next chapter.

Chris, my tennis team-mate from California, gave me a CD to listen to when I returned to pick up our Honda.  "This story reminded me of you.  I think you'll like it," he said, handing me a copy of Unbroken.  I listened to the story as I drove through Utah and Colorado.  What struck me most about the main character is his desire to keep going against all odds.  That's the same lesson the military leaders want to teach their new recruits.  "They want to break you," my son told me.  "Then, they can mold you into a new person."  Perhaps boot camp is designed to draw every last bit of toothpaste out of you before they hand over a new tube.  "I will be the last one they break," he said.  "I'm ready."

Maybe I'm the one who will be learning the lesson tonight.  My son says he's ready.  I believe he is.  The million dollar question is, "am I ready?"  I really don't have a choice.  I'm at the end of the tube of toothpaste.  It's time to let go. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Put Your New Year's Resolutions on Autopilot


Most New Year's resolutions crash and burn before the calendar reaches February.  File your flight plan now for the year and place your goals on autopilot for long-term success.  It's easy.  Here are some strategies.

  1. Ask your human resources department to deduct a percentage of your income from each paycheck and deposit automatically into a retirement account.  Set it up and forget about it.  When the year ends, bump it up another 1%.  Keep doing this until you reach your maximum allowable altitude.
  2. Sign up for a free account at credit.com and mark a specific date on your calendar to check in every thirty days.  These folks will suggest a flight plan for you to follow.  Just follow the plan.  I like it because it's free and every month you can monitor your progress.  All you have to do is make sure you go to the site once a month.  Keep it simple.
  3. Lock up your credit cards.  I read a quote this morning about debt.  It read, if you're in a hole, stop digging.  Eliminate all temptations to increase your debt.  If you run out of cash, don't buy anything until your next paycheck.  If you don't carry credit cards in your wallet, you won't use them.
Lao Tzu says, "the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step."  I say "you will complete the 1,000 mile journey if you turn on the autopilot button."  Make your New Year's resolutions stick.  Turn on the autopilot now before January 1 and soar like an eagle.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Find the Why in Your Goals


I found a way to stay focused on my goals without giving up.  It's rather simple.  It has to with the "why."  It's the underlying reason behind every goal you set.  All you have to do is remember why you found the motivation to make a change in your life.  The bigger the why, the easier is it to stay on target.

Imagine you're in the doctor's office.  He tells you unless you make significant changes in your eating habits, you will die.  You go home and throw away all the junk food.  When you go shopping, you only put healthy food in your cart.  You are focused on living.  You don't want to die.  You have a great "why" to keep you alive.

I'm using this same strategy for debt reduction.  My "why" is similar to the example above.  I want to live.  And being a slave to debt is not living an abundant life.  Every spending choice I make has consequences.  I remind myself of the why every time I get the urge to revert to old behaviors.  It works.  Try it.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Win and You're in


Most football teams don't have much to play for this time of year.  Not the San Diego Chargers.  They need one more win tomorrow and they're in the playoffs.  I find myself in the minority of Chargers fans who live so far away from San Diego.  The only reason I've been able to see so many games in the Midwest this year is because of key match-ups against top level opponents.  Philip Rivers and company remind me that football and life are similar.  All that is necessary is to win and you're in.  Here are some examples.

  1. Prepare.  Week 17 of football starts in the preseason.  You set goals.  You develop strategies.  You review what you did right last year and build on that.  You identify areas of weaknesses and look for ways to rebuild.  These last remaining days in 2014 are your preseason.  Take time to prepare for the next season.
  2. Scout.  Your opponent may be a pro bowler.  Study him.  Look for trends and tendencies.  The more you know what you're up against, the better you will be at game time.
  3. Use Your Time-outs.  When things aren't going well, call a time-out.  Improvise.  Don't give up.  Change your pace to get your opponent out of his or her rhythm.  Drink water.  Catch your breath.
  4. The Game isn't Over Until the Clock Expires.  And just like last week's thriller against the 49ers, sometimes you get the opportunity to play in overtime because you came back against all odds.  Don't ever give up.
  5. Keep in Touch with the Boss.  No matter what town Phillip Rivers is in, he makes sure to attend his house of worship before the game.  He has his priorities right.  Nothing gets in the way of his prayer time.
2014 is almost over.  What kind of outlook do you have for next season?  Why not adopt a "win and you're in attitude"?  Make the upcoming season a year to remember.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What's Your Serenity Score?


Once upon a time I thought I was in control of my life.  That was when my life was the most out of control.  I knew it.  I prayed desperately for the wisdom to be able to figure things out.  I didn't like the feeling of sitting in the cockpit with all those gauges spinning in the wrong direction.  My serenity score was below zero.  All the other passengers were screaming for their oxygen masks.  I found wisdom.  It was tucked neatly inside a three-part prayer.  Each part of the prayer is worth 3.33 points.  In order to score above a failing grade, all three parts of the prayer must be mastered.  Take the test to determine your serenity score.  Are you ready?

Question #1 –  Do you accept the things in your life you cannot change?  This includes people, situations in life and events.  Examples are wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, car accidents, cancer, family members, bosses, politicians, friends and enemies.

Question #2 – Do you have the courage to change the things that are within your power to change?  Every year I keep reducing this list.  The number one item for 2015 is myself.  I pray God gives me the courage to change myself.

Question #3 – Do you have enough wisdom to recognize what goes on list #1, the things you cannot change, and list #2, the things you can change? 

What's your serenity score?  Did you pass?  If you would like some help, I'm happy to share my serenity prayer with you.  It's been around for ages although I didn't discover it until late in life.  Here you go.  Please share with someone you know who may be interested to know their serenity score...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

What Christmas Is All About

Merry Christmas.  This message is for you...


May your day be filled with love, peace and joy.  Happy birthday, Jesus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas


This is my first Christmas in Iowa with no snow on the ground.  There's plenty of moisture in the air but temperatures are in the mid-thirties, not enough to give us a white Christmas this year.  I'm not complaining.  We had enough snow last year to last a lifetime.  The song, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," is playing on the radio right now.  Bing Crosby is singing.  The song reminds me of my younger days when dad sang this song.  Dad had plenty of snow where he grew up in North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border.  I loved the childhood stories he shared about how he and his brothers built tunnels in the snow and hitched rides by holding on to rear bumpers of unsuspecting drivers navigating the icy roads in his neighborhood.

Dad is no longer with us.  Neither is Bing Crosby.  Those two Irishmen are harmonizing with angels in Heaven.  We still sing a happy birthday song to dad every year on Christmas day.  I ponder how wondrous it must be to celebrate Christmas in Heaven with Jesus.  The choir is filled with so many loved ones.  I can only imagine our King dressed in brilliant white so bright it nearly blinds your eyes.  That is the white Christmas we will all share one day.  That is the white Christmas I'm dreaming of while I celebrate the season with my wife and three children.  Merry Christmas to all my friends and family and to all who read these daily stories.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my life with you.  And may all your Christmas's be white, snow or no snow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is There Room at the Inn?


You are the innkeeper.   You decide who to let inside your home when somebody's knocking.  Mary said yes.  Joseph said yes.  Times were tough.  They found a way.  They made room for Jesus.  The best decision I ever made in my life was to answer the door when Jesus knocked.  It would have been so easy to say, "Can you come back later, Jesus?  My job is stressing me out and the bills are piling up.  I don't have time for you right now."  I'm glad I went with my heart and let Jesus in.

Who is this Jesus knocking on your door today?  My buddy, Isaiah, has a great answer to the question:   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6.  I agree with Isaiah.  Jesus is a wonderful counselor.  He is mighty.  He is everlasting.  And he can give you peace like you've never experienced in your entire life.  Jesus took away all the stress I was experiencing in the workplace.  He found a way to lead me out of troubled waters.  I'm glad I made room for Jesus at the Casa de Mulligan.  Are you taking reservations at your place?  Jesus doesn't use Expedia or Travelocity.  He prefers going door-to-door.  Is there room at the Inn?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gloria


Yesterday a friend from our community asked my wife, "how do you feel about your son enlisting?"  There was a brief pause.  It was one of those moments where I didn't know what to do.  I was just standing there thinking, Oh no, is this gonna be another Kleenex moment?  Her words were so eloquent.  Here she was standing in front of our son and me revealing her thoughts about his decision to depart for the army in two weeks.

"I think about Mary and her yes to becoming the Mother of Jesus," she said.  "If Mary could go through what she did and let go of her Son, I can let go of my son.  I know this is what he needs to do and I'm okay with it.  God is with him wherever he goes."  Her answer tickled my heart.  She nailed it.  No Kleenex was needed.  My wife and I both know this is the happiest we've ever seen our youngest son.  He woke up this morning at 5:00 AM to work out at the gym.   He is definitely in the joyful preparation mode.  That's really what this season is all about.

When my wife spoke about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, it made me think about my own mother, Gloria.  I thought about the day I called her and told her I was relocating to the Midwest.  There was something inside me that didn't want to let go.  My friends told me I'd be back in a year.  My mother was encouraging.  "God is with you, don't worry," she said.  My mother is right.  God is with us.  No matter where we are or how far away we may be from our family, Jesus is with us.  Our son always says, "God gets all the glory for everything I do with my life."  In Latin, Gloria means glory.  And the Latin phrase, Gloria in excelsis deo means Glory to God in the highest.  I would like to dedicate the video below to my mother, Gloria, and to all the mothers out there who are following Mary's example of saying yes even when it's a challenge.  Enjoy.






Sunday, December 21, 2014

An Early Christmas Gift from the San Diego Chargers


The San Diego Chargers delivered an early Christmas gift last night.  They made a national television appearance in a do or die game against the San Francisco 49ers.  It was extra special for me because I was sharing the experience with our two sons.  We nickname December "Philcember" in honor of our beloved quarterback, Philip Rivers, who always saves his best performances for the Holidays.  During the first half I thought to myself, is Santa sending me coal for Christmas?  It looked like the whole team was on the naughty list.  They were dropping like flies.  Rivers turned on his shiny red nose and convinced his head coach, Mike McCoy, he could lead all the reindeer to a victory despite his sore back and ribs.  He looked more like the Grinch who stole Christmas.  Suddenly, the game was 21-0, 49ers over the Chargers.  Advent is supposed to be a time of joyful preparation.  I needed the spirit of Christmas past to find Philip Rivers in the locker room at half time and remind him this is his month.

Everything changed in the second half.  Bells were ringing.  It was the entire defensive line earning their wings.  And the offense found a way to protect Rivers long enough to complete two miracle 4th down passes with time running out in the 4th quarter.  With :26 seconds on the clock, Rivers did it again.  He found a receiver in the end zone and sent the game to overtime.  The defense recovered a fumble in overtime and gave the ball back to Rivers and company.  Jolly old St. Nick Novak kicked the game winning field goal to keep the Chargers playoff hopes alive.  Yes, it truly is a time of joyful preparation.  As for me and my family, we will keep the faith.  We're Charger fans.  This is what we do.  Our favorite time of year is Philcember.  Merry Christmas to all the believers. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Slow Down


It's the Holiday Season.  There are some dangerous curves ahead.  Everyone seems to be in a hurry.  Not me.  My "Zen Zone" has a speed limit.  I'm not caught up in all the road rage.  Take a look at all your activities.  Use caution.  Avoid trying to do too much in the remaining days leading up to the New Year.  Relax.  Give yourself some quiet time.  No matter how tempting it is to short-change your sleep so you can cram more activities into your Holidays, don't do it.  Take naps.  Peace be with you.  Have a great day.  I hope you savor it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Eliminate the Unnecessary


Minimalism is a process.  It doesn't happen overnight.  I'm working on it.  My home is on a zero lot line plot.  We own one TV.  We're getting ready to cut the chord on our cable.  And slowly but surely, our debts are disappearing.  The odd thing about choosing to live with less is the sense of freedom I now have.  I never really knew how much that dark cloud of debt affected my vision until the sun started to come out.  If you're thinking about eliminating the unnecessary in your life, why not commit the remaining twelve days of this year to making a lifestyle change?  Just do a little bit at a time.  Give minimalism a try.  Give yourself less clutter and more space.  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Changes Next Exit


If you're not careful, you may miss your next exit.  I'm at the point in the year where I'm reviewing the highlights from the previous twelve months.  This gives me the feedback I need to make adjustments and adapt to the changing world around me.  Among the highlights are the good, the bad and the ugly.  I believe I learn the most important lessons from the bad and the ugly because my biggest motivation is to avoid making the same mistake twice.

I visited a pet store yesterday.  My wife asked me to take a look at two mice who were fighting over the same spinning toy.  One would jump on and accelerate.  Suddenly, the other one would jump on and bring the ride to a screeching halt.  The two took turns fighting over a silly little dish.  I reflected for a moment and told my wife, "That looks like my old life in California."  She laughed.  It wasn't the ha ha laugh but more of the aha laugh.  I mean, aha, you're so right.  "And why did it take you so long to figure this out?"

It's too bad these two mice are trapped in a cage with no way out.  They don't have the opportunity to step back and review the last twelve months.  Instead, they fight over a toy which leads to nowhere.  There's no exit.  They will never change.  I'm glad I'm not a mouse.  I'm thankful I can look at my life and determine where changes are needed so I can continue to grow.  I see the exit ahead.  I'm taking it.  How about you?  Are there any changes planned for the next twelve months?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winning Habits


Go ahead.  Call me competitive.  It won't hurt my feelings.  In fact, I consider it a compliment.  We discovered our youngest son has a natural ability for bowling.  Our games have been really close.  He smokes me in the first game and I usually find a way to edge him out in game #2.  The rubber match is the most interesting.  My approach to every series we play is the same approach I use for life.  It all comes down to winning habits.  Here are some points for your consideration.
  1. Trial Runs Set Up Future Victories.  Our youngest son uses his power and his athletic ability to knock a lot of pins down when we face off in the bowling alley.  I see the first game in the series as the practice round.  Each frame gives me the feedback I need to make all the necessary adjustments.  The lanes are different at each bowling alley and the conditions always vary.  The same thing is true in life.  I know I need to keep fine tuning until I reach the desired outcome – a strike.  Every day is an opportunity to practice until I get it right.
  2. Study the Champions.  This is true in any endeavor.  There are successful people in all walks of life.  You don't need to re-invent the wheel.  Simply follow the best people in your area of interest and mimic their behavior.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice.  Winning is a habit.  So is losing.  Winners practice.  Losers don't.  Games are won in the off-season when no one is watching.
  4. See the End Game in Your Mind.  I played on a competitive tennis team in Southern California.  We decided to enter some tennis tournaments to get stronger in our league play.  I asked, "what do we need to do to win a national championship?"  Our captain responded, "we need to win a local tournament first.  Then, we are eligible to play in a regional qualifier.  If we can take first place in a regional qualifier, we advance to nationals with seven other teams."  For us, the end game was a national championship.  We won our first tournament and advanced to the Las Vegas National Qualifier tournament.  We took first place out of 32 teams by a single point and went to nationals.  We fell short of a national championship but still managed to take 5th place in the country.   Seeing the end game in our minds helped us reach bold goals.
  5. Divine Inspiration.  This is your secret weapon.  When you pray, you are connecting with the Creator of the universe.  He has a plan for you.  When you align yourself with God's plan for your life, you become unstoppable.  You see every day in your life as a trial run.  You feel inspired to study all the role models around you.  You get a burning desire in your heart to practice daily so you can be your best.  You see the end game in your mind.  It's God's battle plans.  And you feel God's presence everywhere you go.
When game three of the rubber match is about to begin, I look at our youngest son and smile.  He asks, "are you going to bowl strikes again in the 10th frame?"  I answer, "What do you think?"  My wife shouts, "Don't let him get in your head."


My direct parenting days are coming to a conclusion.  My hope is that all three of our children raise the bar and reach their full potential.  I pray that the limited time I had with them will help them develop their own winning habits.  And I pray that my daily stories help you in the game of life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Unexplored Territory



I'm feeling giddy.  There it is on the horizon.  Not a soul on this planet has ever experienced it.  It's a new year.  2015.  It's unexplored territory.  I'm planning on embracing every precious moment.  Alan Alda offers the perfect introduction to all the opportunity the new year brings.  I like what Alda says in the above quote, "Don't leave any of yourself safely on shore."  Share this message with your loved ones.  I'm passing this quote along to all three of our adult children who inherited my boldness gene.  Our youngest son is one of the bravest people I've ever met.  For him, 2015 is a new beginning.  He won't leave any of himself safely on shore when he departs for boot camp the first week in January.  Our daughter will complete her college education in 2015.  And our oldest son will head to South America as he expands his world vision.  I will publish two books in 2015 and another 365 blog stories.  Yes, this is going to be an amazing year.

Come sail away with me.  Don't be afraid.  Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.  Laugh at yourself but never doubt yourself.  You are here for a reason.  Maybe 2015 will be the year you discover your inner passion.  You won't find it on yesterday's shores.  You will find it in the sunrises, the sunsets, and everything in between.  2015 is your date with destiny.  Make sure your passport is in order and fill up every page inside of it.  All aboard.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Are you ready for the next chapter?


The new calendar year is almost here.  It's an opportunity for a new chapter in your life.  There's only one problem.  That sack of grudges you've been carrying around isn't getting any lighter.  I've been there.  You don't want to turn the page because you want the whole world to know just how terrible that person is who wronged you.  Santa Claus has an easier time carrying his sack of toys because every stop he makes the bag gets lighter.  Not yours.  As a matter of fact, you're probably adding to your bag of grudges because you just can't let go.  The hurt is too big.  You believe that if you show the world what a martyr you are by hauling all these grudges with you everywhere you go that maybe they will rush to your aid.  They won't.  And the person who gave you these grudges is probably living a guilt-free life.  Maybe it's time for a new chapter.

I'm ready for some new lessons.  I look forward to the next chapter of my life.  In fact, life without grudges is amazing.  I never really knew how much it cost me to travel with all those grudges in my suitcases.  The airlines would have made a small fortune charging me for all those extra bags.  Not anymore.  I travel light.  My secret is in three words:  "I forgive you."  How about you?  Are you ready for the next chapter?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Your Happy Quote for the Day



The quote above by Gandhi is inspiring.  It represents how I feel about my life.  Ask yourself this question:  is what you do consistent with what you say and what you think?  The follow-up question is, "Are you happy?"  If the answer to both questions is yes, congratulations.  Share the quote with someone who may be struggling.  And if the answer to either question is no, please examine your thoughts, your words and your actions.  Find the inconsistencies and invest some personal time making positive changes in your life.  Have a great day.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beware of the Personal Space Invaders


They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of them are people and some of them are ideas and attitudes.  I'm referring to anything or anyone who invades your personal space.  Your own negative thoughts can seep inside and destroy your peace.  I have a new name for my own personal bubble.  I call it the "Zen Zone."  Here's my secret for keeping the personal space invaders out of my place of solitude...
  1. Don't answer unidentified phone calls.  This is a big one.  If someone important is calling and I don't recognize their number, they will leave a message and I can call them back.  These people are breaking the law by disrespecting the "do not call" list.   Why should I grant these personal space invaders access? 
  2. Allow ample time to get to your appointments.  This is another big one.  The biggest zen zone violator is bad clock management.  Stop rushing.  Plan your time.  Give yourself an extra fifteen minutes to get to your destination.
  3. Mute the negative people.  Pretend they have a volume button.  When they are standing in front of you ranting out of control, hit the mute button.  Let them spew but don't let their words get past the Great Barrier Reef around your zen zone.  Nod your head to encourage them to keep vomiting until they are done.  Then, let them walk away.  They feel better now.  There venting is over.  And you still feel great because you did not allow them to transfer their negative energy to your zen zone.
  4. Counter-attack your negative thoughts.  Every time you hear that negative voice inside your head say, "No you can't," tell yourself, "Yes I can."  Support your counter-attack with statements such as, "I am uniquely qualified for this task because I'm a child of God."
  5. Allocate time for fun activities and stick to your schedule.  Your personal time is more important than the space invader's time.  If you give it up, you lose.  Your family loses.  Your zen zone evaporates.  Learn to say no.  Your family will appreciate you.
Your personal space invaders can attack at any time.  Be alert.  Should a break-in occur, fortify your defenses and learn from the situation.  Your personal space is one of your most valuable assets.  Protect it.  Peace be with you.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Do You See What I See?


The other day I heard someone complaining about the stock market dropping.  I asked her, "are you buying or selling?"

She replied, "I'm buying."

I told her, "Congratulations.  Everything you're buying is on sale.  The lower the stock market goes, the more you will be able to buy."  She paused for a moment and then the light bulb went off.  She got it. 

Our oldest son told me about an entrepreneur he met while visiting Ireland.  The gentleman shared how he became a business owner during the last recession.  "The prices got so low that I had to buy the place.  It was such a great deal.  I can't wait for the next recession so I can expand,"  the man told my son.

I remember my grandmother sharing how they paid cash for a home during the Great Depression.  "We were savers.  It paid off.  When times got tough, your Grandpa and I decided it was time to pay cash for our home because we were the only people around who saved for a rainy day," she said.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge the world faces these days is debt.  Government leaders of all feathers, Republican, Democrat and Independent, see a world where debt is the norm.  Families are spending money they don't have to buy things they can't afford.  History is repeating itself.  Very few are willing to turn around and see the world from a different perspective.   I find it interesting to see everything when it's flipped upside down or rotated 180º.  That's why I'm sharing my life lessons about debt when I publish my third book, Break the Chains of Debt Bondage, on the 4th of July, 2015.  I believe a new perspective is needed.  How about you?  Do you see the same thing everyone else sees or are you the rare bird who chooses to turn around and change your perspective?  Give it a try.  Please share what you see from your point of view.  Have a great day.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life is a Maze


When I was a kid, I invented a game called maze tag and everyone in the neighborhood enjoyed playing it.  One person was in charge of building a maze using kite string that covered the size of a front yard.  The players started in the center of the maze and the tagger entered from the outside.  The idea was to find your way out without being tagged.  The maze was constantly changed to make it more challenging.  We played for hours in between building forts and go-karts or flying kites and climbing mountains.

My life is similar to playing maze tag.  The maze is constantly changing.  An antagonist is chasing me and I'm not sure how to escape.  One thing is certain – if I remain frozen in the center of the maze, eventually my opponent will hunt me down and tag me.  I'm out.  I lose.

There are over 7 billion active mazes in the world today,  each custom-made for the individual.  The design changes daily to keep it interesting.  There are two possible exits.  Be careful how you play the game.  The tagger will try to trick you.  He may even try to convince you there's no way out.  He's a liar.  As complicated as your life may be right now, there's always a way out.  Keep moving forward.  Seek and you will find.  It's okay to ask for help in the game of life.  I follow the master of the game.  He even figured out a way to conquer death.  He's sad so many players start out with so much promise and determination.  They have good intentions but they lose their way.  They end up at the wrong exit door.  Those who follow Jesus are guaranteed victory.  It doesn't make the game any easier.  The only thing Jesus promises is that he will be with you to help you avoid getting tagged.  Follow him.  You will have a successful outcome.  Enjoy the game.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How are you preparing to meet your future self?


The meeting is inevitable.  You are destined to meet your future self.  The truth is, you're going to become your future self.  Some things can't be changed – like your shoe size.  But others can – like your waist line.  Most importantly, the person you meet in the mirror will be a direct reflection of what you do today and every day from now on.  Here are some ideas to help you prepare...
  1. Never underestimate the power of small choices.  Small amounts of junk food add up to an over-sized stomach.  
  2. Consistency matters.  Imagine how happy your future self is going to be if you follow a steady exercise program and keep your body toned.
  3.  You are your most valuable asset.  You have everything you need to give your future self a great life.  What you to today with your time, talent and treasure will determine how the future you looks and feels.  You can minimize any future regrets by taking action today.  Exercise.  Eat healthy.  Fill your mind with positive thoughts.  And don't put off looking in the mirror and seeing what changes need to be made today so the future you won't wake up sad or angry.
Be careful not to look in the mirror today and blame your past self.  He or she is no longer with you.  Move on.  Start over.  The only person who can make a difference today is you.  The best gift you can give your future self is to live today to its fullest, take some chances, learn from your mistakes and trust your instincts.  Please don't bury your head in the sand.  And don't ever be afraid to look in the mirror.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Writing About Happiness Increases Happiness


I have the ultimate weapon to defeat others when they try to pull you out of your happy place.  It's something I learned at the beginning of my writing career and it's really simple.  Take out a blank piece of paper and make a list of five things you are thankful for.  Do this once a week.  Don't throw the paper away.  Keep each sheet of paper in a folder and read your notes during the week.  These notes are your heart speaking to you.  Something special happens when you take the time to hand write your list of things you are thankful for.  You sleep better.  Your number of sick days decline.  You feel better.  It's like taking a happy pill.

Some people who practice writing their thoughts down about what they're thankful for have a name for their weekly ritual.  It's called a gratitude journal.  I'm not really sold on the name because I think most people reading today's story may look at this as some kind of extra chore they don't have time for.  Most people don't have time to start new projects, especially during this time of year when tension levels seem to increase during the Holidays.  They don't swallow the happy pill because they're too busy.  That's why I recommend grabbing a blank sheet of paper and writing five things down you're thankful for.  Just do it one time.  Do it right now.  Try it.  And then keep that sheet of paper in a place where you can read it every day for a week.  If you notice an improvement in your attitude, do it again next week.

Keep it simple.  Your list can be about things or about people in your life you are thankful for.  Without naming names, here's my list for this week.  I'm sharing this to show you how easy it is...
  1. H.M. Thank you God for giving me such an incredible person to share my highs and lows with. Now I know what true love is.
  2. G.M.  Thank you God for sending me the right person to coach me, mentor me and support me.  She is an angel in a human body and she always knows what to say and do in every situation.
  3. J.M.  Thank you God for giving me someone who is not only a great role model and friend, but someone who reaches out and keeps in touch no matter how much is on his plate.
  4. J.R.  Thank you God for placing someone in my life who is willing to be refined in the fire by my side, no matter what the personal cost of that decision may be.
  5. A.M, T.M. and L.W.  Thank you God for giving me three people who are a living reflection of you on this earth.  I am who I am today because these three are in my life.
 I can't tell you why writing about happiness increases happiness.  All I can offer is that when I made my list today of the seven people (I cheated on number five and squeezed in two more names – that's okay, there really aren't any rules about your list) I felt an incredible sense of peace inside my heart.  Remember, when your heart is speaking, take good notes.  Make your own list of people and/or things you are thankful for and do this once a week.  And if you want to know why writing about happiness increases happiness, ask your doctor.   I'm no expert but I do know one thing – I'm happy.  And I'm thankful.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 8, 2014

When You Need a Comma


There's a reason your life may be in need of a comma.  Commas are pauses.  They are the speed bumps in your thoughts that force you to slow down and examine where you're headed and why you're going in a particular direction.

I needed a comma this morning.  My inspiration suffered a case of the Monday morning blues.  I missed my 8:08 deadline.  What does a writer do when he or she can't find a receiver in the end zone and time is running out?  It's time for the comma.  It's when you decide to slow your no huddle offense down and pause until you regroup.  Just call me the Monday morning quarterback.

Don't be afraid to use commas.  Call for a time-out when you feel overloaded.  Missing a deadline isn't the end of the world.  Missing out on all life has to offer is.  Today is a new day.  It's the beginning of a new week.  Adjust your pace and find your rhythm.   I really like the quote I found this morning when I was in the middle of my personal time-out:

“Whatever phase of life you are in, make time to pause and reflect where you are heading to. It is a good time to insert a comma now and realign yourself to your inner self before your life ends in a full stop.”― Roopleen

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Favorite Holiday Decoration


My wife and I found comfort and joy at a resale shop in Iowa after we relocated.  Someone else discarded it.  We stared at it for a moment, added it to our cart, and brought the sign home.  We display comfort and joy year round.   Not only is comfort and joy my favorite Holiday decoration in our home, it's so important to us we leave it up year round as a reminder comfort and joy is a lifestyle not a season.

I have many reasons to be joyful.  Last night my youngest son and I went to a Hawkeye wrestling meet.  Our local wrestling team, currently ranked #1 in the nation, walloped their opponents 37-0.  Tonight we get the opportunity to cheer for our beloved San Diego Chargers in a nationally televised game versus the New England Patriots.  It doesn't get more exciting than this except for the second coming of the Messiah.  Think about that for moment.  Our greatest comfort and joy was wrapped up in a tiny blanket 2,000 years ago.  He became man.  Literally.  He changed the world.  Then he left.  And he's coming back.  Every knee shall bow.  That's a great reason to be joyful in any season.  He's coming back!

Happy December.  Make it a season to remember.  Be joyful.  Be comfortable.  Invite Jesus into your heart today.  Make him a permanent fixture in your home.  Yes, it's sad and it's true others discard Jesus.  Recycle.  Share.  Spread comfort and joy to others.  Whatever you do, don't ever discard Jesus.  Have a great day.



Saturday, December 6, 2014

My First Live Hawkeye Sporting Event


The hottest tickets in Iowa are in the sport of wrestling.  And I'm taking our youngest son to tonight's meet vs. Michigan State.  This will be our first time watching the Hawkeyes live.  We were offered free tickets from some friends who can't make it.  This is going to be a great night.  See you tomorrow.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Butterflies are Born to Fly



Every day our youngest son reminds us how many days are left on the calendar.  Thirty days from today we say good-bye.  My wife and I can't believe how time seems to accelerate as we approach our son's departure date.  Raising a family is similar to raising butterflies.  I remember the caterpillar stage and the cocoon stage like it was yesterday.  God granted us temporary custody of our children but I always knew who they really belonged to.  I always knew my role was to help our children discover they are born to fly.  Soon, the jar will be empty.

I will never forget what it was like to live through a wildfire.  We had minutes to evacuate.  We grabbed our kids, our pets, our love letters and our photo albums.  Others were critical of our failure to remember important documents, like our mortgage papers.  It was in that critical moment that I realized what my priorities are... love, family and memories.  I know my jar will never be empty.  Never.  I'm a blessed man to know what love is and to know what it's like to be a husband and father.  It's captured in every stage of our children's lives from birth to today.  It's expressed in thousands of love letters, over 5,000, my wife and I wrote to each other when we were raising butterflies.

Remember to savor every day.  Live in the moment.  And don't be afraid to let go, especially when it comes to butterflies.  They are born to fly. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Skidding into Heaven Sideways


I read a quote the other day about Heaven.  It was described as a type of finish line not meant to be approached safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, screaming "whoo hoo, what a ride!"

Life is like playing in a baseball game.  Some players have pristine uniforms.  Are they really playing or are they just going through the motions, waiting for the game to be over?  I'm the guy covered head to toe in mud.  I really don't care how many times I've been tagged out.  There's always next inning.  I can't wait to get back in the game.  I always start my morning fresh, declaring "today is a new day."

Watch out, St. Peter.  When my time is up, I'm gonna round third and make a beeline for heaven before you close those gates.  Yes, my body may be a little bloody.  I may have scars on both knees.  But I'll be running full speed right at you and I'll beat the throw home before you can say, "you're outta here."  I know, it may not be pretty and I may get a little mud on your snazzy white uniform but I don't care.  All that really matters is that I use up every day to the best of my ability.  Care to join me?  Today is a new day.  Let's go out and make a difference.  Time to play ball.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How to Mentally Prepare for a Challenge



Something big is on your calendar.  Maybe it's a deadline for your first book.  Or you decided to enter your first 10k race or marathon.  I believe the key to a successful outcome is in the mental preparation stage.  I've heard others say you need to think about the worst thing that can happen in order to be better prepared.  The problem with this approach is that you may become so focused and what might go wrong that you clam up and decide it's not worth it to pursue your dreams.  Why not ask yourself, what's the best that could happen?  Imagine all the possibilities that are associated with living your dreams.

Something happened at my day job yesterday that caught me off guard.  A sweet lady from Canada asked me to show her my hands.  I had no idea what she was doing.  "You use these hands for something," she said.  "What do you do?"

"I'm a writer," I answered.  She kept probing.  "Do you write by hand?"

"That's how I started.  My wife and I wrote a combined 5,000 love letters to each other," I answered.  My co-workers and my manager drew closer to the conversation, most of them unaware I'm a writer.

"Take out your cell phone and show me a picture of your wife," she requested.

"Cell phones are not allowed during work hours," I said.  "I can't show you any pictures unless my boss approves."  My boss looked at me and smiled.  "Show her a picture of your wife," she said.

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and showed some family pictures.  After she looked at the pictures, more questions followed.  "What else do you write about?"

We talked for a few more minutes before our meeting came to a close.  I was shocked that this woman was able to find my passion so quickly when I go out of my way to keep my writing life a secret at my day job.  My biggest challenge ahead of me is publishing two books in 2015.  I've been mentally preparing myself for a long time.  I often dream about what's the best that can happen.  I believe the best that can happen is I will get to connect with others and inspire them to do the same – dream big and act on those dreams.  I picture you reading my labor of love.  Nothing is going to stop me.  In my own mind, I've already won the race.  Now it's your turn.  Please share how you mentally prepare for a challenge.  Show me your hands.  Tell me what you do with them or plan to do with them.  And share what's the best that can happen.  Thank you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How Do You Respond When Others Push Your Buttons?


It's hard to blame a kid when he or she pushes your buttons.  Kids believe the world revolves around them.  They see you as their order taker at a fast food drive-thru and their one and only goal is to get what they want.  My wife and I made an agreement we would stick together on everything so our children would not be able to divide and conquer.  It helped us keep our sanity.  What happens when champion button pushers become adults and they never learn to stop their childish manipulations?  You have two choices:

  1. Push back.  This choice isn't smart in a work environment.  It increases tension and shows you are no more grown up than the button pusher.  Resist the urge to do this.
  2. Stay out of the black hole.  Your antagonist has one goal – to draw you in.  Like a black hole, once you get sucked in, there's no way out.  You lose.  Establish boundaries.  Recognize the patterns.  Don't let the button pusher get the upper hand.  Keep your cool.  Minimize the drama.  Walk away.
Today is a new day.  You are the adult.  You can't control how others act.  You do control how you respond.  The choice is yours.  I know where all the black holes are in my universe and I'm choosing to navigate around them.  How about you?  Please add your ideas in the comment section below.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why I Will Always Be a San Diego Chargers Fan

In San Diego, Chargers fans call this month Philcember in honor of their quarterback, Philip Rivers.  He and the rest of his team did it again yesterday in Baltimore when their backs were up against the wall.  Rivers orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks of all times when he threw a touchdown pass with only 38 seconds left on the clock.  Final score, 34-33 over the Ravens.

I can relate to the Chargers in so many ways.  The Chargers have never won the Super Bowl.  They suffered a number of disappointing 6-10 seasons.  Their first three starting centers all suffered injuries this year.  The number four guy never played the position before and he got hurt during Sunday's game.  All the odds seem to be against the Chargers.  And every year they find a way to get back on track late in the season.

I'm finding ways to get back on track in my personal life after some falls and I get my inspiration from Philip Rivers.  He stares at his opponent and searches for signs of weakness.  He doesn't care how big his opponent is or what the odds of success are.  He knows there's always a way to win if you don't give up.  Congratulations, Chargers.  And thanks for giving my family and me so many great memories.  A Super Bowl ring would be a great way to cap off such an amazing season.  We will be cheering for you.