Failure Speaks

I hate you.
When I start your day, I love reminding you of how worthless you are.
Listen to me. No one should listen to you. You have nothing worthwhile to say.
I can find multitudes of reasons why you should not even get up…and I enjoy sharing them with you.
I thrive on your desire for pity. People should feel sorry for you because of your lack of worth.
I can turn the smallest setback into a lifelong issue if you just listen to me.
Remember when your friend looked at you like you didn’t know what you were doing? That was me who told you that they didn’t like you. The funny thing is that I told them to look at you like that to make sure that you didn’t take any more chances.
Remember when your boss asked you to take on that new task? That was me who told you not to do it because you wouldn’t gain anything from it. In fact, I was the one who told your boss not to ask you, but your boss didn’t listen to me.
I sometimes join up with your pride to make sure it doesn’t get damaged. Somebody has to protect it. After all, if you don’t have pride in yourself, you won’t be able to do anything, right?
When it comes down to it, I may be the best friend that you have. I save you from things like embarrassment, sadness, unnecessary responsibility, confrontation and a host of other uncomfortable things.
There is no reason to have uncertainty in your life when I can make your path certain. In fact, some people may even get our names mixed up and call you by my name because you start to have the same effect on them that I do.
That is fine with me. Many follow me because it is just easy to. Life is hard enough without looking for more difficulty.
Come and join me. Pretty soon, you can be just like me.

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What If You Died Today?

What if you died today?

A little over a month ago, a 51 year old man died. I knew him from high school only and he was only a year older than myself. He celebrated his 51st birthday, laid down and died in his sleep. The coroner said that the cause of death was natural causes.  As you would expect, many of those who knew him were shocked and devastated…and rightly so. Everyone said that he was such a wonderful person, no known health issues…just didn’t wake up that day.

I could turn this into an eternity discussion and since I am a Christian it would be very easy to do that. But if you are already a Christian, what if you died today? What if you laid down tonight, knowing that you would not wake up on the earth? What would you do before you went to sleep? Many things have been written about “What would you do if you found out that this was your last day to live?” but what if you didn’t have a whole day?

What about an hour?

30 minutes?

See, we will never be notified a whole day in advance, so let’s just drop it to half an hour?

Would you do what I am doing? Write to everyone? What would you say?

What would you say to your parents? Your brother or sister?

What about your kids? Your grandkids?

Could you look back at your life and honestly say that if you didn’t get the chance to talk to them before you left, they would know what you would have said?

Your friends, do they know? What about Facebook? Does your status know?

I listened to my pastor speak on Sunday about how precious it is to have the forgiveness that Christ gave. He gave the example of a man who was driving carelessly down the road and, because of his carelessness, hit and killed a small child. He goes to jail, serves time for involuntary manslaughter and is released. Although he has paid his debt to society, in the eyes of the law, nothing he can physically do can make the family of that small child forgive him. Nothing. So he lives with the pain and punishment of his carelessness.

How many people are you needlessly letting live with the pain of your unforgiveness? Because of your hurt, your pride, your unwillingness to forgive? And for what?

So that you can live in your anger and hatred?

To die in peace with yourself and everyone else, you need to take the action of forgiveness. If you died today, would they know what you would have said, knowing that you were leaving?

Say it before that day. Say it today. You may not have tomorrow.

The Passion Cycle

I remember when I was in my twenties and starting out working at a job.  It was a career choice that would have made sense if I would have been cut out at it.  But I was unsatisfied because it didn’t satisfy my “passion”.  I had always dreamed of being a philanthropist or psychologist who had a level of importance and authority that people looked to for help or guidance.  I did not want the authority to tell people what to do…I just wanted to know the answer to their problem and help them find their way.  Funny thing is, I couldn’t find my own.

I had read (or skimmed through) a book called “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow”.  What a grand scheme this book had.  Do what you really love to do and it will sustain you.

That mantra still carries on to today.  Many people, unhappy with their jobs and/or line of work, have taken the path of following their passion thinking that they can enjoy life more because of it…and a few times they do…very few.  In the meantime, they go through the cycle of

PassionCycle

  1. quitting their job to follow their passion,
  2. passion doesn’t produce results needed,
  3. get mad at passion and leave,
  4. take job that is even more unfulfilling,
  5. trying to find new passion

and so on.

Now some people may say that this is good because you actually get to know yourself and evolve through a process of elimination.  This is true I believe but for many who take this route, there is a habit of the cycle and it is never-ending.  In fact, it can be debilitating and destructive to a person’s overall life.  When reading this, did the thought run through your mind about people and intimate relationships?

While not everyone has this happen in personal relationships, just looking at the cycle and taking that angle, you can see how destructive it can be to someone’s life.  So I want to take a different look at this scenario…a cause and effect look.

Let’s just imagine the ultimate goal that is being aimed at.  The ultimate goal is to enjoy what do.  Enjoy life.  Maybe experience the “flow” that once tasted, can sometimes become a passion to find it again.  Nonetheless, the goal is to do something that you enjoy doing and not to get trapped in the hunt for it.  Without trying to imagine what that is exactly, imagine the feeling.  What does it feel like?  Is it you standing around, grinning all the time?  No, that would be weird.  What is the feeling?  Is it accomplishment…importance…authority…creating?  Find the feeling and the action of it.

This takes a little time to figure because it may not be a certain thing, but a feeling that is being sought as the goal.  Now remember, this is the goal and not the means of getting there.  And one other thing:  the means are temporary and build upon each other.  You cannot get to the goal and be done and be fulfilled.

So with this in mind, how do you get there…to each means.  Well, just as a sturdy house is built with one brick at a time, your means are built one step at a time.  Here is the interesting part though:  you do not have to search for that perfect job.  You can find that first step where you are right now.  You see, sometimes people do not let themselves get into their jobs well enough to experience that “flow”.  They yearn for the steps to the great goal to be like that goal.  For example, if their goal is to be an authority in a certain field, they seek to be recognized for each “brick” or step and when they are not, the temptation of starting that cycle happens.

So keeping that vision of building a brick house, what is it built upon?  A foundation.  Have you ever seen a foundation without the house?  Is it just a slab of concrete? No, there are things set in it before the concrete is poured to make everything in the future fit correctly:  plumbing, electrical, etc.  and a lot of digging before all of that.  If a contractor keeps moving to a different lot before the digging is done or while the foundation is being built, all that is left is a bunch of holes and messes.

Preventing that mess requires steps being followed and that “flow” can be found in each step if the goal is kept in mind.  In reading the book by Jim Collins, Good to Great, he talks about a POW named Admiral Jim Stockdale and how he survived being held in captivity for 8 years.  The statements made by Stockdale can be directly applied to this post:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story.  I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life…This is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

He developed systems for his fellow captives to handle torture, communicate and deal with captivity.   He gave them purpose, keeping the ultimate goal in focus.  Interestingly enough, he stated that the captives who did not survive were the “optimists” as he called them.   Those “optimists” would talk about getting out by Christmas, and Christmas would come and go.  Then by Easter, then by Thanksgiving, etc. and in his own words, “they died of a broken heart”.

What does this say about goal setting to you?  Four things are evident

  1. Setting goals (dates, milestones, quotas) for the steps to the ultimate goal is good but can be destructive if the STEP takes the prominent place of the GOAL. (How many times do you want to break and mend your own heart?)
  2. Small failures will happen. It is a part of the process.  (Ask a contractor if they ever built a house with no failures or mistakes)
  3. Setting up systems for small purposes that point to the overall goal or purpose can lead to sustainability.
  4. Keeping your eye on the ultimate goal is the key to perseverance.

What is great about this is that it can be started immediately, at any stage in life, at any part in your career and make a difference in your life as well as those around you.  Find your “flow” WHERE YOU ARE.  Set up systems for those small purposes that point to the overall goal.  Set up goals for your steps but do not make them what you live by.  Keep your eye on the ultimate goal and stay out of a destructive cycle.

Not Your Typical Thanksgiving List

This list is not made because I think that you should have experienced these things too, but truthfully, it is for me. Yes, it is true. It is selfish but it has an unselfish purpose. I hope that you will see it before the end.

Things I am thankful for…

1. I am thankful that my parents divorced when I was 6. I have learned more about the value of marriage because of it.

 

2. I am thankful for having a single mother. She fought and struggled, won and lost, laughed and cried. She gave me more than many mothers would or could because of the obstacles. She also taught me to never give up.

 

3. I am thankful for the years I spent as a truck driver. It made the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” mean so much more. It also meant that I was able to face many “personal demons” head on with God leading the charge.

 

4. I am thankful for not being popular at school. I learned that I am responsible for myself and cannot control whether I am liked or not, therefore I am to be who I am and look to be the best at it.

 

5. I am thankful for having surgery on both biceps and being out of work almost 2 years because of it. The hard lessons I learned about myself and my family as well as the opportunity to meet many people, was well worth it. I can look back now and see benefits whereas when it was happening, it was gut wrenching.

 

6. I am thankful that I was able to be next to my dog when he died this summer. My beautiful 14 year old “pup”, who God brought into our lives to teach us about unconditional love (among many other things), saw me and my 14 year old son as his last sight. It was a sight that made him happy as well as me and my son, bigger and better men.

 

7. I am thankful that I have had supervisors that I have not liked. These “situations” shaped me into a better person and actually changed the way I supervise situations.

 

8. I am thankful that I do not have a brand new vehicle. Because I cannot stand it when something is brand new and a mistake of mine or someone else’s scars it (I realize that this is probably a character flaw and translates to much of my life but for the sake of the list, I am thankful).

 

9. I am thankful that I have failed at a few business ventures. Because those “failures” are steps, times to learn, experiences to relate to my children and history to put on paper so that they may serve a purpose beyond my own physical reach.

 

10. I am thankful for having two very different close family members pass away within a year of each other about 4-5 years ago. It showed me the value of keeping the people you love, close to you. One died scared and alone, the other died with her husband at her side. They both were loved but they died in the situations that they prepared for themselves. Every day you live is preparation for your own day that you leave this earth.

 

11. I am thankful that God offered his own Son to be crucified. Since I am a Christian, I consider this the ultimate gift. Many cultures cannot understand this “gift” but it was made so that you can have a choice.

 

These are all gifts, believe it or not. All of the above gifts are there so that you can make a choice; the last being the most important. It is like receiving a pen and paper for a Christmas gift. It is what you make of it. You can write or draw. You may write the next great novel…or not. You may be the next Rembrandt…or not. But your life is there, waiting for you to make it happen. Be thankful and grateful for ALL things, even the things that are not pleasant…because all of them can be used to choose to make a better YOU.

 

Dry

Dry times are difficult to go through.  It is where I am right now.  These times are like being depressed except you’re not.  Life’s battles have not gotten harder, it just feels like you have given all that you have and there is nothing left.  But…taking the effort that you have left over and utilizing it to its best use tends to show later on that you can do more with less energy than you think.

 

These times will test you.  You will come home grouchy and gripe at everyone, thinking that you are just acting normal until you do something that takes you outside of yourself to see how much of a pain you are being.

 

You may get up in the morning and think that talking to God is the last thing that you want to do…but…these are the times when He longs to hear from you.  “Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you.”

 

Talk to Him like He is your actual living father.  After all, He is.  He is the father that our fathers could never be because of their human frailties.  You can unload on Him.  Its ok.

 

Sometimes you have to think about people like Moses and how he talked to God.  “Lord God of Israel, your chosen people are such a pain!  And we are slaves!  And I am not a leader!  I talk with a stutter!  Why don’t you choose my brother?  He is better at this kind of stuff.  He beats everybody at checkers and cornhole.  People love him but they just look at me and wonder why I cannot be more like him.  Why me?”

 

Do you think that he may have been much of a complainer?

 

God wants to use us anyway because we are His instruments.  You have the choice to be used of Him or let someone else.  But He wants to talk to you.

 

Talk to Him…again…like He is the perfect daddy.  Because He is.

Know that this is just a short season in your life and He will give you nourishment to where your thirst will go away and your dry times will become profitable and productive, spiritually and physically.

Giving

What is your purpose of giving?

I heard once about a professional football player that while he was in college got into an argument with his professor about benevolence.  I believe that the player was Ricky Williams.  The argument was that the professor claimed that people do not give selflessly, they do so to make themselves feel good.  Mr. Williams stood his ground by saying that this was not true.  As is true in most arguments, it was never settled.

So what is your motivation for giving?  Not just money, I am talking about giving.  Is it inherent that you give to give yourself a good feeling or is it a sense of “the right thing to do”?

We give of ourselves, sometimes not knowing of the return but yet we give anyway.  Is it because we know that we will feel better about ourselves afterwards or that we have been convicted to do so and the “feeling better” is a sense of relief?

It probably differs in many cases, but what about in the case of giving where may never see the return even if it happens.  Our society is not able to see this.  They say “What does it matter?  I won’t be here anyway.  Live and let live.  Be wild, be free, it’s all about me”.  But what about your legacy?

I know, legacy, for some people is a strong word.  “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”.  So really what does it matter.  It matters because our paradigm needs to shift beyond ourselves.  Truth is that you may be already seeing a return on things done previously.  The return from times of irresponsibility.  The return from days of selfishness.  The return of those “what does it matter?” days.  And even though we can look at those returns and wonder “what if I would have done that differently?”, we should look and say “what now?”

It is like a chess game.  Some people said that great chess players start a game, knowing exactly what moves they are going to make in each circumstance, knowing how their opponent will react to each of their moves.  But the beginning moves are the ones where things are volatile.  Each move that follows, corrals the opponent into their plan until finally victory is achieved.

This is how purpose works.  Direction, calling, destiny.  Each move keeps you moving in a certain direction until victory is achieved.

Giving has a purpose.  Giving of money, time, wisdom, even hugs.  They work towards the ultimate goal of a purpose.  And even though we may have a sense of necessity or a desire for fulfillment, what does that matter?

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

It matters that you give.