It’s 5:13 AM.  I’m sitting by an open window and it’s dark outside.  The air is cool; the coffee is hot.  In a few minutes, the horizon will hint at a sunrise.

It doesn’t get much better than this, I think.

I love mornings.  Even on the days I’m not working, I’m up early.  I don’t want to miss the stillness, and the “firsts” – the first sounds of birds waking, the first rays of light, the first movement in the streets. 

It feels like a fresh start.  No matter what happened yesterday, morning gives me hope.  It’s like a “do-over.” It has the potential to be a great day.

My daughter, Sara is also a morning person (though it’s tougher now that she has three little kids).  When she was growing up, we’d get up early every Saturday morning, sit on the couch before anyone else was up, and talk for hours.  It was our time. 

It was awesome. 

Not everyone shares my joy, however.

morning and nightMy son, Tim is a night person.  It’s tougher now, because he manages a restaurant and often has to be there between 5:00 and 6:00 AM to open the store.

When he was little, he would sleep in until we woke him, and would fight his early bedtime every night.  He absolutely loved nighttime – the later, the better.  I never understood the attraction.

One year, we took a family vacation to Hawaii when the kids were in their early teens.  Sara and I would get up to watch the sunrise and grab some juice or coffee. 

Tim wanted to sleep in.  We would wake him up, but he was pretty grumpy.  We’d go for an early breakfast, but he wouldn’t talk.  He barely ate his food, slumped over his meal and disengaged from conversation.

I thought it was because he was a teenager.  I was concerned about his attitude, and felt like he was just being rude and rebellious.  I was worried about our relationship.  I tried to connect, but nothing happened.

I tried to “fix” him.  It didn’t work.

He was perceptive enough to know what was happening.  One morning, he mustered up enough energy to form a few words.  He put his head up, looked me in the eye and said, “Just give me two hours.  Don’t talk for two hours.  We’ll be fine.”

And we were.

I would feel the same way if somebody tried to engage me in conversation late at night.  I didn’t understand, but I came to appreciate it.

A few years later, Tim gave me an unusual gift for Father’s Day.  He made a certificate that said he would take me to a midnight movie.

I said, “Hey!  I thought you were supposed to give gifts that people actually want!  A midnight movie?  I’ll fall asleep!”

“Take a nap,” he said.  “You’ll be fine.”

I really wasn’t looking forward to it, but he really wanted me to go.  So I took a nap.

It was an action movie, so I actually stayed awake through the whole thing.  We walked out of the theater about 2:15 AM.  There weren’t very many people in the theater, so we stood on the street by ourselves.

It was quiet. 

It was peaceful.

It was amazing.  I had the same feeling I do when I get up at dawn.

He stood quietly for a minute, staring into the dark quietness as if to just take it all in.

“This is my world,” he said.  “I wanted you to see it.”

I saw it.  I felt it.  And I loved him for sharing it with me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a night person.  And I’ll always prefer mornings – like I’m doing right now. 

But I don’t debate which is better any more.  I don’t have to be right.

I’ve just learned the value of looking through someone else’s eyes.

Why We Like Model Homes

Mike Bechtle —  March 21, 2014 — 1 Comment

Occasionally, my wife and I will walk through the model homes of a new housing development.  It gives us the chance to do something we don’t do in normal life – walk in the front door of somebody else’s house without knocking, and wander around from room to room.

I’m guessing that if we tried that in our neighborhood, we might also get to explore the back seat of a police cruiser.

I’ve noticed that while we’re walking through these homes, everybody whispers.  It’s like we’re trying not to disturb the occupants, even though we know there aren’t any.

Model homeThe houses are clean.  Music is playing softly in every room.  There’s no clutter.  The garage is empty and immaculate (that’s how I know it’s not real).  Storage space is everywhere.

There are no scratches on cupboard doors, no dust on top of the television, no smudges on the windows. 

There are no dirty dishes in the sink. There’s no mortgage.

They’re beautiful.

And they’re sterile. 

There’s no clutter of real life. There are no echoes in the walls of kids playing, no footprints of love on the carpet.

These houses aren’t lived in.  They’re for show.  We think, “Wow – if we had this house, our lives would be as peaceful as it feels here.”

But eventually those houses sell, and people move in.  The garage fills up; sticky fingerprints show up on appliances; crayons color the walls.

That’s what houses are for.  They’re not for display; they’re a container for real life and real relationships.  If they’re for real life, they have to be used.

It’s like the old children’s book about the Velveteen Rabbit – he had to be loved by a child and have his fur worn off before he became real.

Model homes are nice places to visit.  But our own homes are where life and love happens.  It’s easy to take them for granted.

Maybe today would be a good day to be grateful for our imperfect homes – and the people that make them imperfect.

 

I wish I could think faster.

Sometimes I’ll be in a conversation with someone who just makes sense.  It doesn’t matter what we’re discussing; they just seem to instantly have the right thing to say.

I think of the right thing to say about 30 minutes after the conversation.

I was on a radio interview a few years ago about one of the books I had written.  For some reason, the host decided to attack a position I had taken.  I don’t remember what it was; I only remember how I felt. 

He peppered me with accusing questions, one after the other.  It was his style, and I didn’t know how to respond.  So to the average listener, I’m sure it sounded like his position was obviously correct, since I didn’t counter his arguments well.  After the interview, I had developed a perfect set of responses – but it was too late.

That was a tough day.  I had to eat cookies to recover.

dogsSince then, I’ve learned some things about introverts and extroverts.  They’re different in a lot of ways.  But one of the primary ones is the way they process information.

Extroverts think out loud.  They actually formulate their ideas by verbalizing them.  When they’re talking, it might be the first time an idea has ever entered their minds.  They figure out what they think by talking. 

Introverts process by themselves.  During a discussion, they really don’t know what they think yet.  They take in the information, then process it for a while to determine their position. 

Extroverts tend to think faster.  Introverts tend to think deeper.

It’s important for introverts to understand this, because it’s easy to get intimidated by the extrovert’s approach.  Extroverts figure that since an introvert doesn’t have a good response to what they’ve said, that they (the extrovert) must be right – and they won the argument.

Introverts simply need to realize that reality.  When an extrovert shoots out quick, forceful arguments, it doesn’t mean they’re correct.  It means they have a different style.

So here’s an idea:

When an extrovert is talking, introverts can say something like, “Wow.  You make some really good points.  Right off the top of my head, I’m not sure how to respond.  I need a little time to think it through – I really do.  Look – let me play with your ideas for a day or two, and I’ll get back with you.  Maybe I’ll shoot you an email with my reaction.  Then I’d love to hear what you think about my ideas.”

Writing and pondering gives introverts a chance to think first, then respond well.  That’s our strength, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed about.  The extrovert does what they do best, and we get to do what we do best.

It makes it a fair fight.

Sometimes, on a nice evening, my wife and I walk around Balboa Island.  It’s about a half-hour drive from our house, and is nestled just inside the bay off the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. It’s only about 4-5 blocks across in any direction, and accessible by driving over a short bridge.

BalboaThere’s a sidewalk that goes completely around the island, which takes about 30 minutes to walk around – 40 if we’re just strolling.  The water is on one side, and beautiful little homes are on the right. 

These homes really are amazing.  Some are old, and have been completely restored.  Others are new, replacing the originals.  Most have no yards, but have pristine patio landscaping and design.  It’s a great place to get ideas for our own house. I’m not sure of the square footage, but most of them look pretty small (though they might go up 2-3 stories to make up for the small footprint).

And each one runs in the $4-6 million range.

At night, most residents leave their windows uncovered so you can see the opulent decorations inside.  It feels a little strange, but seems to be part of the culture.  They know people are peering, but they don’t mind.  I often wonder if it’s the same way baboons feel at the zoo when people stare into their enclosures all day.  (OK, that’s probably not the best example.)

It’s easy to think, “Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place like that?  Those people must be so happy to have that kind of lifestyle.” 

I’m guessing it’s because the people on the outside are trying to make ends meet in their day-to-day existence.  They assume that the people on the inside don’t have the same problems, which means they’re always happy.

I have no idea what’s happening on the inside.  But the inside people are just as human as the outside people.  They have the same challenges and joys, negotiate the same types of relationships, and dream the same dreams.  Some have financial struggles, some don’t – just like the outside people.  It just looks different.

We peer in the windows and watch people sitting on their couches, watching TV, doing chores, eating dinner – exactly the things we do at our house.

They’re just like us.

They’re human.  We’re human.  We’re all in this life thing together.

It’s still fun to walk around Balboa Island.  We love beauty, creativity, well-manicured gardens and artistic design.  We love walking slowly, holding hands and seeing how other people live.

When we look in their windows, we’re really looking at two different things:

  • Their lives
  • Their lifestyles.

It’s important to not get them mixed up. 

If we mix them up, we’ll inaccurately start positioning ourselves above them or below them.

Maybe we just need to practice looking in other people’s windows and seeing ourselves.

Most hotel rooms have printed instructions on how to handle natural disasters. 

In California, I’ve read what to do if there’s an earthquake.

In Oklahoma, I’ve seen instructions on responding to a tornado.

In eastern states, I’ve prepared for a hurricane.

But in Fairbanks, Alaska, I learned what to do in case of a moose.

MooseI was amused when I saw the sheet on the desk in the rustic-themed room at the lodge where I had come to train the hotel employees.  “Clever,” I thought.  “They wrote this up to sound like those other ones.”  I assumed it was just a joke, because a moose seems pretty harmless when the only one I’ve ever known was one on TV named Bullwinkle.

I walked the paper down to the front desk.

“What’s this about?” I asked.

The desk clerk looked at me as if I was from another planet.  “It’s about what to do if you meet a moose.  Just like it says.”

“So, do you get many of them around here?” I was expecting a chuckle or two as we shared the joke.”

“Every couple of days,” she replied without expression.

“Really?”

“Really.  They wander around the parking lot out here.  That’s why we have the low door frame here at the entrance.  Once in a while, they try to come inside.”

“Is it a problem if you run into one?” I asked.

“Could be.  If they decide they don’t like you, they can do some real damage to your body parts.”

“So what are you supposed to do if you meet one in the parking lot?”

After a brief condescending stare, she pointed back to the paper I was holding.  “Read that,” she said.  “That’s why we put it in the room.”

I was a little embarrassed, but now I was curious.  I looked down at the simple instructions:

If you encounter a moose, stand behind a tree.

“Are you serious?” I asked?

“Yep.  You don’t want to run away, because they’ll catch you.  But if you stand behind a tree, it’s hard for them to get around it with those big antlers.  Pretty soon they’ll get tired of trying and wander off.”

It didn’t seem very noble to imagine my obituary: “Killed by a moose.”  So I decided to follow her instructions.

I went for a long, frigid walk that day.  The scenery was great but it was hard to relax.  I was always looking for the nearest tree, just in case I caught the interest of something large and brown.  I didn’t want my obituary to read, “Man Who Ignored Instructions Killed by Moose.”

I didn’t see any moose that day – which was a little disappointing, since I was so well-prepared. And I haven’t been able to use my new-found knowledge in Southern California.

I did learn three valuable lessons that day:

  1. I don’t know everything. 
  2. Assuming that I know everything can get me in trouble.
  3. It’s good to listen to people who know what I don’t.

Today, I’m going to listen to the people I encounter. I’ll listen to my wife – and my kids – and my grandkids – and my barista – and the person I’m sitting next to right now on a plane.

I just might learn something that I’ll need if I encounter a moose today.

What trouble could you avoid today by listening to someone with experience?

 

I love technology.  I’m not a techie, but I love all the cool things technology brings into our lives.  It makes our lives easier, and opens up the world to us in ways we never could have imagined 20 years ago.

Because technology is never-endingly cool, it’s exciting to spend more time with it.  Five more minutes surfing the web can bring us more coolness.

But it’s also easy to get trapped. 

Here’s the thing: Technology is supposed to be a tool. A tool helps us do something better than we can do it ourselves.  If we’re going to work and live in this world, we need to understand how to use it well.

Sometimes, it’s a tool for work.  Other times, it’s a tool for our personal lives.  It can also be a legitimate tool for entertainment and relaxation.

The problem comes when that tool gets in the way of other important things – like relationships.

We’ve all experienced it:

- Using phones or technology at the dinner table.

- Having more screen time than face time.

- Texting but never talking.

- Having to fight for someone’s attention, and they’re irritated that you’ve interrupted them.

- Being accessible to one’s employer 24/7.

- Keeping your phone next to your bed, and checking it when you’re awake for a couple of minutes in the night.

Phone sunsetSo, is it possible to become addicted to technology?

I don’t want to make technology the bad guy.  It can be a great guy.  But when it moves beyond being a tool, it’s time to evaluate.

If you want to see if you’re addicted, try turning your phone off during your lunch hour and see how you feel.  Try shutting it off when you come home at night for the whole evening and see what happens to your nerves.

A lot of people go through three stages with their technology:

1.   They use it a lot and it takes over their life.

2.   They realize it’s damaging their relationships, so they teach themselves to ignore it when other people are around. 

3.   Even though they’ve mastered #2, they turn to their technology anytime they’re alone and have a spare moment.

Sound familiar?  #3 is like a smoker who finds himself constantly reaching for a pack of cigarettes.  It becomes a default setting, where they do it without thinking.  They’re also doing it when no one is watching.

The solution? Well, that’s a tough one.  I don’t know if technology can be a full-fledged addiction.  But if it has those characteristics, it’s like any addiction.  It’s tough to just say, “OK, I won’t do it anymore.”

We’ll explore some options in the future.  But for now, here’s a goal to shoot for:

Our Goal is to always use technology as a conscious choice, not as a reflex.

Try being intentional today.  Every time you want to look at your technology, stop and ask yourself, “Why?” 

It’ll help you discover if you’re controlling your technology, or if your technology is controlling you.

A Case for Wrinkles

Mike Bechtle —  February 18, 2014 — 4 Comments

A young boy is watching his grandma at the bathroom sink, getting ready for the day.  “What’s that goop you’re putting on your face, Gramma?” he says.

“Wrinkle cream,” she replies.

“Wrinkle cream?”  He studies her face carefully in the mirror.  “Wow – that stuff really works.”

Probably not the perspective she was hoping for.  But it makes sense.  From a kid’s point of view, the only people they see using wrinkle cream are people with wrinkles.

As people age, their skin tends to . . . well, ‘relax.’  In a society that’s obsessed with looking young, that’s a problem.  Having wrinkles makes it obvious that we’re not as young as we used to be.  So people try to get rid of the wrinkles.

If we believe that people have less value as they get older, it makes sense to try to hang on to looking young.

But what if we saw those wrinkles accurately?  What if we focused on the truth about wrinkles?

Wrinkled dogWrinkles means someone has a lifetime of experience. 

It means they have stories to tell, if we’ll just listen. 

It means we could avoid a lot of pain by observing the path they’ve taken, the mistakes they’ve made and the wisdom they’ve gained.

That doesn’t mean they’re always right, or that we need to do exactly what they say. It just means they’ve walked the same road we’re on, and are a little further ahead.  They know the potholes and hazards they encountered, and are usually willing to point them out. 

We won’t follow exactly in their footsteps, because we’re not them. 

But we can learn from their journey.

Who do you know that has wrinkles?  What could they bring into your life?

Pick someone.  Sit with them.  Look them in the eyes and listen to their heart.

And if you’re the one with wrinkles – congratulations.  You have the opportunity to leave a legacy.

 

 

1. Look them in the eyes, and don’t rush to lose eye contact.

2. Hand them your phone and ask them to turn it completely off for the day.  Tell them, “You’ve got my full attention, and you’re more important than anybody who might call.”

3. Hug them for no reason.  Often.

4. Tell them stories about when they were little (even if they still are).  Go through photo albums and tell how you fell in love with them.

5. Number a page from 1 to 10 and put it on the fridge.  Tell them, “I’m going to think of 10 things today that I really, really like about you.  Whenever I do, I’m going to write it on the list.”

6. Go to a pet store and pet the puppies.

7. Leave notes for them where they’ll find them all day long.

8. When they want to read “just one more book,” read two.

9. Let them hear you complement them to someone else.

10. Ask them to draw you a picture, then put it in a frame and hang it where everyone can see it (instead of putting it on the fridge with a magnet).  Tell them that once a month, you want a new one.

11. Say it – often, and with conviction. “I love you – and you can’t change that, no matter what.

Your kids are older or grown-up?  The ideas still apply.

Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Boycott Valentine’s Day?

Mike Bechtle —  February 11, 2014 — 5 Comments

I read the other day that for $10, you can have the Bronx Zoo name a cockroach after your loved one for Valentine’s Day.

(The scary thing is that I know about six guys who are reading this, thinking, “Finally – the perfect gift.”)

Here are a few other stats about the day:

  • Americans spend $1.6 billion on candy on Valentine’s Day.
  • The average amount spent on Valentine’s Day is about $131 per person (including dinner, gifts, etc.)
  • 62% of people gain 14 pounds after committing to a relationship.

ValentineMy wife is a huge fan of romance – but not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  It just feels so commercial, she says . . . and companies make a ton of money forcing people to participate.

It makes sense. Wouldn’t it be more romantic to do the same thing you do on Valentine’s Day, but on a random day of the year – just because you wanted to?

On Valentine’s Day, it’s expected.  On a different day, it’s a surprise – and a celebration.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to celebrate the day.  But what if we made it more low-key, and saved the bigger celebration for a “just because” day?

Make it a date that’s about just being together:

- Go to a Hallmark store and select perfect cards for each other.  Don’t buy them – just show them to each other, kiss, and put them back.

- Skip the fancy restaurants – they’re crowded and noisy.  Dress up and go to your favorite fast-food place and sit in the corner and talk.

- Buy frozen yogurt and sit in your car to eat it while listening to your favorite songs.

- Download a sappy movie for a couple of bucks on Amazon, and watch it on your laptop.  Make it something a little romantic and a little corny so you can laugh together.

- Go to the mall and hold hands.  Don’t buy anything – just dream.

- Write the love note you want to receive, have them sign it and give it back to you.

Now, if you decide to try this, talk about it before Valentine’s Day.  If you try it and the other person is expecting the usual treatment, you probably won’t like the response.

But what’s the real purpose of Valentine’s Day? To be intentional about saying “I love you.”

You don’t have to boycott Valentine’s Day.  Just think beyond the routine and the expectations. 

Maybe you don’t have a valentine – or the one you have isn’t sensitive enough to do anything at all.  You’re just happy that there’s one day when they’re forced to remember romance.

That’s realistic. 

All the more reason to ignore the commercialism of the day, and be intentional about our real relationships. 

Love isn’t primarily something you feel; it’s something you do.

Let’s do it – whatever it looks like for you.

Most things of value take a lot of work.

First, we have to decide to do something.  Changing our mind takes a lot of work.

Then, we have to start.  Overcoming inertia takes a lot of work.

Then, we’re motivated. We’re starting to see some progress, and it’s exciting.

But then it gets hard.  And boring.  And we don’t see as many results as we did in the beginning.  All we see is how much work it is, and how much further away the goal seems.

So we try to hang in there with willpower.  But it gets harder and harder.

When it gets hard, we look around to see if other people are having a hard time. 

But all we see is their results.  They’re doing better than us. They’re getting the results we want.

We get discouraged.  We feel like we’ll never get to our goal.

We want to give up.  It’s not fair that we have to work so hard, and other people are already where we want to be.

So we spiral downward.  And we give up.

Again.

Here’s the problem:

goldfishWe’re comparing our journey with their results.

We’re comparing our middle with their end.

We overlook the tough journey they went through to get those results. 

We’re comparing the back of the stage with the front of the stage.  We forget that when we’re watching an amazing stage production, there’s a lot of chaos going on behind the curtain.

Comparison is deadly – usually because we’re comparing the wrong things.

Are you feeling discouraged in your progress?  Does it feel like you’ll never reach your goal?  Is the journey just getting too hard?

Don’t compare the middle of your journey with the end of somebody else’s journey. 

They were exactly where you are while they worked toward their goal.  They felt the pain, the discouragement, the frustration.  They wanted to give up.

But they didn’t give up.  That’s why they reached their goal.

Don’t give up. 

Don’t compare.

Hang in there.

You’ll get there if you keep moving.  And when you do, you’ll be able to compare success with others – because you both remember the journey.

 

So, what’s the next small step that will move you ahead in your journey today?

 

A friend told me about teaching his teenage son to drive.  He said, “For some reason, he had trouble staying in the middle of the lane.  He was always veering over to the right.  Even when we reminded him, it’s like he just couldn’t figure it out.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, I was talking to a friend who had experience as a driving instructor. He said that it’s a common problem with kids when they’re first learning.  They’re not looking far enough ahead.  When they’re barely looking past the hood, they’re trying to stay in the center of the lane – but they’re too focused on that close-up view.”

“Try telling him to look further ahead, so he’s focusing on where he’s heading, not where he is.”

It worked. Once his son got the long-term view, it automatically took care of the present problem.

Kind of like life.

Weaving carIt’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that’s going on directly in front of us.  Our to-do list is pages long, our family has last minute needs and our work goes from crisis to crisis. But it can cause us to drift off course without even realizing it.

We need good tools and techniques to manage all the urgent things in our lives. 

But we can’t forget to look ahead.  Regularly.

If we lose sight of where we’re headed, we’ll constantly get distracted from getting there.

And we’ll end up somewhere else – wondering why we’re spinning our wheels and never making any real progress.

Know where you’re going.

Remind yourself where you’re going.

Focus on where you’re going.

Then step on the gas, and move forward.

You’ll find yourself in the center of your lane – and making progress toward your destination.

 

How long has it been since you looked ahead?

People Can't Drive You CrazyGood morning!

Just wanted you to know that Amazon and Barnes & Noble are offering “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys” for $1.99 from now through Saturday, February 8.  If you haven’t picked it up yet, or know someone you think could find it helpful, here’s your chance.  You could also send this to the crazy person in your life, hoping they’ll get the hint.  (But if you receive the same from them, you’ll know who their crazy person is . . . )

Bottom line: It’s about how to keep from being a victim of other people who are hijacking your emotions and driving you crazy. It’s possible — and this book provides the blueprint for getting back in control, no matter what others do.

 

To order from Amazon, click here.

To order from Barnes & Noble, click here.

It’s nice when these offers come along, which is why I want to make sure you know when they happen.  Enjoy!

Mike

(BTW – A number of people have been asking if it’s available as an audio book.  It’s not part of this discount, but you can find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble – if you’d prefer to have me talk your ear off instead of reading it.)

 

If a piece of trash appears on the floor in a room that’s usually spotless, we notice it right away.

If a piece of trash appears on the floor in a room that’s usually messy, we don’t see it.

That happens in relationships, too.

Wad of trashIt’s easy to focus on the things our family members, friends and co-workers do that drives us crazy.  But when we do that, we’re not seeing them accurately.  That thing that bugs us doesn’t define them; it’s not who they are.

That’s why it bugs us so much when the people we value mess up, because it’s out or character.  But when it comes from one of the messed-up people whose lives are always attracting drama, we expect it.

When somebody bugs you today, put it in perspective.  If it’s someone that’s important to you, it’s probably a piece of trash in a clean room.

Don’t lose perspective.

Don’t focus on the trash.

See it for what it is – a speed bump in your journey with that person.

It’s called, “Giving them grace.”

How To Steal $80,000

Mike Bechtle —  January 28, 2014 — 1 Comment

Several years ago, I did some consulting for a large metropolitan gas utility.  We were talking about how tiny, little choices lead to huge results.

It didn’t take long for this group to get the concept, because they had just gone through a real-life example in their own company.

Once upon a time, there was a computer guy in the IT department.  His job was behind the scenes, working with software and writing programs. In fact it was so behind the scenes, nobody ever thought to check up on what he was doing.

He wasn’t really a dishonest person – just unappreciated.  That led to him feeling like a cog in a wheel – just doing a job that nobody noticed.

One of the programs he developed took the payments that were sent in by residents of the area and applied them to their accounts.

But he noticed that when the billing was done, the exact charges often ended with a fraction of a penny (rather than a whole number).  So if the calculations said that they owed $38.45-1/2 cents, the computer rounded it up to 46 cents.  So, the company got an extra half-cent on the bills of hundreds of thousands of customers each month.

That didn’t seem fair.  Why should the gas company get the profit instead of the public?

Pile of penniesSo he tweaked the program so that instead of the company getting that fraction of a cent, it would be diverted into a hidden account that only he had access to.  The money was now his.

The company got exactly what they should from the customer, so he rationalized that he wasn’t stealing from the company.  The customers never asked for their fraction of a cent, so there was no sense giving it to them. The program pretty much ran itself, and there were no safeguards to keep it from happening.

It was foolproof.  Nobody could find out, since he was in charge of the program.

The mistake he made was bragging about it to a trusted friend, who in turn reported him.

I don’t know how long he carried out his project.  But at the time of his arrest, his hidden account was valued at $80,000.

I think there’s a lot we can learn from that (other than not stealing from the gas company):

- Tiny choices, repeated often, yield huge results.

- Bad little choices turn into bad big habits.

- Good little choices turn into good big habits.

- Want to accomplish something huge? Take tiny steps and never stop.

- Want to avoid major pain in your life? Tiny choices count, so choose wisely with each one.

We are what we do repeatedly and over time.

Every choice counts.

Every day.

What choices will you make today that will shape your future?

A Screwdriver as Art

Mike Bechtle —  January 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

My father-in-law is a master woodturner. 

I use that term carefully, because a lot of people call themselves an expert.  But the proof is in the results.

For as long as I can remember, he has been working with wood.  Everyone in the family has multiple pieces of furniture that he designed and handcrafted.  It’s his way of demonstrating his love for us, and those pieces are a constant reminder of his involvement in our lives.

I don’t remember exactly when he bought his first woodturning lathe.  But when he learned to turn wood, he found his sweet spot.

Over the next few years, he studied and practiced his craft.  His specialty is “segmented bowls,” where small pieces of exotic wood are cut at precise angles and glued together, resulting in showcase-quality designs.

It’s always rewarding to go into high-end craft stores where similar bowls sell for a small fortune – and realize that they’re not as good as his.

He doesn’t believe they’re worth that much.  But he doesn’t worry about whether other people think his projects are good or bad (they’re good).  He just enjoys the process, and makes things to bring joy to those around him.

screwdriverSeveral years ago, he turned a screwdriver for each of his sons-in-law.  He even made a custom case to store it in.

It was awesome.

So awesome, that I didn’t use it. 

I kept it in the case, because it was too nice to use.  I was afraid of scratching it or damaging it.  Whenever I needed a screwdriver, I grabbed one of my cheap plastic ones to do the job.

One day, I misplaced my cheap ones.  Not knowing what to do, I remembered my museum piece.  I thought, “I’ll just use it once, and be really careful.”

I was blown away.

It fit my hand in a way that gave me leverage I had never experienced.  It was comfortable.  It had a more solid grip on screws than and tool I had ever used.

It worked.  It was incredible.

And I’ve been using it ever since.

The finish might not be quite as perfect as it was originally.  But my father-in-law didn’t make it for us to look at.

He made it to use.

The best part? When I’m using it, there’s a constant reminder of the way he has invested in our lives.  He uses his gifts to build into people.

I see a simple application. 

We all have gifts and skills.  It’s easy to look for other people to tell us if what we do is “good” or not.  We’re looking for their affirmation, comparing ourselves with others.

But “good” is subjective.  It’s better to strive for “effective.”  Then it doesn’t matter what others think.  It matters if it makes a difference.

My screwdriver is effective.  It works.

And it’s also good – a piece of art.

If we worry about what others think of our unique contribution, we might never make that contribution.

What could you do if you weren’t worried about what others thought?

 

It’s easy to live in yesterday.

- Someone was mean to us.

- We made a bad choice.

- Something unfortunate happened.

- We hurt someone.

- We lost.

regretsToday is new.  Today will take our full energy to live it well.  If we put today’s energy into what happened yesterday, it will rob us of what we need for today.

We need to let it go.

It’s time to walk away from yesterday.

If someone hurt us yesterday, we need to leave it in yesterday – and choose how we’re going to respond today.

If we made a bad choice yesterday, we can acknowledge it – and make better choices today.

If something unfortunate happened yesterday, we accept the reality today and move forward.

If we hurt someone yesterday, we apologize today.

If we lost yesterday, we grieve the loss.  But we put one foot in front of the other today.

We can’t turn back time.  We can’t change what has happened.  We can make new choices about it, but we can’t change it.

We need all of today’s energy for today’s challenges.

It’s time to walk away from yesterday.

It’s time to let it go.

Ready for a new day?  Let’s go . . .

Kids get punished for a lot of different things.  But lying tends to be universal. 

Almost every parent wants their kids to be truthful.  “If you lie, people won’t trust you,” they say.

It’s true.  Healthy adult relationships are built on trust.  If someone lies to us and we find out, it damages the relationship and trust goes out the window. 

But what about lying to ourselves?  Do we break trust with ourselves when we’re dishonest with ourselves?

I’m not trying to get all ‘Tony Robbins’ here.  But I think the words we use can keep us from trusting ourselves.  We can get “stuck.”

I’ve been thinking about how I talk to myself, wondering if it’s honest.  In the process, I’ve landed on three words (or phrases) that might be worth reconsidering: 

I can’t

I’m not talking about things that are physically impossible, like jumping 50 feet in the air or going for a year without sleep. 

But when we say “I can’t,” it often means “it’s hard.”  It ends the discussion and keeps us from exploring options. 

If we say, “I can’t lose weight,” we really mean, “It’s hard to lose weight.”

That’s honest.

Better: “I want to lose weight, and I know it’s hard.  But if I decide to, I could explore the possibilities, get help and find a way to do it.”

If we say, “I can’t run a half-marathon,” we really mean, “It would be hard to run a half-marathon.”  Saying “I can’t” keeps us on the couch.

I have to

This one is subtle, but puts us in the “victim” mentality.  It means, “I don’t have a choice.  Somebody else is forcing me to do something.”

But we do have a choice.  We can always choose what we do.  We just can’t choose the consequences of those choices.

“I have to go to work.”  Not really.  I can choose to stay home.  But if I do, I might lose my job.  That’s a consequence I don’t want, so I choose to go to work.” 

“I have to go to the dentist.”  Not really.  But if I don’t go, there might be long-term consequences.  I don’t like those consequences, so I choose to go to the dentist.

“I have to eat better.”  Not really.  I can choose to eat dessert all the time.  But if I don’t eat better, it will affect a lot of things in my life – so I choose to eat better.

Instead of “I have to,” it’s better to say “I’m going to” or “I choose to.”  It means I take responsibility for my choices, and accept the outcomes.

Try

We don’t know how successful we’ll be when we attempt something new.  But when we say, “I’ll try,” it gives us an easy out when things get tough. 

I’m not sure about this one.  But I’m thinking it would be better to say, “I will” or “I won’t” instead of “I’ll try.”  Making a commitment usually gets better results than poking around at possibilities.

As the great philosopher Yoda said:

“Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”

So I’m just exploring the words we use with ourselves.  I want to be careful of casual words that might sabotage my potential.

I want to build trust with myself.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Most people don’t value the elderly as much as other cultures.  We’re too busy trying to make ends meet and get ahead, so we don’t have (or take) the time to glean the richness that comes from those who have lived a lot longer.

That’s unfortunate.  Older people are filled with life experiences. They’ve been where we want to go, and know the route and the potholes to avoid.  If we don’t ask, we miss out.

We end up making avoidable mistakes.

Several publications have interviewed people that have made it to 100, then captured their advice.  Here are some gems:

Happy old“Don’t look at the calendar.  Just keep celebrating every day.”

“Vitamins? Forget it. And I don’t encourage going to a lot of doctors, either.” (said by a doctor)

“Make time to cry.”

“Travel – don’t worry about the money, just make it work.  Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.”

“Do one thing each day that is just for you.”

“Choose the right parents.”

“I drink the faucet water.”

“Be satisfied.  You don’t have to be happy all the time, you need to be satisfied.”

“Love people. Find something to like about the person – it’s there – because we’re all just people.”

“Don’t give up and die just because you feel like it.”

“Be positive.  When you think negatively, you’re putting poison on your body.”

“There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65.”

“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure . . . I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”

“Take the stairs and carry your own stuff.”

“Find a role model and strive to achieve more than they could ever do.”

“Pay off your mortgage.  Then never get into debt again. Ever.”

“Listen. You learn a lot more listening to others than telling them what you know.”

“Never run out of responsibility.”

Next time you’re with an older person, slow down and listen.  Make eye contact.  Hear their heart – it might change yours.

Good advice? Comment below . . .

 

When Michael Jordan was at the top of his basketball career, every young boy in America wanted to “be like Mike.”  They would practice his shots, floating down driveways across the country to make the classic dunk shot seemed so effortless.

It’s a great way to start.  Whenever we learn something new, it’s good to watch somebody who’s doing it and learn the basics.

But at some point, it becomes a detriment.

Only one person in the world can play like Michael Jordan:

Michael Jordan.

Only one person in the world can be you:

You.

MJShaquille O’Neill never tried to play basketball like Michael Jordan.  If he did, he would have failed.  He needed to be the best Shaq he could be.  If he tried to copy anybody else, he would rob the world of the unique contribution that only he could make.

That’s true for you as well.

There’s only one of you. 

Anytime you compare your skill, talent, personality, looks or technique with someone else, you tend to end up on the losing end.  You watch somebody’s success and assume that if you’re going to be successful, you need to do it like them.

Stop it.

It’s the key to failure and frustration.

John Ortberg, author of “The Me I Want To Be,” says that we do ourselves and others a disservice when we try to be like someone else.  He suggests the need to become “youier” – more like ourselves and less like others.

As John Mason said, “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.”

You are a gift to the rest of us – just the way you are. 

Originals have more value than copies.

So do you.

partyOn January 1, many people make New Year’s resolutions.  They set long-range goals and say, “I’ll work like crazy to achieve these goals, and then I’ll celebrate.”

At the beginning, we’re motivated. But we run out of steam when things get hard – or tedious – or boring. Things take longer than we expect, require more energy, and have more unexpected problems. The celebration is so far away that it doesn’t keep us going, so we give up.

We need quicker celebrations.

Celebrations give us something to look forward to. They provide the fuel to keep going.

If we only have a reward at the end, it’s like only eating breakfast and expecting that one meal to last all day. We need regular refueling to stay energized, so we eat several times a day.

Without regular rewards, we sabotage our efforts to achieve our goals. 

Want to increase your chance of achieving your big goals? Try this:

  1. Set a clearly defined long-range goal – maybe for this time next year. Define:

Where you are now.

Where you want to be.

The exact date you want to be there.

  1. Determine the value of accomplishing the goal.   

Why do you want to achieve it?

  1. Decide what you’ll do to celebrate at the end.  

Make it big. Make it specific. Make it motivating.

  1. Decide where you need to be in 30 days to reach your long-range goal – then plan an appropriate reward.
  1. Decide where you need to be in 7 days to reach your 30-day goal – then plan an appropriate reward.
  1. Decide where you need to be at the end of today to reach your 7-day goal – then plan an appropriate reward.

Don’t take any reward until you complete that step – but be sure to take it. Those small rewards provide the fuel for big results.

Plan a big celebration when you reach your goal.

But plan little parties along the way.

Those little parties could make the difference in reaching your goal.

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