How You Can Change the Nation in 4 Years

The US Presidential election is over.

There are millions of people who are extremely happy.

There are millions of people who are extremely discouraged.

This country was founded on the right to think and feel differently.  That means it’s OK to disagree with each other.  “Free speech” in a democracy has always allowed people to hold different opinions without forcing them to change their perspectives.

But that’s changed.

We’ve come to a place where there are only two options for dealing with people we disagree with:

  • We’re afraid of them.
  • We hate them.

We’ve lost that ability to still have healthy relationships with people who we disagree with.  We’ve lost honest dialog and conversation.  We’re talking more and listening less.

We’ve stopped loving.

Today, we begin a new season for our country.  It’s more divided than it’s ever been.  Tolerance is no longer about people thinking differently; it’s become about people villainizing others that they disagree with.  It’s magnified in the media, as divisiveness is seen as the new normal.

It’s easy to feel hopeless: “What difference can I make?  I’m only one person.”

But that’s the only way change ever takes place – when individuals start making different choices.

Want the next four years to look different?  It can . . . and it starts with individuals.

It starts with you. And me.

What if we found someone we strongly disagreed with on some major issue, and took them out for coffee?  Not to change their mind, but simply to have human moments with another traveler?

What if we looked at their heart instead of their opinions?

What if we saw them as someone with God-given value, instead of a project to argue into submission?

What if we just cared about them – period?

If we do it with one person, it can change that relationship.  When it does, it gives us both permission to try it with others.

It can spread – one relationship at a time.

Society isn’t changed by angry demonstrations where people try to out-shout each other.  It’s changed when we treat others in the exact way we would like to be treated.

It’s called the Golden Rule.  And it’s been around for a really long time, because it works.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He wasn’t kidding.

Try it with one person on the “other side” of your perspective.  Just one.  Listen to them, love on them, and enjoy them in spite of their position. Agree to disagree, because the relationship is more important than the issue.

It’s the way for us – as individuals – to make a serious difference in society over the next four years, no matter what happens in Washington.


Share this with your “tribe.”  Try it yourself, then come back here and share the results.

Don’t Let Your Crazy Person Ruin Your Holidays

Who irritates you the most?

Don’t overthink this . . . but who’s the first person that pops onto your radar that makes you frown instead of smile? I’m not thinking of public figures or politicians that drive you crazy (that’s another blog post). This is someone you know personally:

  • An overbearing friend.
  • An extended family member that you’ll see at a holiday meal.
  • A boss or co-worker that drains the energy out of you.
  • Your teenager who seems to be in the “pre-people” stage of development.
  • Your spouse – who changed since your married them.

Got them in mind?

OK – how do you feel when you think about them? If it’s negative, you might have given them control over your emotions. They can’t ruin your life unless you let them.

We have the ability to choose our how we respond in any situation. It just seems tougher when we see them often, like barnacles attached to the hull of an ocean liner.  We feel like there’s no escape from their craziness.

So how can you begin taking control? Here’s one simple place to start, and you can do it today:

  1. Write down the five things that bug you most about them. Seriously – write them down.
  2. Ask yourself if you can change those things. Probably not. It’s hard enough to change ourselves, much less someone else.
  3. Now write down five strengths that person has – things you’d be grateful for if the negatives weren’t there.

Those things that irritate us might be accurate. But focusing only on those things gives us a lopsided view of another person.

The best people have faults, and the worst people have strengths.

We need to see both.

stainsFocusing on the negatives is like seeing dark stains on a white sheet. When we focus on the stains, we don’t even notice the rest of the sheet.  The stains are real, but so is the sheet.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore the negatives.

But they lose some of their power when we see the whole person, not just their issues.

Will this solve the problem? Probably not.  But it can give us perspective.

Try it before they show up during holiday celebrations.

You might just feel a little more in control – and you won’t have someone else ruin your holidays.


How do you keep your sanity when others try to steal it from you?  Share below in comments . . .

Why Negative is Stronger than Positive

(and what to do about it)

A couple of weeks ago, I was in my surgeon’s office for my post-op visit (it’s been a month since I went under the knife).

After hearing the “all clear” pathology report and getting staples out, I asked the good doctor a question:

“So, do you ever take it for granted that when you perform surgery on someone, and it goes well – you get the cancer out – that you’re actually saving people’s lives?”

Long pause.

“That’s a really kind question – and a good reminder,” he said. “Yes, I guess I do take it for granted.  Usually, I’m just thinking about how amazing it is that I get to do this job that I love so much, and people actually pay me to do it.”

“I know,” I said. “I got your bill.”

He continued: “But you know, what really sticks with me are the ones that don’t go well, and I know the patient isn’t going to make it. Those keep me up at night.”

Why is it that we focus so easily on the negative, but we take the positive for granted?

When I was researching for my latest upcoming book, I ran across some interesting data from neuroscience:

Our brains are wired toward the negative, not the positive. We’re naturally drawn to it.  Avoiding pain is a stronger motivator than seeking pleasure.

Someone said, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”

Here’s an example:

Whenever I’ve taught seminars, participants fill out an evaluation form at the end of the day. I might have 50 people in a room, and 49 of them give scores of “9” or “10.”

One person marks a score of “4.”

I’m depressed. I lay awake thinking, “I got a 4.  Why did I get a 4?  I need a different career.  I’m not cut out for this.”

One out of 49, but my whole focus goes there.

Here’s what happens inside our brains:

  • When we hear bad news, it takes 3-4 seconds for it to go into our long-term memory.
  • When we hear good news, it takes 12 seconds before it drops into our long-term memory. If we get distracted before the 12 seconds is up, it doesn’t go in at all.

happiness-1What’s it all mean?

If we’re not intentional about focusing on the good things in our lives, we’ll automatically focus on the bad things.

Think back over the last 24 hours. Has your mind been filled with the things that are going wrong in your world?  Or the things that are going right?

Now look at the upcoming 24 hours. What if you were intentional about focusing on the positive things – instead of taking them for granted?  You wouldn’t be ignoring the negatives – just keeping them in balance.

There’s an old hymn that says, “Count your blessings – name them one by one.”

Grab a sheet of paper or pull up a new note on your tablet. Start listing the positives that are present in your life.  Make it your goal to fill the sheet before the end of the day.

Your brain will fight you on this. But you don’t have to give in.

Don’t take your blessings for granted.

We can change our focus – 12 seconds at a time.


What’s positive in your life?  Share in comments (below) . . .

Don’t Forget to Remember

When Diane and I first got married, we didn’t have a lot of money. We lived in a tiny house in Redondo Beach, California.

Tiny, meaning 450 square feet. That was it.  It’s what we could afford.

It was a fixer-upper, and we saved rent by agreeing to do some repairs and restoration ourselves. We worked together to put in a lawn, paint the house and install flower beds and plants.

It was a lot of work, but we didn’t care. We were in L-O-V-E, and we did it together.

The house was only a few blocks from the beach, so we’d often walk down there in the evenings. It didn’t cost anything, and we could just hold hands and talk.  We couldn’t afford to go to the movies or out to dinner often – but that was OK.

We were just grateful to be together.

CansFor our wedding, someone had given us several large, heavy boxes for a gift. When we opened them, they were filled with dozens of cans of food – but someone had taken all the labels off.  “What a clever gift,” we said.  We laughed because it was so random.

We tucked those cans away in the top shelf of our kitchen cupboard, wondering what we would ever do with them. At least up there, they were out of the way.

But in that first year or so of marriage, there were more than a few times when we ran out of money and the refrigerator was empty. So we would select three cans, shaking them to guess what was inside.  We would set them on the table with a can opener, and say grace over them – thanking God for our meal.

Then we opened them.

It wasn’t unusual to have a meal of canned peaches, beans and olives.

I don’t think we would ever go to a restaurant and order that combination. But we always remember those meals – not because of the randomness of the food, but because of the gratefulness we felt for provision.  It was there when we needed it, and we never took it for granted.

Next week, we’ll celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary.  There have been ups and downs in every area of life – but we’ve worked hard to stay grateful.

All of the cans in our cupboards have labels today. When we plan a meal, we know exactly what’s coming.  There’s something comforting about that.

But it’s not nearly as exciting.     

At the beginning of a relationship, most people have more time than stuff.

Later in a relationship, most people have more stuff than time.

Stuff isn’t bad. But it’s easy to take it for granted when we have a lot of it.

Time is good, because it’s where we live. But it’s easy to let time get crowded out by stuff.

Maybe it’s good to think back to the beginning.

  • What was your relationship like when you had more time than stuff?
  • How is it different now?
  • What choices could you make to find more time in your relationship?
  • How can you become as grateful for the present as you were for the past?

Now, there’s a dinner topic . . .

Imperfect Gratefulness

When I arrive at a hotel in the morning, the meeting room is usually set up and ready to go.  Tables are in place and covered, audio-visual is set, chairs are arranged and coffee is brewing in the corner.  A crew has come early in the morning to make it all happen.

Then they disappear.

Those people are trained to be invisible – to work in the background.

That’s unfortunate, because they can make or break an event.  The amazing work they do means I don’t have to worry about that stuff.  If my seminar goes well, their fingerprints are all over it.

Once in a while I run into one of them, and make it a point to express my gratefulness.  We often speak different languages, but that’s OK.  We just make a human connection, and they know they’re appreciated.

A few weeks ago, it went the other way.  I got a message from the invisible.

When I arrived at the casino hotel where I was training their staff in Tucson, the room was set up perfectly.  But someone had written a message on a flip chart at the front of the room.  It simply said:

Well Come Guess

Flip chart

At first, I thought someone had forgotten to tear off that sheet from a previous session.  But after a few minutes, I realized that it was a message to me from one of those invisible workers.  He/she wanted to express their appreciation for my using their meeting room, and felt the need to simply say “Hi.”

It was a Native American casino, and provided some of the best customer service I’ve ever encountered.  This worker didn’t care that their message might not be in the best English.  They just felt the need to express their gratefulness and leave a greeting anyway.

I finally realized what the message was intended to say:

Welcome, Guest!

When I pointed it out to the manager of that team, she smiled and nodded.   “That’s typical,” she said.  “They’re so excited to serve people that sometimes, they just can’t help themselves.  They’re grateful you’ve given them the chance to serve, and it just leaks out.”

What a great reminder.  My tendency is to make sure that I do things perfectly, and express myself to someone with exactly the right words.  If I can’t do that, I just skip it. I figure it’s a little thing, and it really doesn’t matter that much.

It does.  To them.

But if I keep gratefulness inside, it never helps anybody.  I need to learn to put spoken gratefulness over perfection.

The most imperfect connection is better than the unspoken one every time.

Who can you express gratitude to today?

10 Simple Ways to Make Today a Good Day

1. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier, or rise 15 minutes later. (Most of us need more sleep than we get.)

2. Send a text to a friend you don’t see often. (Say, “I thought of you today.”)

3. Eat an apple. (Your body will thank you.)

smiling coffee4. List 5 positive traits about a person who drives you crazy today. (Put it in writing.)

5. Download an old song you love and listen to it. (Do it for sheer enjoyment.)

6. Drive the speed limit. (You’ll enjoy the stress-free drive if you’re not in a hurry.)

7. Skip TV for this one day. (Reading is a dandy substitute.)

8. Pet an animal. (You might have to borrow one.)

9. Stare out the window for 5 minutes – twice. (Think through your blessings.)

10. Give someone you care about the gift of eye contact. (Listen carefully without distraction.)


Do it for just one day. See how it feels. Try it again next week.

Simple steps can make a significant difference.

Which are Better – Morning People or Night People?

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

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.


A Case for Wrinkles

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.



The Problem with Comparison

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.


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?


Walk Away From Yesterday

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 . . .

Advice From 100-Year Olds

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 . . .


A Simple Way To Keep Perspective on Thanksgiving

Millions of blogs are written every day, about millions of topics, and read by millions of people.

I wonder how many of them will talk about being thankful today.

It makes sense, because blog writers tend to write about what’s on their mind at the moment.  And today, it’s Thanksgiving.

I’ve been thinking about that leading up to this post.  What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?

Nothing.  There are really no new ideas – just new perspectives (because each writer is unique).

So, here’s my perspective on thankfulness today:

It’s all about people.

SnoopyWhen someone does something for us, we say “Thank you.”  We teach our kids to do that.  It’s polite.  And if done with intention, it’s meaningful.

It says, “Somebody thought about me, and did something for me.  They didn’t have to, but they did.  They cared.” 

When that happens, we’re thankful – and we express it.

We don’t say “thank you” to inanimate objects.

When a cool breeze blows, we don’t say, “Thank you, wind.”

When we find our car keys after a lengthy search, we don’t say, “Thank you, keys.”

When we discover a deposit in our bank account that we forgot to enter, we don’t say, “Thank you, Wells Fargo.”

We thank people.

The opposite of thankfulness isn’t ungratefulness.  It’s selfishness.  It says, “I don’t need anybody else.  I can live life on my own.”  It devalues the role of other people in our lives.

We value independence in our society.  We don’t want to depend on others.  As a toddler says, “I want to do it by myself.”

So we do it by ourselves.

And we live lonely lives.

Independence is actually a good thing, where we have the ability to make healthy choices in life.  But when it turns into selfishness, it gets in the way of relationships and sucks the life out of us.

Thankfulness is all about people.  It turns independence into interdependence.

Today is Thanksgiving.  Here’s a simple exercise to keep today in perspective:

  • If you’re celebrating with family or friends, pick one person to focus on today – someone you often take for granted.  Think of one thing about them that you’re grateful for, then tell them – and say “thank you.”


  • If you’re alone today, pick one person to focus on that you tend to take for granted.  It might be a friend or family member, or it could be a delivery person, restaurant server or someone you pass on the street occasionally.  Think of something about them that you’re grateful for, then find a way to let them know.  Maybe seek them out, or make a quick call, or hand-write a letter or invite them to go on a walk.  Then, say “Thank you.”

That’s it.  One person.  Be intentional about it, and be creative.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Just find a way to express thanks to them, in the simplest way.

It could change their entire day, and maybe their life.

It will definitely change yours.

Today, I’m grateful for you.  I don’t take it lightly that you wander on this journey with me a couple of times a week.  You’re good company, and you keep the journey from being lonely.

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What You Don’t Know Can Lead to Success

 It’s time for vacation. So for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to re-post a few of my own favorites from the past.  I’ll pull them from the early days, when not many current readers had subscribed — so there’s a good chance it’ll be new when you read it.  Enjoy!


What if you didn’t know your limitations?

Cliff Young marathonCliff Young was a potato farmer in Australia.  That’s all he had ever done his whole life.  He worked the family farm, which was huge – about 2000 acres.  They also had about 2000 sheep on the farm.

His main job growing up was to herd the sheep.  Since they didn’t have sheepdogs, he had to do it himself.  So he would round up the sheep on foot – running – because it was just the easiest way.

Sometimes he ran constantly from dawn until dusk to get the job done.  On a number of occasions, he ran for 24 hours – all night long – to prove to himself that he could do it.

He knew he was good at running. It was in his blood. But one day, he heard about a race taking place in his area. It was called an UltraMarathon, which covered 544 miles from Sydney to Melbourne.

He knew he could cover the distance, but he was really slow, and had an unusual way of running – almost loping or limping.  He had never even seen a professional race – but decided to try anyway.

The good news?  There were only 6 other participants in the race – but people who had been racing for years.

The bad news? He was 61 years old – decades older than the others.

On the day of the race, he showed up wearing overalls and rubber boots.  Everyone made fun of him.  But that’s what he had always worn to run, and that’s how he would run this race.

After the starting gun, he was immediately in last place.  But he managed to keep the other runners in sight.  As the first day progressed, they pulled away and he found himself running alone.

Jump to the finish line.  Five days, 15 hours and 4 minutes after he started, he finally crossed the finish line.  He was sure he was in last place.

But he was wrong.

He came in first place.  And he beat the other runners by two full days.

Later, he found out why.  Since he didn’t know anything about racing, he didn’t know you were supposed to stop and sleep at night.  So he kept running with that slow pace and awkward gait – and unknowingly shuffled past his faster, younger competitors — while they were sleeping.


What would happen if we took our life challenges, watched how other people handled the same challenges — and did the opposite?

Speaker Jim Rohn used to say that we should find someone who had great success — but blew it.  Then offer them cash and say, “Here’s some money.  Please teach me everything you did to mess up your life so I can avoid doing it.”

I like that.

Watching others could be a great resource for moving in some real positive directions.

  • Everybody has areas in life that they struggle with, and they’re not finding success.  What if we did the opposite?
  • Everybody has dreams, but many have given up because those dreams seem too hard.  What if we did the opposite?
  • Everybody has a challenging relationship that’s important to them, but avoid communication.  What if we took the risk and did the opposite?

Here’s my thinking:

If we do what most people do, we’ll get the results that most people get.

If we do the opposite of what most people do, we might get the opposite of what most people get.

The late motivational speaker Earl Nightingale said, “If you want to be successful in life, simply watch what most people would do in a given situation, and then do the total opposite.  Nine times out of ten, you’ll receive greater rewards.”

Hmmm . . .

I’d love to know your thoughts.  How about if we try it for a couple of days — doing the opposite — and see how it goes?  Then we can bounce it around in the comments section, and learn from each other.  Send this to friends to get their input, too.

Why Weeds Grow Better Than Flowers

There’s something about gardening that’s good for the soul.

It’s one of those things where we participate in the process, but can’t force the results. 

We plant the seeds, provide the water and nutrients, trim, prune and protect.  We provide the right conditions.

But the plant does the growing.

Somebody said, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.”

If we’re good at our part, we have a “green thumb” (because everything turns green).  If we’re not very good, we have a “brown thumb” (because everything turns brown).

I’m a little of both.

Over the years, I’ve had some success with a few plants.  A lot of others, not so much.

But there’s one thing I’m really good at growing:


I must have a green thumb, because they grow so well.  Evidently, I’m providing just the right amount of water and nutrients and putting in just the right amount of effort, because my weeds grow fast and multiply like crazy.  They’re full; they’re lush; they’re healthy.

My daughter sent me this definition of a weed (I’m a little uncertain what prompted her to look it up . . . )

Weed: A plant that is not valued where it is growing, and is usually of vigorous growth.

That got me thinking. 

A weed is a plant, just like any other plant.  It grows “vigorously,” which is just what we want plants to do.

It’s just in the wrong place.

If we’ve worked hard to have a perfectly-manicured green lawn, we wouldn’t want flowers growing in the middle of the yard.  Flowers are beautiful, and they might grow vigorously.  But they belong in a flower bed.

In the lawn, those flowers would be considered weeds.  They’d be in the wrong place.

If grass was growing in our flower beds, it would be considered a weed, too.  It’s in the wrong place.

We plant our yards with things that surround us with beauty and symmetry.  We select our plants carefully, choosing the ones that are appealing to us, and ignoring the ones we dislike.

Weeds are plants that aren’t appealing to us, and they show up where we don’t want them to.  And they grow vigorously. 

It’s the context that determines whether they’re flowers or weeds.

Green hillsWhen we drive through the hills near our house in the spring, they’re vibrant green.  We’re speechless at the beauty.  But when we stop and hike through those hills, we realize why:

They’re covered with weeds.  The same weeds we work so hard to get out of our gardens and lawns.

But those weeds are exactly where they need to be, serving a critical purpose: they’re preventing erosion, keeping the topsoil from washing away.

Is there a life lesson?  Not much – it’s more of an observation. I don’t want to take everything I find interesting and force it into a teaching point.

Sometimes it’s just nice to notice. 

Today, I’m noticing weeds.  And appreciating them.

I appreciate them when they’re busy holding the hills up.

If they show up in my garden, they’re toast.



Why We Need Our Comfort Zones

Water doesn’t work very hard.

It always follows the path of least resistance.

Raindrops hold hands with other raindrops, and seek out the lowest level possible.  When there’s a rock or tree in the way, they go around it.  They never try to resist. They do what all the other raindrops do:

They conform.

Pour water into a glass, the water takes the shape of the glass.  Fill a barrel, you have barrel-shaped water.  In your hand, it’s exactly shaped like your hand.

Water doesn’t take initiative to do anything different.

Mountain StreamI think we’re a lot like water.

It’s natural to take the course of least resistance. When we’re comfortable, we don’t move ahead. Moving ahead takes effort.  We prefer comfort over effort.

We take the shape of our environment.

Comfort isn’t all bad.  There’s a definite place for being at rest.  Exercise, for instance, takes us out of our comfort zone for a while.  But we follow exercise with rest in order to recover, recharge and grow.

Comfort isn’t a destination; it’s a rest stop on a journey.

It’s a great place to visit.  It’s a crummy place to live.


Because we were meant for more than comfort. We were meant to make a difference – to make a unique contribution that nobody else can make.

If we choose comfort over impact, we rob our world of that contribution.

Impact is an intentional choice.  Comfort is a default setting.

If we live for comfort, we take the shape of the world around us.

It’s better to shape the world, not be shaped by it. 

Want to really enjoy your comfort zone?

Make a difference.  Make an impact. Make a move.  Stretch.  Get better.  Get stronger.  Take risks for the sake of someone else.  Care enough to change someone’s life.  Wear yourself out doing something that matters.

Then, like water, take the path of least resistance.  Rest.  Recover. Retreat.  Restore.  Renew.

And do it all over again.

You’ll love your comfort zone, because it prepares you to make a bigger difference than ever.

You’ll live your life on purpose instead of default.

Agree?  Leave a comment . . .

When Life Goes Badly

One day, a farmer’s old donkey fell into a well.  The donkey struggled for hours, but it was too deep.  There was no way out.

Trapped donkey

The farmer thought and thought and thought, but couldn’t find a way to rescue the old donkey.  There was no solution.

Since the donkey was old, and the well needed to be filled up anyway, he decided to just shovel dirt into the well and put the donkey out of its misery.

He invited his neighbors to help, and they all grabbed shovels and started throwing dirt into the well.  The donkey began to panic when he realized what was happening, but finally went quiet.

After a while, the farmer looked into the well.  He expected to see only dirt covering the donkey.

Trapped donkeyBut every time a shovel of dirt hit the donkey, he shook it off and stepped up on the new layer of dirt.  Over and over, he shook off the dirt and stepped up.

Soon the dirt reached the top of the well – and the donkey stepped up, over the edge and trotted off.

OK, it’s an old fable.  The first time I heard it, I was upset with the farmer for trying to bury his donkey alive.  The story breaks down in other ways as well.

But if I can overlook those details, there’s a good point in the story:

Life is like that.

We’re going to get hit with a lot of dirt.

It’s scary.  It’s painful.  It’s discouraging to know that circumstances – or even people – are trying to bury you.

The easy way out is to be a victim – to blame our circumstances for our misery.

The smart way out is to shake it off and step up.

Over and over again.

What’s the dirt in your life that threatens to bury you today?

What will happen if you don’t step up?

How can you use it to move forward — today?

Shake it off.  Step up.

You Don’t Have To Go To the Gym (or anywhere else)

John’s mother knocked on his door.  “John, it’s time for church.”

“I don’t want to go,” came the reply.

“You have to go to church today,” his mom said.

“I don’t want to go. It’s boring; I don’t like the people there; they don’t like me.

“John, there are two reasons you have to go to church.  First, you’re 47 years old.  Second, you’re the pastor.”

OK, old joke.  But I think that’s how a lot of people feel.  But it’s not just church we feel stuck with; it’s work, it’s the gym, it’s helping our child with their homework or visiting relatives.

I run into these people often in seminars.  They feel trapped in a job they don’t like because they need the money.  Or they hate exercise, but go to the gym because they have to.  Time spent with people feels like an unavoidable delay in their schedule.

I read a study this morning that said that about 80% of people surveyed would change jobs if they had the opportunity.

“I have to go to work” – “I have to go to the gym” – “I have to . . .”

Saying we “have” to do something means we don’t have a choice.  We’re at the mercy of someone else’s demands.

exercise-boredomIf we feel like we have to go to the gym, it becomes something we dread.  With that perspective, it takes every ounce of willpower to grab our shoes and get out the door.  Then, we’re counting the minutes until it’s over.

If we feel like we have to go to work, we’ll arrive at the last possible minute and count down the hours until we can leave.  We do the work, but we’re not fully engaged.

If we feel like we have to help our 6th grader with their homework, it becomes an unbearable chore.

What if we could change “have to” to “get to?”

It’s a subtle change.  But what if we started seeing all of life through a filter of gratitude?

How would our days be different if we said, “I get to go to work today” . . . ?  There are a lot of people who would give anything to be able to go to work today.

What if we thought, “I get to go to the gym” . . . ?  We could be grateful for the ability to work out and the chance to invest in our physical capacity – something that not everyone can do.

How would we look at 6th grade math if we said, “I get to invest in my child tonight” . . . ? Ten years from now, we’ll wish we had those intimate moments with that same child again.

Ten years from now, we’ll look back on our work – and our times at the gym – and those encounters with our kids.

Will we have regrets?

Not if we’re grateful now.

The Value of Showing Up

I’m not a good traveler.

I’ve always considered myself to be optimistic. But when it comes to travel, I’ve learned otherwise.  I love going to new locations, but worry about everything that could go wrong.

We went to Europe a few years ago.  It was an award trip from my company, where they covered the expense.  All we had to do was plan the trip and go.

We picked a river cruise up the Rhine River from Switzerland to Austria.  We didn’t have to rent a car, find our way around, navigate hotels or figure anything out.  Everyone spoke English.

Still, I worried about everything:

  • What if we don’t make it to the airport on time?
  • What if our luggage is overweight?
  • What if we miss a connecting flight somewhere?
  • What about the language barrier?
  • What if we get sick?
  • What if I lose my passport?
  • What if . . .

For a couple of weeks ahead of time, I was stressed.  My head told me that everything would be fine, but my stress sensors were on overdrive.  I actually think I would have been relieved if the trip was cancelled for some reason.

But we showed up.

And it was awesome!

None of my worries came to pass.  Sure, we hit snags along the way.  But we dealt with them when they happened.  We figured them out.

I realized that those snags weren’t the problem.  It was the anticipation of the snags.

little_kid_steep_hillWe’ve talked about doing it again.  When I think about it, there’s not much stress.  We’ve done it, and I know what to expect.

But my wife wants to go on a different cruise to have a different experience.  I want to take the exact same cruise again.

I wonder how many awesome experiences I’ve missed out on because of fear.

I wonder how many things I’ve missed because I never showed up and taken the risk.

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is just showing up.”

Isn’t it amazing how we talk ourselves out of starting something without ever taking the first step?  We have dreams – desires – goals – that would change everything for us.  But as soon as we think about starting, our inner voice smacks us down:

“You’re not smart enough.”

“You’re not good enough.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“You could fail.”

Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

I’m learning to postpone my worries until the snags happen.

Life is worth the risk.  A safe life tends to be a boring life (comfortable, but boring).

We’re made for more.

We need to show up.

Often.  Repeatedly.

Overcoming discouragement with slow progress

Are you discouraged about your goals?

Mud walk

Do you feel like it’s taking forever to reach your dreams?

I’ve heard it said that most people give up their dreams right when they’re on the edge of a breakthrough.  Why is that?

We get an idea that could change our life.  We roll that idea around in our minds for a while, and start designing a plan to get there.  We get excited.  We take the first steps, and we’re energized.

Then we take the next step.

Then the next.

Mud walkBut after a while, we get tired of just taking steps.  “This isn’t what I signed up for.”  We can’t see our goal any more – we can only see the next step, and another, and another.


It’s hard to keep moving when we’re in the middle of a long journey.  When the end isn’t in sight, it’s hard to stay motivated.  Everything inside us feels like turning back.

But here’s the thing: Those steps are building momentum.

We’re familiar with momentum from common transportation examples:

  • When the space shuttle would launch into orbit, it would burn 90% of its fuel in the first few minutes to escape the earth’s gravity.   From that point forward, the fuel consumption dropped to a fraction of that original amount.
  • An airplane builds up speed to take off, then climbs steeply to reach “cruising altitude” – then the pilot backs of on the power, and “cruises” easily to the destination.
  • When an 8-car passenger train starts moving, it seems to take forever to get in motion.  But once it’s going 50 miles per hour, it takes over a mile for it to stop.

That’s momentum.

When we’re taking those small steps, it seems like they take forever.  It’s easy to focus on those steps, wondering if we’ll ever “take off.”

It applies to every part of life – our jobs, our relationships, our health, our finances, and our dreams.

So what should we do?

  1. Have a clear picture of where we’re headed.
  2. Determine the best steps to get there.
  3. Realize that each step is building momentum.
  4. Keep moving forward, one step at a time.
  5. Enjoy the journey.

That doesn’t mean we do all the work up front and never have to do anything else.  Once the momentum is there, we have to keep it moving.

But that’s a lot easier than getting it started.

A friend of mine says, “When you’re halfway through walking through a pile of manure, it’s easy to give up.  But when you’re in the middle, it’s just as far to the far edge as it is to where you started.”

So we might as well keep moving forward.