The 3 People We Need In Our Lives

We hear a lot about “mentors” these days.

It’s a great idea, because there are people who know more than we do about a lot of things – including life in general.

We’re encouraged in articles, blogs, sermons and podcasts to find someone in that position, and try to develop a mentoring relationship with them. They agree to meet with us on a regular basis, and we learn from them and grow faster.

They’re the mentor. We’re the mentee.

It’s a fast-track to growth and success.

I’m a huge fan of the process, and have been in both roles over the years.

But sometimes, expectations can be misplaced. I’ve seen mentoring relationships where it’s one-sided, where the mentor is expected to give and the mentee is expected to receive.  The mentoring flows downward, from them to us.  It becomes more of a transaction than a relationship.

But that’s not how real life works. One-way relationships aren’t real, and they don’t last.

I not sure that mentoring only takes place from older to younger, from wiser to less experienced, from successful to a starter.

I think it happens when different people do life together.

Mentoring takes place any time two people come together in a real relationship, and have the humility to learn from each other. We’ve all had experiences that another person hasn’t had.  When we just simply listen to each other, we become different people.

It’s not a formal structure; it’s organic. It just happens because we care.

I’m not against formal mentoring at all. But if that’s the only way we define it, I wonder if we’re losing some priceless opportunities to impact others – and be impacted by them.

The purpose of a mentoring relationship is to “get better” and grow. Having (or being) a formal mentor is one great way to do that.  But in addition, there are three other people we need to have in our lives:

  • Someone we can follow – maybe someone older who’s further ahead on the path.
  • Someone we can walk with – a friend who’s in the same life stage we are.
  • Someone who we could lead – a person who is younger and further back on the path.

We’d revise the idea of just one person pouring into another person. It would involve just being friends – and changing because we’re traveling together.

Someone said that if two people think exactly alike, one of them is unnecessary

So what if we intentionally connected with others who are at different stages on the journey, and just walked with them?

Maybe we’d all get better.

 

Thoughts?

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.

How to Actually Change the World

When my son, Tim was about 10 years old, we went to a sporting goods store and tried on ski goggles. Each one had a different color lens.

The clerk suggested that amber-colored lenses gave the best visibility in poor weather conditions, such as fog or haze. When I put them on, the entire store became brighter and sharper.

The problem was that everything was yellow.

We tried on other pairs of goggles, and found that the color of the lens impacted how we saw things. Red goggles made everything red; blue goggles made everything blue.

Tim put on blue lenses, and I put on red. I saw a jacket on a rack across the room and said, “Tim – what color is that jacket?”

“It’s blue,” he said.

“Nope,” I replied. “It’s red.”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “It is not.  It’s blue.”

Finally, we took off our goggles.

The jacket was white.

kids-gogglesWhen we looked through those lenses, we were actually seeing the jacket in those colors. We believed we were right.  We couldn’t understand why the other person didn’t see it the same way, because it was so obvious.  We could have argued all day, trying to convince each other of our position.

But the lenses didn’t change the reality.

The jacket was still white.

Sound familiar? When we have people in our lives that we disagree with, we’re often on a mission to convince them that their position is wrong, and ours is right. We use logic and passion to explain why our position makes so much sense. We do it on Facebook and politics and marriages and work relationships.

They do the same thing with us.

How many times has your mind been changed in that way? Probably none.  We want to get our point across, so we say it louder or use more logic.

But as someone once said, “If I believe I’m right, do I really want your opinion?”

We’re not caring about the other person. We’re only focused on getting them to change and agree with us.

Everybody’s talking. Nobody’s listening.

On the other hand, think about a time when someone deeply listened to you. They didn’t agree with your position, but they let you talk.  They gave you a chance to share your position instead of forcing theirs. They gave up their agenda of changing you and switched to an agenda of caring about you.

They looked through your lenses.

How did that feel?

When we listen, it builds trust.

When trust is built, relationships grow.

When relationships grow, we feel safe looking through each other’s lenses. We can still disagree, but it doesn’t divide us.

It connects us – and opens the door for genuine dialogue.

Want to make a difference in the world today?

Talk less. Listen more.

Make it your mission to love somebody, no matter what they think.

Maybe they’ll do it back.

How to Motivate Our Kids

When my kids were born, I vowed never to say these words:

“Because I said so.”

I knew that parents resorted to those words when they were out of options. But I figured that if I was a good enough parent, I wouldn’t run out of options.

That made it even worse the first time I said it.

Motivating kidsIt’s tough to motivate others when they have a mind of their own.

When our kids are little, we’re in control. We tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  We call the shots.

But as they get older, they become more independent. That’s healthy, because they need to know how to handle life on their own when we’re not around. 

 

But how do we motivate them when we can no longer control them?

Too often, parents resort to a boss/employee approach. If I’m your boss and I want to motivate you to clean your office, I have three options:

  1. I can say, “If you clean your office, I will give you $20.” (positive)
  2. I can say, “If you don’t clean your office, I will punch you in the nose.” (negative)
  3. I can influence you to want a clean office. (intrinsic)

With #1, you’ll learn to perform only if I keep paying you.  With #2, you’ll do it – but it makes everything harder in the future.

#3 produces long-term results, because the motivation comes from inside, not outside. 

So, how do we motivate our kids to make wise choices on their own?

I’m not pretending to have solid answers.  There are lots of books on the topic that promise to have “the answer.” But different kids need different approaches.  There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Instead, here are a few thoughts.  Don’t take them as advice, and it’s OK to disagree. Just use them as a catalyst for thinking about your own kids (no matter what age):

  • The older our kids become, the more we shift from control to influence.
  • Kids aren’t adults, so they need to test out their ways to handle life.  That means they’ll make mistakes.  They need an environment where it’s OK to mess up and still be loved.
  • We need to catch our kids doing things right and tell them.
  • Our communication needs to be scented with grace.  It’s hard to motivate someone in a positive direction when most of our comments are negative.
  • When our kids are making poor choices, it’s easy to make that the focal point of all our interaction.  Even in those tough times, we need casual, relaxed conversations about normal life stuff.
  • It’s enabling when people focus on our strengths instead of just our weaknesses.
  • Using a “win-win” approach with our kids let us explore solutions that will satisfy both of us, instead of us just calling all the shots.
  • When we need them to do something, we should be clear about outcomes.  Then allow them some flexibility and choice in how they reach that outcome.
  •  Everyone wants to feel valuable to others.  Our kids need to know they’re not invisible, and that we value them for who they are – not just for how they perform.

There are no guarantees or easy answers.  We just need an intentional strategy for motivating our kids, so we don’t get stuck saying, “Because I said so.”

What have you tried that has worked? (Comment below)

 

 

 

 

Keeping Your Kids Curious

Curious babyKids are naturally curious.  If you’ve spent any time around four-year olds, you know how many times they ask, “Why?”

Because of that curiosity, they explore.  When they discover how to do something they repeat it, over and over again. 

Nobody forces them; they do it for the sheer enjoyment of discovery. 

Most adults have lost that curiosity. We get busy with our lives and our work, and don’t have time to investigate.  After all, what we’re doing is working; why would we want to consider doing it differently?

So where did we lose it?

I think it often happens when kids try to be curious, but it’s not a positive experience for them. 

One psychologist says that there are three main reasons kids quit being curious:

    • Fear.  If a child doesn’t feel safe in his/her environment, they don’t have a secure comfort zone to return to after they’ve been exploring.  A family crisis makes kids uncertain, so they hang tight to whatever they can just to survive.
    • Disapproval.  If parents show disgust when their child comes in with muddy shoes, the kids will quit digging for earthworms and exploring the ground.
    • Absence.  When parents have their back, kids feel safe roaming.  But when parents are physically or emotionally absent, those kids lose the foundation from which they can explore their world.  They also don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with, which is what encourages them to stay curious.

So, how can we make sure our kids keep their curiosity as they move through life?  Here are 10 ways:

    1. Model curiosity. When they’re in the car with you, always take a different route home.  Order something new every time you go to a restaurant. Tell them it’s because you want to know what else is out there.
    2. Ask open-ended questions that allows them to think.  Instead of, “How was school?” ask, “Tell me something you learned today that you didn’t know yesterday.” Instead of, “Who’s you’re best friend?” ask, “What is it about your best friend that makes you want to hang out with them?”
    3. Whenever they demonstrate curiosity, affirm them.  “That’s so interesting – the way you look at that.  I love it when you observe things that nobody else sees.”
    4. Take a walk with them in a crowded area of your city, and listen for sounds that are not man-made – like birds chirping, water running or the wind blowing through trees.  Teach them the value of listening and observing their environment.
    5. Ask the journalist’s questions about everything: Who, What, Where, When, How and Why.
    6. Don’t get bored.  They’re watching.  Whenever you’re bored, acknowledge it, but use it as a trigger to explore something.  Help them develop that pattern.
    7. Teach them that failure is OK.  Failure means you’ve learned one more thing that doesn’t work, so you’re that much closer to success.  Then keep moving forward.  That’s a skill they’ll use the rest of their lives.
    8. Teach them the value of good questions, and make it safe to risk answering – and safe if they’re wrong as well.
    9. Limit their media input.  Sure, TV can be educational – but it’s simply handing them content, not whetting their appetite to explore and question their world.
    10. When they share discoveries with you, don’t add your knowledge to it.  Let it be their moment.  Ask probing questions about what they’ve shared, so they’ll want to explore more – and share more.

Try one or two of those ideas today.  It’ll help your kids stay curious – but it might awaken your curiosity as well!

 

What have you tried that keeps your curiosity sharp? Comment here:

 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Hear Every Week (no matter what their age)

10.  There’s nobody in the world exactly like you.

9.   I can’t get over how awesome it is to have you as my kid.

8.   You make a difference.  You can always make a difference.

7.   You’re valuable – not because of what you do, but simply because you’re you.

6.   What you think matters to me – whether I agree or not.

5.   Nobody’s perfect – give yourself some grace. It’s OK to make mistakes.

4.   Spending a day with you is an awesome day for me.

3.   Don’t let other people’s opinion of you define you.

2.   I believe in you.

1.   You can’t make me not love you – no matter what.  Ever.

baby with headphones

Growing Popcorn in the Driveway

When we were first married, Diane and I lived in a tiny, rented house in Redondo Beach, California.  It had been built in 1920, and our landlady had renovated it just before we moved in.

Old driveway

The garage was too small for our cars to fit, so we always parked in the driveway.  That was part of the charm of the house; the driveway was two strips of cement with hard-packed, rocky dirt in the middle.  We could almost picture a Model-T Ford with its skinny tires resting on those narrow patches.

The black ground in the middle was almost as hard as the cement, soaked solid from years of oil dripping from various engines.

Here we were, at the beginning of our marriage – building memories in a house that was already full of them

Diane’s first job was as a preschool teacher.  Every evening, we would sit together on the floor in our little living room, cutting and pasting and creating activities for the next day’s class.  I was always amazed at her ability to build experiences that would shape a tiny little person’s understanding of a key concept.

One day, we collected a popcorn maker, a bag of corn, and a bunch of Dixie cups.  In class, she popped the corn with the lid off – so each “pop” would send fluffy flakes flying around the room.  The kids each had a little cup, and would race around trying to catch the kernels before they hit the ground.

(I don’t remember the point, but it sounded awesome . . . !)

She pulled in the driveway at the end of that day and opened the hatchback of our little Honda station wagon.  The leftover corn had spilled while she was driving, and some of it fell out onto that grimy, rocky, oily strip of dirt.  It was only a few kernels, so she left them there.  It wasn’t worth getting gunk under your fingernails to pick them up.

We thought that was the end of it.

Until they started to grow.

First, it was little green sprouts.  Then the plants took on the distinct appearance of corn.  Within a few weeks, tiny ears of corn began to appear.  (We parked in the street so we could watch the progress.)

They never reached full size, and we definitely didn’t harvest and eat them.  (We weren’t sure what kinds of toxins in that soil had made their way into the corn.)  But we were amazed that anything could grow there.

Old drivewayIs there a point?

Well, I don’t want to force everything that happens into a life lesson.  But for some reason, that one always stuck with me.  Here’s what I’ve taken from it over the years:

We’re dropping seeds every day.  Every conversation, every encounter, every contact – we leave our thoughts with other people.

And we never know where those seeds are going to take root – and often in the most unlikely soil.

We never know who will be impacted by our lives and by our words.

But it’s happening.

There are no casual contacts.

We’re impacted daily by others in ways they never know.  We’re impacting them in ways we never see.

We make a difference.

Today ONLY – Your After-Christmas Gift (and a request for a favor)

Today only, you can get an electronic copy of my book, People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keysfor free.

People Can't Drive You Crazy

I’m asking you to do two things:

  1. “Purchase” a copy of the e-book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or both – it’s free!).  (See the links below)
  2. Share this on Facebook, tweet it, and email it to your friends.

My publisher has made an agreement with Amazon and Barnes & Noble to offer the e-book at no charge on December 28 for 24 hours – midnight to midnight.

People Can't Drive You CrazyEven if you already own a paper copy, you’ll want to download this.  Keep reading.

Even if you don’t have a Kindle or a Nook, you’ll want to download this.  Keep reading.

The 209-page paperback version of the book came out on October 1.  So far, the reviews have all been positive, on blog, review sites and Amazon.  Seems like everybody has crazy people in their lives, and they want some help!

The publisher (Revell) has found that if they can get a distributor (like Amazon) to give away the electronic version of the book at no charge, it gets more exposure as people notify their family and friends to pick up a copy online.  When more people are able to read the book and benefit from it, they tell their friends or buy paper copies for them.

In short:

  • It’s a way of spreading the message to people who feel trapped by the crazy people in their personal world.
  • It’s a way of providing great exposure for the book by letting people have it for free.
  • By doing it in a 24-hour period, it also helps the “rankings” on the distributor’s websites.
  • It will help me write other books in the future.  When publishers are considering a new book, they want to know how many of the author’s previous books sold – regardless of the cost.

So even if you have a paper copy already, purchasing an electronic copy is considered another book sold.  Sounds crazy, but that’s the way it works.  Buying it from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble counts as two sales.  Go figure . . .

Here’s what’s even crazier: You don’t have a Kindle or a Nook?  It doesn’t matter.  You can purchase a free copy anyway, whether you download it or not (and it’s considered a legitimate sale).

  • You can download a free app for your phone or computer so you can read it (that’s what I’ve done – I read my electronic books on my phone).
  • When someone buys you a Kindle or Nook in the future, you’ll already have your first book to put on it!

So, here are the links:

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/People-Cant-Drive-Crazy-ebook/dp/B009G1PI2E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354199470&sr=1-1&keywords=people+can%27t+drive

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/people-cant-drive-you-crazy-if-you-dont-give-them-the-keys-mike-bechtle/1108259285?ean=9781441239624&itm=1&usri=people+can%27t+drive

It’s also available today at http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=33586EB&item_code=WW&netp_id=1049944&event=ESRCG&view=details

I’m grateful for the opportunity to provide this at no charge, because it’ll provide help for a whole herd of people.  And I’m grateful for you participating in making the book a success (by downloading it yourself, and sharing it wherever you can today).

Those of you who know me well know this is somewhat uncomfortable (asking for help).  When I started this blog, it wasn’t to get a big audience so I could sell stuff.  I just wanted to have a real conversation about real life issues with real people I’ve met along the way.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated you participating; it’s felt like we’ve been hanging out at Starbucks – which is my favorite way to connect anyway.

So in asking you to help me spread the word, it’s really about providing something that could impact the people you care most about.

If that happens, I’ll be more than grateful.

I’ll make you my BFF for the day . . . !

Thanks! Mike

Hug a Writer Today

Writers are an interesting bunch.

Frustrated writer

We picture them as confident and polished, because their writing is confident and polished.  They’re clear in expressing their ideas, and they craft words that amaze us in their simplicity and connection.  We think, “Wow! I wish I could write like that!  It must be so easy to write when you’re that gifted.”

But most real writers aren’t like that at all.

Writers tend to be introverts, rather than extroverts.  Extroverts shape their ideas by talking about them, so writing isn’t worth the effort.  Introverts often shape their ideas by writing about them.  In fact, when they begin a post, an article or a chapter, they often don’t know how it’s going to end until they get to the last page.

Frustrated writerGood writers tend to be more sensitive than most people (in a good way).  That means they take time to think and rethink ideas before launching them to the public.  They sense what readers are thinking and feeling, so they write to give those readers tools for the journey.  They think deeply.  They’re paying attention.

That sensitivity also makes them more insecure.  No matter how good their last book, post or article was, they think, “So that turned out OK.  But what if I can’t do it again?  What if there’s nothing there?”

When I wrote my first book, I remember the moment I hit the “send” button to forward my completed manuscript to my editor.  I had spent months writing, crafting and shaping my ideas and putting them on paper.  Now it was complete.  But I was too close to it.  All I could think of was having my editor say, “Who told you that you could write?  This was a big mistake.”

I told her it was like showing off your newborn child and hoping people don’t say, “Wow – rough time in labor, huh?”

So, why do writer’s do it?  Why do they put it out there at the risk of rejection?

To make a difference.

If writers weren’t interested in making a difference, they could write a diary (which isn’t a bad thing).  No one would see it, and no one could criticize it.  There’s no risk.

But most writers care deeply about their readers.  They don’t just want people to say, “You’re a great writer.”  They want people to think differently, live differently or be able to handle life differently because of what they’ve written.

It’s their sensitivity that makes them so aware of what other people need, and they care enough to risk criticism to meet those needs.  They don’t have to, but they choose to.

In a corporate office, we get critiqued formally once or twice a year during an annual review.  But when we write, we can get feedback almost instantly.

When the feedback is positive, we’re thinking of applying for the Pulitzer prize.  When the feedback is negative, we want to move to the back of the desert and start an earthworm farm.

Most good writing we read wasn’t done casually, and it’s published at great risk.  It’s usually the result of a painstaking effort to link words together in the exact pattern that makes the greatest impact.  That takes work, and can be exhausting.

That’s what makes it so good, and why we think the authors are confident.

They’re usually not confident.  They just care enough to take the risk.

It’s risky to make a difference.  Writers know the risk, but take it anyway.  They’re giving us a gift that they’re not required to give.

If they don’t feel like they’re making a difference, they might eventually quit taking those risks.

If we encourage them, they’ll keep risking and writing.  And their writing will improve.  And they’ll make a bigger difference.

Hug a writer today.  Believe me – it won’t go unnoticed.

 

Want to help a writer improve?  Email a copy of this to them with a note that says, “I believe in you.”  Share it on Facebook to encourage writers who want to give up.  Tweet it, text it, mail it.  Let your favorite writer know they’re not alone.  Encouragement is the “breakfast of champions.”

The Problem with Facebook

I’ve discovered a problem with Facebook. 

Couple not listening

I looked through a day’s worth of posts the other day, and noticed a pattern.  

Everyone’s talking.  Nobody’s listening.

Couple not listeningWe all have opinions about things.  And we all believe we’re right.  

When we see someone expressing their opinion on Facebook, we tend to evaluate it based on what we believe.  If we agree, we think, “great post.”  If we disagree, we think, “they just don’t get it.”  

But I can’t remember a time when I’ve read a strong opinion posted on Facebook and thought, “Wow.  That makes so much sense.  It’s the opposite of what I’ve always believed.  You’ve convinced me to change my mind.  Thanks so much.”

That’s true in real life, too.  If we’re talking, and you simply tell me what you think — implying that it’s absolutely true and there’s no room for discussion, it implies that I’m crazy if I don’t agree with you.  

That’s the problem with Facebook.  It’s an easy place to tell people what we think.  But it’s not a great place to build relationships.  When we use it to convince people to change their minds, we only irritate them.  It doesn’t build relationships – that happens life-on-life.

The only way you’ll change my mind is when we have a genuine relationship:

  • You care about me.
  • I care about you.
  • You accept me the way I am.
  • You’re genuinely interested in me.
  • I’m genuinely interested in you.
  • You don’t share all my opinions, but you like me anyway.
  • We listen to each other.

When that happens, I’ll be seriously interested in your opinions.  We can talk about it, because we trust each other.  

Someone said that God gave us two ears and one mouth, which says something about how much we should use them.

I like Facebook.  I’m thinking that we should accept Facebook for what it is – a great tool to stay on each other’s radar, to stay current on we’re doing, and share pictures.  It’s fun.

But if we want to impact and influence each other, let’s go hang out and do life together.

 

How do you feel about Facebook?  Comment below:

 

 

People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys

Let me guess — you read this blog title, and you already have someone in mind, don’t you?

Crazy People

You have a crazy person in your life.  It might be an extended family member that drives you crazy.  It could be a co-worker or neighbor on a mission to make you miserable.  You might be married to that person — or related to them through your marriage.

They drop in, set your life on fire, and leave.  Somehow, they’re the one person who hijacks your emotions and holds them hostage.  Even when they’re not around, your emotions seem to be at the mercy of their next visit — and reeling from the shrapnel from your last encounter with them.

We think, “Don’t they realize how crazy they are?”  If we could just “fix” that person, everything would be better.

But we can’t fix other people.  We can influence them, but we can’t force them to change.

We can only make better choices about ourselves.

Crazy PeopleStrange as it may seem, other people are not nearly as committed to our happiness as we are.  And we’ll never escape having crazy people in our lives.

But we don’t have to be victims of their craziness.  Martin Luther said, “You might not be able to stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

So, how do you influence crazy people?  How can we protect ourselves when they don’t change?  And how can we keep from controlling our emotions?

If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple of months (since we started), you know we’ve been focusing on practical, realistic strategies for healthy relationships with others — whether they’re crazy or not.  It’s all about thriving in our relationships rather than surviving them. (If you’re a new reader, check out some of the previous posts.)

If you’ve liked what you’ve been reading here, you’ll probably enjoy picking up a copy of People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys.  It’s my latest book, and today (October 1) is the official launch date.  That means it’s available through online bookstores immediately (I’ll put links below), and should start appearing shortly on local bookshelves.

In grocery stores, drug stores, Wal-Mart, airport bookstores and similar outlets, you’ll probably find it on the “inspirational” rack.  In Barnes & Noble-type bookstores, it will be in “self-help” or “relationships.” (If they don’t have it, they can order it.)

It’s available in three formats:

  1. Paperback – For us purists who love the feel of paper.
  2. Kindle – For the more tech-driven among us (Check out the rest of my website, and you’ll know that’s not me).
  3. Audio – For those who want to take me running with you, or have me talk to you when you’re in your car.

Here are some online links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/People-Cant-Drive-Crazy-Dont/dp/080072111X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349044244&sr=8-1&keywords=people+can%27t+drive+you+crazy

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/people-cant-drive-you-crazy-if-you-dont-give-them-the-keys-mike-bechtle/1108259285?ean=9780800721114

ChristianBook.com: http://www.christianbook.com/people-drive-crazy-give-them-keys/mike-bechtle/9780800721114/pd/721114?product_redirect=1&Ntt=721114&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP

The first week of a book launch is the most critical for the long-term success of the book.  So if you’re interested, there are several things you could do to help that launch be successful — getting the book in the hands of more people who could benefit from it (including the crazy people in your life . . . )

  • Pick up a copy for yourself this week.
  • Pick up a copy for a friend this week.
  • Pick up a copy for the crazy person in your life.  They’ll think it’s about you.
  • Write a short review on Amazon and/or other online sites.  Few people actually do that, but it’s one of the biggest factors in whether a person buys a book or not.  (Don’t you check the number of reviews and how many stars it has when deciding?  I do!)  Often, the majority of reviews come from book critics whose post their reviews as part of their job.  So your quick input could be huge.
  • Spread the word.  Share it, post it, tweet it, email it.

You need to know how grateful I am that you’ve allowed me to hang out with you for a couple of months.  You can tell from my “bare-bones” website that I haven’t been putting a lot of energy into making everything pretty and shiny yet.  (I’m going to get someone to help me with that.)  I’m just enjoying the chance to have some dialogue with you, and value your input in shaping the direction of our discussions.  Let me know what’s on your mind, and we’ll steer it that direction.

Let me know what you think of the book – and let it stir up ideas for us to talk about in the future.

Enjoy the journey!

How to Change the World (and Still Make It Home For Dinner)

How much of an impact do I have to make before it counts?

One of many

Deep inside, most of us want to make a difference.  We want our lives to count for something, to be noticed, to hear some applause.  We want somebody to point at us in a crowd and say, “Hey! There’s the person who made a difference.”

We want to create a legacy.

I think it’s hard-wired in us.  We know we’re not here by accident, and we have something unique to offer . . . because we’re unique.

That’s probably why Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life became one of the best-selling books of all time.  People read the title and thought, “Yeah.  I feel that way, but have given up.  Life has gotten in the way.  But maybe there’s hope.”

The problem is, we see other people who are making a difference in the world, and we compare ourselves with them.  We think, “I’m just a stay-at-home dad, or a line manager, or a waitress.  I have a private practice, and only see a few people every day.  I’ll never make the impact others do.”

Maybe that’s the problem: We’re comparing ourselves with others.

And we’re not others.  We’re us.

One of manyCelebrities attract a crowd because they’re famous.  People ask for autographs – which is like getting a signed document that says, “That famous person noticed me.”  But having an autograph doesn’t change anyone’s life.

Famous people are visible.  But that doesn’t mean they’re making more of a difference.

Impact takes place one person at a time.  We impress groups, but impact individuals.

“So, how many people do we have to impact before it makes a difference?”

One.

And then another one.

And another one.

It might be your cranky toddler.  It might be your hurting spouse.  It might be a talkative friend.  It might be your boss, your co-worker, your customer.

Your encounter with that one person will do more to change the world than the concert you give at the largest arena.

Legacy isn’t about being famous.  It’s about making a difference.  It happens when someone can genuinely say, “I am who I am because of you.”

Making a difference rarely happens in mass gatherings.  A few people have that platform, but that doesn’t mean it’s better.  It’s just different.  When you influence one person, they change.  That impacts the way they interact with others.  Like the ripples of a stone tossed in a pond, the smallest influence spreads farther than we’ll ever know.

  • It doesn’t take fame.
  • It doesn’t take time we don’t have.
  • It doesn’t take tons of energy we don’t have.
  • We still have jobs to do, diapers to change, and responsibilities to fulfill.
  • We want to make a difference, but we want to be home for dinner.

All you have to do to make a real difference, right now, with whoever you’re with . . . is to be fully present with them. Eyeball-to-eyeball, undistracted, “in the moment.”

When you’re gone, they won’t say, “I have their autograph.”

They’ll say, “They changed my life.”

How do you climb a mountain?  One step at a time.

How do you change the world?  One encounter at a time.

Who has impacted you in the past?  Who can you influence this week?

How Will Your Kids Remember You?

It was a turning point in my life.

Girl with camera

I was young, my kids were little, and my job was demanding. I wasn’t very good at balancing it all, and felt like I wanted to be a perfect dad, a perfect husband and a perfect employee. I felt like my life was like a giant game of “Whack-A-Mole,” where I was swinging wildly at everything around me.

A trusted friend listened as I described the chaos. Then he said something that seemed unrelated at the time:

“When your kids are adults, and they look back to their childhood, how will they picture you?”

Girl with cameraI don’t remember where the conversation went from there. But those words haunted me for a long time.

I tried to picture what was happening most of the time when my kids were nearby. I hoped the picture would be one of deep engagement with them, reading together, playing together, helping with homework or having life-on-life conversations. I wanted to believe they would remember me looking them in the eyes.

But I knew what they would say.

They would picture me sitting at my computer. 

Oh, I would stop and give them personal attention. But the computer was my default setting. Whenever I had a few spare moments and didn’t know what to do next, I would check my email or catch up on something I needed to do online. I’d stop and talk with them — but as soon as we were done, I’d go back to the computer.

—————————————

I thought about my own dad. How did I picture him?

It was a good memory. My dad had a small desk in the dining room, next to the dining room table. Every night, he would sit at his desk paying bills, going through the day’s mail, and leafing through the Reader’s Digest. The room was always dark, except for the desk lamp in front of him.

I would come in, sit at the table, and put my feet up on one of the chairs. He would stop what he was doing, take off his glasses and set them down. Then he would turn around and put his feet up on the chair as well.

And we would talk.

What I remember was that he wasn’t rushed. He never turned back to his desk until I was gone.

Sure, he didn’t have a computer or email to distract him. The phone was on the wall in another room. But my memory is of him stopping and giving me his relaxed, undivided attention.

———————————–

So I worked hard to change the picture my kids held in their minds. I knew that the choices I made would determine the picture they carried with them.

I could shape that picture, or let it be shaped by default.

Now, it’s a different world. My kids are grown and gone, so their picture is permanent. Now I wonder, “How will my wife picture me? My grandkids? My friends?”

It’s a sobering question. I still have more things to keep my occupied than I could ever get done. But in writing this, I’ve realized that I probably won’t be pictured at my computer.

I’ll be pictured with my smartphone.  

So I’m not done yet.

Every day, we’re painting a picture for others to see.

It’s already there — by default.

We can change it — by design.

How will those closest to you remember you years from now? Comment below:

The Power of Casual Words

You might have changed my life – and you don’t even know it.

The power of words

I’ve gone to powerful conferences, read great books and heard well-crafted sermons.  Marketing people have thought carefully through the letters they’ve sent, and sales people have tried to convince me that they could change my life.

In every case, they were intentional.  The conferences were designed one PowerPoint slide at a time; books were written thought-by-thought; letters were penned with a purpose.

Somebody had an agenda for me, and I willingly participated.

I took great notes.  I read between the lines, and studied the concepts.  I thought about how to apply the ideas to my life.

But the words that have changed my life the most came from you.

They were words you never planned to say, and probably don’t remember saying them.  They weren’t thought out ahead of time.

The power of wordsThey were casual words.  But they filled my tank when it was running low, turned my steering wheel when I was drifting, and put the address in my GPS.  They reminded me why I was on the journey in the first place.

You’re someone I trust.  We’ve built a relationship.  You don’t always know what I’m going through, but you’ll say something casually – unknowingly –  that hits me exactly where I am.  Those words change my life, and I’ll probably carry them with me for years.

For that, I am grateful.  Thanks.

Once in a while, you say words that hurt me.  You don’t do it intentionally.  Your words are casual, and not intended to be malicious.  You’re joking.

But your words cut deep.  I don’t tell you, and you don’t know what was going on inside.  But I might carry those words for years.  I didn’t tell you – my friend – what I was feeling.

For that, I apologize. 

I’ve learned several things from the impact of your casual words:

    1. My casual words are impacting you.
    2. Most of the time, I don’t even know when it happens.
    3. If you’re smiling, I assume you’re OK.  I could be dead wrong.
    4. I don’t know how my words are impacting you, because I don’t know what you’re going through right now.
    5. My casual remarks are probably impacting you more than my planned words.
    6. My words have the power to hurt.
    7. My words have the power to heal.

Knowing the power of casual words, why should I take the risk of hurtful speech, just to be clever or make someone laugh at your expense?

I want my default setting to be words that affirm

It takes practice, but I want to be intentional in my casual words.  I want my words to always carry this message:

“I believe in you.”

Why?  Because we all have times when we don’t believe in ourselves.  When that happens, we need to borrow that belief from someone else.

Thanks for believing in me, whether you knew it or not.  Your casual words changed my life.

 

If this resonates with you, share it/post it/send it to someone you believe in – or someone who believes in you.

What words did someone say to you that changed your life? Leave your comments below.

 

How Many Friends Do We Need?

Someone sent me a “Friend” request on Facebook the other day. 

babies-on-couch

Should I accept it?

According to my Facebook page, I already have 296 friends.  Do I need more?

Somebabies-on-couch are people that I’m close to and see daily or weekly.  Some are people I’ve worked with, either in the past or the present.  Others are people from my distant past that I haven’t seen in years.  I have a close relationship with some, while I’ve connected with some out of curiosity. 

 

Connecting with friends from high school or college usually starts with that curiosity.  We know what they were like in school, and wonder how they’ve changed.  If we’re honest, we want to know three things:

  1. Where are they living?
  2. What are they doing?
  3. How much do they weigh?

They’re doing the same thing with us.

I’ve found that there’s a subtle comparison that takes place, too.  When I look at their page, I want to see how many friends they have.  If they have less than me, my self-esteem goes up.  If they have more, my self-esteem goes down.

How messed up is that?!! 

If I had 296 live friends in my real life, I’d never get anything done.  It’s hard enough keeping track of the people I do have in my life, giving them the time and attention they deserve.  Technology has made it a lot easier to stay in touch than ever before, which means we feel guilty when we don’t. 

So, what are we to do?  I’ve found an obvious solution, though it sounds callous:

Maybe I need to develop a friend budget.

That doesn’t mean one person is more valuable than another.  It means that since time is such a limited resource, I need to budget it carefully. 

It’s like doing charitable giving.  There are a lot of charities and causes that I believe in.  But since I only have so much money, I can’t support them all.  I have to be realistic about my investments, and choosy about my choices.

It’s called opportunity cost.  Whatever we say “yes” to, we’re automatically saying “no” to everything else at that time.  Any time and energy I invest in any one person means that time isn’t available for anyone else.

That’s why it seems important to budget my involvement with people.  It doesn’t mean they’re less valuable; but there’s only so much of my time to go around.

So, how should we budget friends?  I’m sure it’s very fluid, but maybe we could prioritize people in six categories:

  1. Immediate – Our spouse, kids, grandkids – those that represent a lifelong commitment.  These would be the ones we’re planning on keeping them until the end.  They get major investment of my time and energy.
  2. Closest – Our deepest friends, some extended family – people I that we care deeply about and they care deeply about us.  We intentionally seek each other out.  This could include old friends that we rarely see, but we pick right up where we left off each time.  We call to schedule times together.
  3. Close – People we know fairly well, and have good conversations with when we connect.  We’re interested in their lives, and enjoy occasional connections to catch up.
  4. Casual – People we’ve met or connected with in the past, and we can have good conversations.  It’s genuine, but not intentional.
  5. Transactional – Business contacts, casual acquaintances, most Facebook connections that don’t fit in the other categories.  Good people.
  6. Everybody else

It feels dangerous to post this, because everyone reading will be wondering which category they’re in with me.  That’s OK – it’s not a hard-and-fast set of rules, just a way of thinking to protect the people who matter most in our lives.  People can move up, but space is limited at the top.

It keeps us from being people-pleasers, and from letting people at the top get cheated by those at the bottom.

I’m OK with 296 Facebook friends.  I’ll check in occasionally – but then I’ll take a walk with my wife, have coffee with my kids, wrestle with my grandkids – and generally make appropriate investments in the people that matter most.

So, that’s my idea.  It’s not set in stone — it’s just an idea.  What do you think?  What would you change? We’d all love to hear your comments (below):

So, Who Needs Encouragement, Anyway?

Author and speaker John Maxwell tells of having the well-respected founder and CEO of a national restaurant chain over to his home for dinner.  During the meal, his guest said, “John, do you know how to tell when someone needs encouragement?”

“No,” John replied.  “How can you tell?”

They’re breathing.”

We all get discouraged.   It’s part of being human.  When we’re discouraged, it’s hard to simply “decide to feel better.”  That’s like running out of gas and hoping the tank fills itself.  When it’s empty, it’s empty.  We have to get fuel from somewhere else.

The words themselves give us a clue:

Dis-courage – to take the courage out of someone

En-courage – to put courage into someone

Think of a time when someone made a casual remark that sucked the wind out of you.  They might not even know it happened, but their simple comment took the courage right out of you.

Think of another time when someone made a casual remark that poured life into you when you were down.  Your tank was empty, and their simple comment filled it back up.

All of us have the ability to bring courage into another person’s life by caring enough to connect.  It might not show on the surface, so we don’t always know when someone is down.  But our casual comments will either move a person toward being bitter or better.

What are some simple ways we can encourage others?

  • Think of what others do that encourage you, and do it to them.
  • Hand-write a short note of thanks or encouragement that implies, “You’re not alone.”
  • Catch people doing something right, and acknowledge it (publicly).
  • Brag about them to someone else when they’re not around.  (It’ll get back to them.)
  • Spend time with them without checking your watch or phone.
  • Take time for eyeball-to-eyeball, on-the-floor, undistracted contact with your kids.
  • Write their boss a note when they’ve done something exceptional.
  • In a restaurant, make eye contact with the server and find out something interesting about them.  You may be the only one in their day who doesn’t see them as a servant.
  • Listen without interrupting.  Save your story for later.
  • Don’t give advice when someone is hurting.  Just be there.
  • Believe in them.  If they can’t believe in themselves, they can borrow it from you.
  • Ask them for advice in an area of their passion or expertise.
  • Remind them of how they’ve impacted your life in the past.

Being discouraged is like walking through a dark forest or down a deserted street at night.  It’s scary on your own, but much less threatening when you’ve got someone next to you to share the experience.

Encouragement comes from people, and is given to people.  In times of discouragement, we all need people we trust to come alongside us and build into our lives.  They provide the courage when we can’t provide it for ourselves.

It’s the gift of presence.

Who has encouraged you when you were down?

I Wish I Could Fix Everybody

When we see someone going through a struggle, the solution to their problem often seems obvious to us.  We think, “They should just do it this way . . . and everything will work out OK.”

Hydrangeas

I used that approach years ago.  When I saw a better way of doing something, I would go to that person and make my suggestions.  I thought I was doing them a favor, and expected them to be excited and grateful.

They weren’t excited.

They weren’t grateful. 

In fact, they were usually a bit irritated.  I meant well, but they took it as criticism.

I now realize that you can’t force anyone to change.

So, is there anything we can do?Hydrangeas

My wife, Diane, loves hydrangeas.  They’re a striking flower that grows in spheres of color, usually shades of pink or white.  They can also be a beautiful shade of blue – but not naturally.

Diane wanted blue flowers.  She had two alternatives for trying to make that happen:

  1. She could use force.  She could grab the flower around the stem and say, “Look, if you don’t bloom with blue flowers, you’re going to find yourself on the rough side of the compost bin.”
  2. She could use influence.  By applying a carefully measured amount of aluminum sulfate to the soil, the blooms will usually be blue.

It’s true with any type of gardening.  We can’t force plants to grow.  But we can influence their growth with water, nutrients, cultivation, and other forms of care.  If we provide the right environment, there’s a much better chance of healthy growth.

Relationships are the same way.  We can’t force people to change.  The more we try, the more frustrated we’ll become.

But we can influence them.

That doesn’t give any guarantees that they’ll change.  If we make it our mission to change them, we’ll probably be frustrated.

Expectations always lead to pain when they’re not met.  It’s better to have expectancy.

With expectancy, we don’t know what’s going to happen.  We can be honest about our concerns and acknowledge the desire to have someone change, but we’re not demanding that things turn out a certain way.  We don’t know how things will turn out.

Instead, we’re watching to see what happens.  We don’t take responsibility for whether they change or not. 

We can’t force change.  All we can do is influence, and leave the change up to them.

Would you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Why It’s Important To Choose Our Friends Carefully

Recently I heard someone say, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with.” That idea has captured my thinking the past few days, and two questions have surfaced:

    1. Who do I spend the most time with?
    2. Have I really become like them?

Influence of familyI spend the most time with my wife, Diane. We have our own unique personalities, but have been married long enough that we finish each other’s sentences and respond to things the same way. Our interests have merged over the years, while we still have our unique areas of focus. In a healthy relationship, that’s a good thing.

I also spend a lot of time around people I work with, friends at church, and members of a small group that meets regularly. As I’ve thought about it, I do see how we’ve rubbed off on each other. We carry hints of the “scent” of each other’s lives.

Those changes haven’t been intentionally crafted, but just seem to happen as we spend time together.

 

So if that statement is true, it leads to two more questions:

    1. Are those five people becoming more like me?
    2. Is that a good thing?

I’ve realized that I choose not to spend much time with people who are trying to change me. If they take me on as a project to “fix,” I don’t respond well. But when they simply enter my life and accept me unconditionally, I become a different person because of their influence. Without my realizing it, their acceptance influences me to become like them.

I think it’s important to be intentional about who we hang out with. It’s comfortable to connect with people who are just like us, but we don’t change or grow. To really stretch and develop as a person, we need to intentionally choose close relationships with people who are further ahead in certain areas of life.

In other words, find people of all ages whom you admire and want to be like, and hang out with them.

What happens in those relationships? They’re not giving you formal instruction or walking you through a curriculum; they’re just being themselves while you watch them in different life situations. Without even realizing it, you’re learning how to handle those situations in your own life. They model effectiveness for you.

They’re not forcing you to change; they’re influencing you. You become different by being around them.

Think back over the years to the people who inspired you to be better — to do something you didn’t think you could do, or to aim higher than you would have on your own. It might have been a teacher, a coach, a grandparent, or a family friend. Somehow, they made you believe in yourself. They came alongside when you were struggling and said, “I believe in you.”

How did that feel?

Question: Who do you spend the most time with today? How are you becoming like them? You can share your thoughts in the comment section (below).