My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Following Your Dreams!

Sloughing through life in OK mode leads to a life as Henry David Thoreau verbally pictured, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” A great number of people move through life unfulfilled-- watching reality TV, spending free time roaming shopping malls, or surfing the internet or absorbed in their iphones. Not living up to the potential that is within. One of the many ways to Live More Than OK is how I often end emails to students – “Follow Your Dreams!”

Developing your dreams and following them unleashes potential in your life to maximize your experiences. Walt Kallestad says in his book Wake Up Your Dreams, (can be found in libraries or used bookstores), “Dreams can help us see the invisible, believe the incredible, and achieve the impossible.” Creating dreams of what you want out of life can wake up passions for new hobbies, life adventures, new career paths, and new relationships. They allow us to achieve more in life than we could ever imagine!

John Maxwell in his recent book, Put Your Dreams to the Test, mentions how some people live their lives based on the dreams of others. This is seen in young people doing sports their parents want them to do. Students who aim for careers their parents want them to do. This can cause lack of fulfillment and future anxiety as we were not made to live another’s dreams. We were made to live the dreams we were meant to live. Maxwell then takes the reader through a series of questions to reflect over in creating and developing their own dream.

One of the best examples of a person who is an amazing dream maker and dream follower is a man named John Goddard. His story amazed me when I came upon it while internet surfing ideas for a lecture to students on dreams and goal setting. I have used it ever since, with College students to open their minds to the potential each one has to do so many things in their lifetime. John when he was 15 on a rainy day took out a pad of paper and wrote out 127 things on his “My Life List”. The list included places he wanted to go, things he wanted to learn, careers he wanted to follow. Some of his adventures in traveling around the world are noted in his book, The Survivor. Here are some examples from his list: explore the Nile river, climb Mt. Ararat, visit every country in the world, visit the Great Wall of China, visit The Taj Mahal, ride an elephant, study native medicines follow the John Muir Trail, high jump 5 feet, read the entire Bible, read the works of Tolstoy, Plato and Aristotle, play Claire De Lune on the piano. At the time of writing his book he had completed 111 of his original list and expanded the list to 500 items. That is what I call dreaming big. What I admire about the story as well is; he did not stick to just his list of 127, but has kept over his years expanding his possibilities. Do check out his website and read his amazing story --

Set aside some free time on a weekend or evening and create your own life dream list. Dream Big about the things you desire to do, places you want to travel to, things you want to learn! If you do Journaling, write your list in your journal, or you may want to make a creative poster of your dream list. Do write it down so you can begin checking your dream items off as you accomplish them.

You may say how does this relate to my previous post on our choices towards Happenstance events or as I see them as God Moments. If happenstance is where it’s at, why plan anything or dream dreams?? Having recently, the opportunity to hear Dr. Krumboltz speak on the issue of Happenstance and life; he pointed out that he is not against dreaming or goal setting. Instead he encourages people to be open and flexible to new possibilities instead of rigidly hanging on to your dreams. Hanging on to a dream may bring you near destruction. I remember when working at a warehouse when I was younger; I had lunch with a lady who shared how she had been almost killed by her ex-husband and needed plastic surgery from the beatings. I asked her why she stayed so long with him until the near fatal beating. She replied she had thought he was her dream prince charming. A dream that nearly killed her. Again thinking of John Goddard’s list, he after many years did not complete everything on his list, instead he opened his mind to 373 new possibilities.

Follow your dreams! But keep open to new possibilities!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Career Journey: Openness to Happenstance and God Moments

On our career journey, I mentioned earlier that career assessments can open up career possibilities for individuals to think over. Another aspect to look at in our career journey is happenstance in our lives. These are the chance events that pop into our lives. These events have an effect in our careers and life in general. Some consider happenstance as luck or circumstances. Coming at life from my Christian worldview, I see a Creator God guiding life rather than random chance so I view happenstance occurrences as God moments. His special intervention in our lives.

I count it a privilege to have attended a few years ago a training by Dr. John Krumboltz and Dr. Al Levin about Happenstance which was based on their book Luck Is No Accident. I appreciated their thinking that Career Counselors need to have a whole life focus instead of just looking at finding life fulfillment in just a career. Events that come into our lives shape the direction we move in career and our overall life journey. I highly recommend this book if you are exploring career and life fulfillment. Their thoughts helped me to view our life journey as the Beatles song says The Long and Winding Road instead of a straight direct line.

As I read through their book and considered their Happenstance Learning Theory I applied it to my career life journey. What we think we will do in our high school years can vary widely as we react to life events. Drs. Krumboltz and Levin point out that our careers and lives are not a result of just pure chance happenstance. It is the choices we make in response to those events. That is an important factor to consider. As I look at my life, I see turning points of happenstance in the timeline of my life.

For example in my junior high school years in Ohio, I had a high respect for the pastor at my local church. Having grown up in a single parent home I looked up to him as a role model. So in High School I decided I would go to Bible College and be a pastor of a church. Then in my senior year a new pastor took charge who was a real jerk, was abusive to people, and had an affair with the secretary of the church so I became disillusioned. In my disillusionment I looked at my high school career test results. The results listed careers of minister but also engineering. So in my disillusionment I chose engineering. During the first year of college I realized by working with a career counselor I had deeper Social leanings in my career choices and I should not let one poor example of a pastor disturb my move in that direction. So I moved first back home and worked a while at a factory to sort out where to go to school. I selected a Bible College in Chicago where a couple of my friends attended.

After my Bachelors degree in Bible at Moody Bible Institute I went on for a Master of Divinity degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School also in the Chicago area. By then I had an interest in Counseling so I took that emphasis in my degree. You would think I would then move into a religious ministry position but that did not happen. Some life events occurred to move me into a job with a Publishing company in the Chicago Suburbs. It was a lower level position keeping track of returned books from bookstores and schools. Being a booklover I thought this may be an opportunity to move into the publishing world. I noticed in my work there, in my small office at the back of the building, workers from various departments would stop by and many would vent their frustrations concerning their lives to me. Especially after a few years as the company was bought out by another company; stress levels rose at work so even higher level managers would come by and they would apologize for “venting”. I would reply “don’t worry everyone doesI’m the company shrink back here”.

At this time I was also doing volunteer work with a Korean minister who was working with college students from different cultural backgrounds. I found I enjoyed tutoring and counseling the students on their life plans. As the publishing company spiraled out of control from the corporate buyout; and I had two deaths in my family, my mother and oldest brother -- I moved into a customer service job at a local suburban corporation. For the next two years I worked customer service in phone order departments. Definitely not my dream job of high school days but it paid the bills. During that time I kept volunteering with the Korean minister as I enjoyed helping the college students. This is when I met my future wife, Susie at one of his meetings. After a year of having met her, she needed to move from Chicago, IL to Texas to pursue her Pharmacy career

As she moved to Texas I had a decision to make -- do I follow her to Texas or just stay in Chicago? Continuing to think about Happenstance or God Moments, (in my high school days I would never have envisioned this choice). I had no desire ever to move to Texas as I did not care for cowboys or the Wild West. Some of my friends echoed that thinking. Other friends of mine told me to look at my life. If I really loved Sook , (as Susie is known in Chicago), I would take the risk and move to Brownsville. It was also pointed out to me that I really did not enjoy my work in Customer Service. So I took the risk and moved.

My move was to Brownsville, TX the southernmost tip of Texas. I landed work in Real Estate while I looked for other types of work as well. With my lack of Spanish skills it was difficult to find other work. I thought back to my volunteer work with college students in Chicago and thought working at a university would be fulfilling. I eventually landed a job as a Student Success Advisor at a Technical College in the area. By then I had married Susie and she encouraged me to go back to school, as I had always wanted to finish a Masters in Counseling. I finished that degree at the University of Texas at Brownsville. After working 5 years at the College, a Career Counseling position opened at UTB so I applied and got the job. This is a job that I am thankful for being a part in opening students’ minds to their possibilities for their futures. But it is miles apart from what I thought I would be doing when I graduated from High School.

As I look over my life and think of the Happenstance Theory I see the life events that I had not planned nor envisioned in my high school life: living in Chicago, working at a Publisher where co-workers would turn to me for their “Venting”, my mother and brother’s death, the stress of the company spinning out of control , meeting the Korean minister through a musician friend where I gained a passion for working with University students, meeting my wife at a Korean church, moving to Texas. All events I did not plan on, but the choices I made concerning them helped shape the present I am enjoying now. Some events were stressful others joyful but looking back I can see them as God Moments, of molding events in my life and career journey.

Take time to look back over your life journey. What are the unplanned events that entered your life to bring you where you are today? Take some time to write your life journey down and reflect over the choices you made in the various turning points in your life. Be thankful for your life journey.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Living More Than OK by Becoming a Bookhead

In my first post, I mentioned how seeing the ill effects of students who were bored, failing in their dreams their first year of College, was an impetus in wanting to do a blog on how we can live fulfilling lives. Their comments initially dumbfounded me as I believe I have always tended to be a low boredom type, especially when it comes to education. I love learning. I believe a major reason for this is that in my early elementary years my mother, each Summer involved me in the local library reading program. All my life I have enjoyed reading. Some of my research readings on boredom show that readers often have lower boredom levels.

This came close to home when a couple of years ago, I was trying to encourage my teenage daughter to read more books. She was not too keen on the idea. She told me that she was not a Bookhead like me. I immediately thought of the full bookshelves in my home office and the two full bookshelves in my work office. Bookhead -- I liked the term.

Being a Bookhead is a way to expand your mind and make your life more than ok. Fiction books can take you places in your mind that may encourage you to travel or try out something new in your life. Or just the imagination side of fiction can bring fulfilling enjoyment to a boring day. Nonfiction books provide knowledge to grow your mind and explore new experiences in life. They also help build critical thinking skills as you think through ideas and issues in nonfiction books.

There have been studies in the recent years showing a decline in reading. The National Endowments for the Arts did a study on the decline in reading from 1982-2002. Any drop in reading levels or people who think reading is boring makes me want to shout out the positive side of building a habit of reading in our lives. I came across a thoughtful opinion on the subject from 2007 looking at another survey about reading habits. The writer points out how other cultures such as the Chinese and Indians are moving ahead of us in the US, due to their increased reading habits. In an era where the news points to a decline in reading I would like to encourage more people to try out being a Bookhead as one way to improve their lives. I have never really been a follower of Oprah’s television shows but one area I respect her in is her emphasis on promoting books and reading.

In the book, This Unbearable Boredom of Being, the author, Genrich Krasko, speaks of the importance of reading – “But one cannot build up one’s personality, with high self esteem and a mature approach to life without reading and reading a lot. Extinction of books will eventually bring about the extinction of Western Civilization.” Reading a wide selection of books will build our lives up with stronger minds and deeper fulfillment. Support your local library and local bookstores by making a commitment to watch less TV, less internet surfing, (except for this blog!), and make time to read more books. Start with topics and reading styles you enjoy and branch out from there. For encouraging younger people to read check out the website, by author James Patterson. It is a helpful resource for encouraging young people to read.

As for my daughter’s reading, back when she called me a Bookhead, a friend told me not to push books on her. Instead let her find books that she liked in her own timing. I wish I could say her recent interest in Ted Dekker books was my doing. Actually I am grateful to her English teacher and her school librarian for connecting her with books that she enjoys reading. That is the key in moving beyond ok in your life by becoming a Bookhead -- find what books you enjoy and enjoy a relaxing, fulfilling Summer read!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Following a Career Journey to More Than Ok

I am writing this after coming back home from the National Career Development Association conference in St. Louis. My thinking was challenged, so I will probably do several posts in the coming months on careers as part of our life journey. Our work life is not all of what life is about, but we do spend a lot of time in this thing called work. I remember reading Chad Foster’s book, Teenagers Preparing for the Real World, to my teenage daughter. In it he mentions we work about 85,000 hours in our lifetime. That is what I call a lot of time!

That blew me away as I had in my work life gone week to week and never thought how much time is actually involved in our work during a whole lifetime. I realized that I was almost at the halfway point. Thankfully I presently work at a career that I enjoy and find meaning in helping others. My present work with students is that of a Career Counselor. I enjoy helping students open their minds to their personal strengths and helping them connect with a career they are passionate about. One way to living life more than ok is living a career that is based on our interests and strengths.

I have had my share of jobs I wasn’t crazy about but they served a purpose of providing a roof over my head. I have been grateful to God for each job as it beat the alternative of unemployment. I will discuss living with jobs we don’t care for at another time.

How do we find a career that we can be passionate about? I am a strong believer in career assessments as part of the puzzle. I know not everyone agrees with them but I have seen them as a useful tool in my life and in the lives of students I have worked with. There are a variety of assessments to choose from. Two popular ones are the MBTI and the Strong’s Inventory. They can be discovered by searching online, contacting a local university career counseling center, or meeting with a local Counselor. The National Career Development Association has a section on their website about finding a career counselor in your area.

Some do not like the personality and interest assessments for careers, as they believe they pigeonhole people too much. Granted I have seen them used that way. Instead I believe they should be used as a tool to help people explore and open their minds to possibilities. The individual needs to be listening to the still small voice inside and not blindly focus on the results of the assessments. We are complex so there are many sides of finding a satisfying career. These many sides will be discussed in future blogs. I feel the assessments are a helpful starting point with feedback from a dedicated Career Counselor.

My favorite career website is based on the work of Richard Bolles. There you can find a wealth of information to sift through. I also highly recommend his book, What Color is Your Parachute? If you are in a career quandary at any point in the career journey -- check it out for an informative read. I am not sure if the next posting will continue on the career trend or discuss a new topic. I have many ideas on my mind at the moment. Follow your dreams!