My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Spreading Joy By Giving At Christmas







Each Christmas Season brings new memories and new lessons learned. A thread that came through this season is that part of the Joy of Christmas is in giving. Giving touches upon the true meaning of Christmas in God sending His son to the world as the greatest gift. There were many ways this came to mind this year and I will simply touch on a few ways that stood out to me.

Recently as a family we went to a concert of the Tran Siberian Orchestra for their Winter tour. If you ever have the opportunity to see them in concert they put on an amazing performance. Their talent as artists and performers is superb. (Click on this sentence to hear a short video of their music). We thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds of their music and light show. What does this have to do with giving as we were on the receiving end? Well, something else I appreciate about the Trans Siberian Orchestra is their performance always tells a story. As I listened intently to the mesmerizing voice of the narrator and the lyrics of the singers the message became clear. The story was emphasizing one important part of Christmas was that of giving and being open to give to strangers in their time of need. They were also getting across that this aspect of Christmas should be a year round lifestyle change in us. So we went to the concert simply to enjoy their music but came away with an important lesson as well.

During the Christmas season as I shop, I am also reminded of the importance of giving as I hear the familiar bells of the Salvation Army. They are a Christian based organization that does so much good around the world. By placing spare change into the red kettles it is a way to give to the needy that the Salvation Army helps.

Then a few days ago while my wife and daughter went shopping, I spent the day baking small gingerbread cakes and Christmas cookies. From the memory side of Christmas there is nothing better than baking cookies while listening to Holiday music. Since we are new in the neighborhood I thought of making up plates of cookies and giving them to our neighbors who we are still getting to know. When they came back from shopping my wife helped me plate the cookies which you see at the top of this column. She creatively wrapped them up with plastic wrap and red and green ribbon so they were ready for delivery.

Christmas Eve morning I walked them around to our surrounding neighbors. I could see joy in their eyes as their gazed at the decorated tray of baked goods. Who would think that giving a simple tray of cookies would brighten someone’s life? We hope in the New Year to know these neighbors better.

Reflection: What are some ways you practice giving during the Holidays? As you look into the New Year are there ways you can keep Christmas alive by giving through out the year?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Savoring Fall in Texas




The diverse colors of the Fall season is one aspect of the Chicago area my wife and I had missed in our living in the Texas, Rio Grande Valley. I’ve never missed the bone chilling snowy Winters of Chicago, but Fall is a season I missed. There is a relaxing freshness for the spirit in taking a Saturday stroll through Lincoln Park with the trees full of a mixture yellow, oranges, and red leaves. Or driving up through Southern Wisconsin and viewing the changing colors of creation. In Brownsville we missed the diversity of the seasons.

With our move up to New Braunfels we noticed Maple trees in our neighborhood and with plum trees in our yard we thought we might be able to enjoy Fall again. A week ago we took a weekend to go to nearby Lost Maples State Park . We rented a cabin that overlooked the Frio River in Leakey, Texas. The drought had taken its toll on the river yet in the area where our cabin was the water was so clear we could see the catfish and turtles swimming.

On early Saturday morning we went over to Lost Maples. It was sprinkling lightly so we worried that would hinder us taking photographs. As we started up one of the trails, by then it had stopped raining. After about a quarter of a mile we came to an open field area that was perfect for photographs. The colors in the maples were spectacular oranges, yellows, and reds. The rest of the hike gave us a good healthy workout. I was thankful that it was a cooler day as we walked the miles of the hike.

Savoring is deeply soaking in experiences as you are going through them. It is taking time to reflect on the present moment so as to imbed the moment into our memory. When we are savoring, it often also brings up corresponding memories. The time at Lost Maples with my family and taking photos that afternoon allowed me to reflect on memories of Fall trips when I was young in Ohio to the various state parks Ohio is noted for. Those were positive times with my mother, brother and family friends growing up. The colors also brought back memories of the many Fall weekend hikes in the Chicago area. Many a Saturday I would hike from Peterson Avenue on the far North side and follow the lakefront parks to the North Avenue Beach area.

Back at the cabin in the late evening I marveled at all the stars sparkling on the clear backdrop of a black cloud free night sky. It had been many years since I had seen so many stars. Then in the early morning I sat out on the cabins patio to read. I would glance up from the book listening to the sound of silence and marveling at the expanse of trees on the other side of the river. I breathed up a prayer of thankfulness to the Designer Creator behind all the beauty around me.

Taking short breaks to savor the wonder and beauty of nature helps to revive us from the humdrum boredom of life. Opportunities like these help to slow down our pace so we can savor new time moments with family and renew older memories that make life more meaningful. The voices in our minds can tell us we are too busy to take a break or we don’t have the money. We almost allowed those voices to stop us from going to Lost Maples. After the weekend experience we were glad that we made the choice to go and get away.

Reflection: Plan a getaway for yourself and your family -- even if it is a one day picnic at a park or beach. During the time use 20 to 30 minutes to soak in the experience and savor what getting away means for you.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Renewing The Spirit At A Counseling Conference






A week ago I had the opportunity to attend the Texas Counseling Professional Growth conference in Fort Worth, Texas. I have mentioned before, one reason I enjoy conferences is the life long learning experience of looking at new practices and theories. This year was a little different in that as the 2011 President of the Texas Career Development Association, my primary place at the conference was to be at our division booth and promote our association. This meant attending very little of the conference.

With Thanksgiving this week I do look back at that week and am thankful for the learning I was able to partake in. I am thankful God has given us minds to learn and grow through reading and learning from others. I will share in this blog post two learning sessions the deeply affected me.

They both occurred on Friday of the conference. The first one was very early. With coffee in hand, I went to the Counselor Prayer breakfast at 6:30 am. There were not many present that early in the morning, but the presenter shared insight on the importance of prayer that I felt was very timely in my life. She discussed the concept of “Centering Prayer” . This is meditative and reflective prayer of quietly reflecting for example on Galations 5:22& 23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. “. Or you can pray a prayer of worship centered on an attribute of God. She mentioned this moves our prayers away from whiney, gimme, gimme prayers. Not that praying for people and things is wrong but the centered prayer I believe quiets our hearts and calms us to hear from God.
She used the analogy that life with its chaos, fear, sadness, and despair is like a hurricane. Centered prayer allows us to be at peace in the “Eye of the Storm”. The eye of the hurricane is where the air is calm and quiet. Having lived in an area that had hurricanes I could appreciate the analogy. Prayer does have that characteristic to take our spirits away from the rages of the storm to a quiet place in God’s presence.

After that early morning session I also was able to attend the Keynote speaker session with Dr. Bradford Keeney . Dr. Keeney is presently Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy and Hanna Spyker Eminent Scholars Chair in Education, University of Louisiana, Monroe campus. Over the years he has studied healers, shamans, and medicine men around the world in a variety of cultures.

In his presentation Dr. Keeney rightly pointed out that modern Psychology and Counseling relies too much on techniques and theories and neglects what he called the complexity and mystery of the Divine. The sterile secular mindset tries to explain everything and puts everything into categories and stereotypes. He emphasized Counselors can learn from the ancient healers. Be open to the Spirit. That we gotta have a song in our soul. He brought up the importance of rhapsodic expression of poetry and music. In doing this he went into a beatnik type or rap like poetry expression of his message. I found drawn to his creativeness in his presentation. To help people we do need to tap into creativity and realize that counseling has an art form element to it.

A couple of points that made an impression on me was his mentioning of the Irving Mills song, “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” . Click on the title to hear a video of it. Dr. Keeney was trying to get across that the healing process is helping people re-energize their lives. Not living ok existence, but the liveliness and energy and power of the Spirit which is found in the analogy of jazz and spiritual music. Keeping with his music analogy he presented the idea that Counseling needs more song and feeling. Don’t just interpret a technique, instead swing and rap with the individual needs of the person seeking help.

Dr. Keeney at another point began to sing the children spiritual song. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” This was a reminder that our purpose in our lives, and in our practice as Counselors is to make the world a brighter place. Life is not about getting things and living complacent ok lives. Instead life is about giving and shining light on the darkness in people’s lives.

So although at this conference I spent quite a bit of time at our TCDA booth the sessions I was able to attend impacted my life in challenging how I can shine my light and be more centered in the spiritual aspect of my life.

Reflection: How are you shining your light in your world to make it a better place? Do you have an inner song that inspires your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happenstance, Choices and Our Career Journey

With the course for freshman college students I teach at a local college, a major ending project is looking at their career choice. I try to let them know that many things in life shape our career journey. It is not just taking a career test and out pops the perfect career. Also for most of them right out of High School, I let them know that they are looking at an initial starting point for their career journey. They will find themselves expanding into other areas in the future.

Recently, I was on one my favorite websites www.naturalhigh.org and on their online tv link watched a video of Josh Landan. Take a few minutes and watch it here www.naturalhigh.tv/ They have several videos but presently Josh’s is the first one.

I showed this to my college students this semester as it starts off showing his initial passion at 18 to be a videographer. His passion can be picked up in the comment that he came across as a stalker. Also the manner he speaks and the light in his eyes you can see his love for filming. I love seeing people following their passion be it in their vocation or avocation. A passion gives us purpose and meaning as well as enjoyment in life. So I encourage people to seek out an area they are passionate about. Especially students I work with I try to encourage them to find a passion to tap into.

Listening to Josh I also see Dr. Krumboltz’s, concept of Happenstance as well, (I have spoken of his concept of happenstance and creating our own luck in the past). Josh had a surfing videographer he looked up to in Taylor Steele. At one point in his life he had a chance to meet him. With that chance, he took the risk of a choice to see if he could work with him. It worked out that he could work with Taylor Steele, and from the flow of his story it was a positive turning point. This turning point opened up his growth in filming as a career.

His filming progressed and he tells us of awards and success in his area of passion. Then at another juncture it is suggested that he try out managing athletes so he progresses on in his career journey to manage athletes. By then he is also directing films as well. From a career point of view he has opened up to greater levels than where he first began. Did he know this would happen when he was an 18 year old, stalking surfers with his camera? I am sure he would say no.

In the end he speaks to his wise choice to stay away from drug use. He mentions that this choice affected his career success. His type of work is more freelance in nature so he is self employed. He clearly states that if he went the drug route his life would have been wasted. You can’t run a successful business when drugs or alcohol are in control of your life. He could have chosen to follow peer pressure of drug use in his local area of Ventura, California. We see he did not make that choice. He chose to follow his passion and look for natural highs in his life.

Reflection: Journal how Josh’s video affected you. Did it remind you of important choices you have made in your career journey? Think over those happenstance items in your life that forced a choice in your career life and life in general.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Resilience And Knowing Our Limits

Resilience is that part of our being that keeps us going during the tough times. When we want to give up our resilience level is that inner voice that says don’t give up -- keep moving forward and upward. It helps us to bounce back when life throws us unexpected curveballs. We can through planning and goal setting control much of what life throws at us, but we can’t control everything. Resilience can give us the strength to keep plodding along the path instead of giving up.

We each have different difficulties on our journeys to test our resilience. In dealing with these difficulties part of resilience is knowing our limits and knowing when we need to ask for help. There is nothing wrong in asking for help. That help can come from our fellow travelers on life’s journey or Divine help as we call out to God for help.

Recently we as a family heard Matthew West in concert at a church in San Antonio. Many of his songs impacted me but one that stood out that evening was Strong Enough. Click on the title and listen to the song. You will find the video amazing.

Strong Enough by Matthew West

You must, You must think I'm strong, To give me what I'm going through

Well forgive me, Forgive me if I'm wrong, But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

I know I'm not strong enough to be, everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up , I'm not strong enough , Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be, Strong enough, Strong enough
For the both of us

Well maybe, Maybe that's the point, To reach the point of giving up

Cause when I'm finally, Finally at rock bottom, Well that's when I start looking up
And reaching out

I know I'm not strong enough to be, Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up ,I'm not strong enough , Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be, Strong enough, Strong enough

Cause I'm broken, Down to nothing, But I'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God, and you are strong, When I am weak

I can do all things, Through Christ who gives me strength, And I don't have to be
Strong enough, Strong enough

I can do all things, Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be, Strong enough Strong enough

I know I'm not strong enough to be, Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up, I'm not strong enough, Hands of mercy won't you cover me,
Lord right now I'm asking you to be, Strong enough, Strong enough, Strong enough.

The song reminded me of difficult days in Chicago after my mother had died, then shortly thereafter my oldest brother was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away months afterwards, wasting away to nothing in his final days. During that time of grief the company I worked for had a corporate takeover and I lost my job. Those were depressing days where like the song says I was at the point of giving up. This was a time when my resilience levels could not cope. I felt the strength of Christ by close friends at church filling in the gap. Also by holding onto the promises of God’s Word helped me to keep forward on the journey.

The song also reminded me of my volunteer work with a drug rehab center in Brownsville, Texas. Their groups used the 12 step program of Alcoholic Anonymous. If you work with addicts they know from their stories they had to hit rock bottom before seeking help. They will admit their turn around was only from God’s hand of grace reaching down to pull them up.

As you listened to the song and read over the lyrics did it remind you of past times of difficulties in your life. Maybe you are facing difficulties now – economic, health, broken relationships. Know that whatever you are facing you need to be open to know your limitations and reach for help. Maybe it is calling a friend to let them know what you are facing. Possibly you need to reach out to your local church or parish for help. Most importantly of all, I believe we need to reach out and understand Jesus Christ is there to give us strength enough for the difficulty we are facing.

Reflection -- Think over a past difficulty where you felt overwhelmed. In hindsight can you see how the Hand of God helped through the process whether through other people or in a miraculous happenstance occurrence. Also in these difficult days is there someone you know facing difficulties where you can be the hand of Christ by helping in love?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Month To Live






How would life be different you us if we knew we only had a month to live? That is an important question to consider in Living More Than OK. Sometime ago a dear friend gave my wife and I the book One Month To Live by Kerry & Chris Shook. The Shooks are the founders of the Woodlands Church in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. A little over 10 years have passed since I had my brush with death, but stent surgery to my heart arteries saved my life. So thinking of this anniversary made me think about this book.

The premise of the book, looking at our life journey with the end in mind, is very relevant to how I have lived my life since the stents unblocked my two blocked heart arteries. Knowing that ten years ago may have been my last day has affected how I lived since then and today. The experience gave me renewed purpose for living life and that God had a purpose for my life continuing. That purpose is still cloudy sometimes yet each new morning I awake I know there is a reason to use my time wisely.

The authors early on in the book bring up an interesting analogy by mentioning cemetery grave markers. Every time I visit my hometown of Barberton, Ohio I try to visit my parent’s gravesite. The markers list their birthdate then a dash and then the day they passed away from this life. The authors note that we don’t choose our birth date and the day we die but the dash, which is the time in between we can make choices on how we use it. How very true. Do we consider how to maximize the use of our dash time?

We can live a better life if we take seriously to make the most of our dash time. One could think of the book title and think this is a morose way to live. Waking up and hiding under the covers as, “This might be the day I die. I think I will stay inside and watch Reality TV re-runs.” That is not the message of the book. When we accept our mortality we are more open to living life in a way that we can make the most of it, and hopefully impact it in a way to improve the lives of others.
In Ecclesiastes 7:4 it reads, “A wise person thinks much about death, while the fool only thinks about having a good time now.” By accepting our mortality we can make better choices with how we want to use our dash time to make the most of the fleeting time in this life. By just living for pleasurable impulses we may miss some really great opportunities that we may have enjoyed even more. The fool is just reacting to life and not thinking through how he or she wants to really live their life.

The authors speak to important topics that are found in making a flourishing life. Having a strong connected spiritual relationship to God is the foundation of life so this is highlighted in the book as primary. This relationship should be of main importance in our dash time. Relationships with others are also stressed by the authors. Too many people die and those left behind have unresolved issues because relationships were not a priority. To live a life without regrets it is important to work on relationship issues in the land of the living.

Living passionately and being open to risk taking are important and so are discussed by the authors. Many come to the end of their lives with regrets because they did not do what they wanted to do in life. They always had certain things on their “get around to it” list but they never really got to them. That is one problem with such lists. We make the lists but allow the mundane activities of life to snuff out the importance of the items we really want to do.

Psalm 37:4 says “ Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If your primary connection to God is right and He has placed a passion in your heart for something then take the risk to do it instead of putting it on a “get around to it” list that will be quickly covered up the others cares and day to day business of life. The importance thing about this verse of scripture is the first part. Too many people claim this as a promise for going after our desires. The text clearly shows the priority is having a right relationship to God and then the desires, passionate items, can be gone after with knowing God will be with us.
An important feature of the book I found is the “Make It Last For Life” reflection boxes at the end of each chapter. The questions help to savor the information so you can apply it to your everyday life. It is sort of a paradox being faced in this book. To truly live life to its fullest, we need to consider our death and what kind of legacy we wish to leave behind.

Reflection: What would change in your life if you knew you had a month to live? Is there something God has placed a passion in your life for?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do The Rich Owe Me A Better Life?

Over the past few weeks I have been watching the internet news and reports on Fox News about the Occupy Wall Street Protests. Much of what I have heard in the interviews with protestors is that many are against companies, banks, and the wealthy. When asked what they want they state they want economic justice, they want the wealthy to have their money redistributed to “The People”. In reality they mean they want their money. They never state why they deserve the money.

As I listen to all this I have thought of my thinking behind Living More Than OK. My belief is that the principles of Positive Psychology and spiritual principles help each of us to make better choices so as to improve our fulfillment of living in the world. The aim is to make better decisions in self empowerment. It has nothing to do with stealing money from the rich so I selfishly can have a better life. That is not what I hear from the OWS groups they want the money of the rich given to them by the Government.

I came across this Youtube link to a OWS protest in Oakland, CA. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuFQuEwJ5xI Take the time to listen to it. Especially, if you have not heard their comments about what they are doing. Listening to it was a combination of blood pressure rising, to despair of how our universities are brainwashing young people into Marxist zombies. What is economic justice? Several spoke of the need to redistribute the wealth. Do the wealthy owe me money? Sure, if Warren Buffet wants to hand me a million dollars I won’t say no, but do I have the right to demand it? Does the government have the right to take most of it?

Since when did the American Dream turn from self initiative and hard work to get ahead; to being a nation of entitlement seekers, stealing from the rich to gain easy money? The one man speaks of the billions left behind in Steve Jobs estate as Mr. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer recently. The interviewer reminds him there is an estate tax the family will have to deal with. The man’s response is, “That is not enough!”. That is sickening. What makes that man believe he deserves some of Steve Job’s money? There is also the young lady that gets defensive when the interviewer points to her IPhone. She is there complaining about corporations yet she uses their products. There is an insane level of hypocrisy within the OWS movement.

OF course they are not totally wrong. There has been abuse from rich companies that get corporate welfare and definitely do not pay their fair share. In those cases that is where justice should be done. General Electric, one of the wealthiest companies in the U. S. paid no taxes. Warren Buffet , Barak Obama supporter, who has complained he is not taxed enough, has been behind billions of dollars in taxes from his company. If he feels he is not being taxed enough he should start with making sure his company pays the billions in back taxes. These are the economic injustices that need to be solved.

Is it fair that 1% of the population who are the wealthiest pays about 40 percent of the total taxes received while 51% pay no taxes? I agree with those who say the OWS protestors are protesting at the wrong place. It is the Government that gave $500 billion to a Solar company that went bankrupt and another billion to another solar company whose factory is in Mexico. So our tax dollars are being funneled from the White House to Mexico job creation when we have so many out of work here.

Again I must say I am not letting the wealthy off the hook. They should be responsible with their wealth. But it is their wealth, not mine nor the governments to take. Jesus told a story in Luke 12:42-48 (NIV)
42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

Jesus is speaking of a manager a Master has put in charge. If he does right he will receive more responsibility. Managers who do wrong will be punished. The key verse is verse 48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” In the larger context Jesus is speaking of the kind of leadership qualities He wants in his disciples but an application of this verse relates to the issue that before God we are responsible for what we have been given in knowledge and in material benefits. Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” All of us need to care for the poor and that includes the wealthy. So we each need to be thankful for what we have been given and be accountable and responsible in using our material wealth and resources.

Reflection Think over of how you can be a better steward of the talents, gifts and material resources God has given you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Overcoming Time Regrets

Recently in the College Success course I teach I was lecturing on time management. Time management is one issue big in the lives of college students and the rest of us struggle with it too. The sands of time go by too fast and often we would like to do a rewind but that only happens in Hollywood movies. In our race against time we often feel like we are steps behind time or running way behind. As time passes us by we then look back with regrets which is often the basis of our desire to rewind time.

In my teaching I like to use music lyrics to jog the minds of the students to think about issues and life. This semester for time I found a song which I used, “One Day Too Late” by a band called Skillet . Here are the words to the song and as always -- simply click on the title of the song to open up a video of the song to listen to it as you reflect over the words.

One Day Too Late By Skillet

Tick tock hear the clock countdown Wish the minute hand could be rewound
So much to do and so much I need to say Will tomorrow be too late

Feel the moment slip into the past Like sand through an hourglass
In the madness I guess I just forget To do all the things I said

Time passes by Never thought I'd wind up One step behind Now I've made my mind up

Today I'm gonna try a little harder Gonna make every minute last longer
Gonna learn to forgive and forget 'Cause we don't have long, gonna make the most of it

Today I'm gonna love my enemies Reach out to somebody who needs me
Make a change, make the world a better place 'Cause tomorrow could be one day too late One day too late One day too late

Tick tock hear my life pass by I can't erase and I can't rewind
Of all the things I regret the most I do... Wish I'd spent more time with you

Here's my chance for a new beginning I saved the best for a better ending
And in the end I'll make it up to you, you'll see You'll get the very best of me

Your time is running out You're never gonna get it back
Make the most of every moment Stop saving the best for last.

There are so many positive take aways from this song. The first thing that stood out to me is, “Never thought I would wind up one step behind.” No one plans to fail or fall behind in their lives. Yet since we are not actively seeking to “make the most of every moment” in wisely using the time God allots us on our journey we subconsciously sabotage all that we could accomplish.

The phrase “gonna make every minute last longer” speaks to the quality of our time. I can’t make a minute last 85 seconds but I can gain more from my time usage by focusing on what Stephen Covey calls the Big Rocks, which are the most important things in my life. For me the Big Rocks are God, family, and the purposes God has placed me on this earth for. These need to be emphasized in my time usage.

Another phrase that stands out to me is “Make a change, make the world a better place”. How can I leave this world a better place? Is sitting around watching reality tv or watching inane videos on the internet helping me make a positive impact on the world around me? In my time usage I need to reflect on ways to improve my little part of the world before the sands of time run out for me. Living life in this fashion cuts down on regrets in how we use our time.

Reflection: Write down some of your thoughts about the song “One Day Too Late” What key thoughts stood out to you? How can you make your time last longer? Think over how can you make you make the world a better place?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Enjoyment of Scenic Drives

Our family spent our latest Saturday, on a scenic drive from New Braunfels to Boerne , Texas. The drive on 46 West is just 40 minutes. We enjoyed every minute of traveling the rolling hills of the Hill Country. In the sections with expanses of trees I was hoping to see some colors but it being just the start of Fall, and with the hot dry Summer here in Texas the leaf colors need a few more weeks.

A scenic drive is an enjoyable way to spend a day. The curvy roads of a state route are harder to drive than a major highway but the scenery shows the beauty of the countryside. The drive brought back memories of when I was young in Ohio. My mother had a family friend and his wife who would take us on Saturday drives and picnics in Southern Ohio. That area of Ohio had rolling hills just like the Hill Country of Texas.

You can do a scenic drive anytime of the year but I always preferred in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan to do them in the Fall to view the Fall foliage change. That is why even though we moved here in Summer to New Braunfels my wife an I were waiting until Fall to do our first local drive.

We spent a few hours in Boerne shopping and ate lunch at a Local eatery, The Peach Tree Café . The staff were very friendly and the food was fresh and delicious. The décor was simple, clean and quaint.

On our way out of Boerne back home we stopped at a riverside park. We took some pictures of ducks and geese being fed by a family. We noticed as well in the water a large number of turtles trying to battle with the geese for crumbs of bread. Of course the geese won out most of the time.

Our scenic drive day was a change of pace from our regular Saturday routine. Breaking from routine is part of Living More Than OK. Overall even with high gas prices it was a relatively low cost day. The important part is we were together enjoying the beauty that is scenic America.

The internet is a great place to obtain ideas for scenic drives. Here are a few websites you can go to for ideas:

In Texas -- http://www.trails.com/toptrails.aspx?area=12302

In USA -- http://www.scenicdrivesusa.com/

http://byways.org/explore/byways#index_T

You can also take a map of your state and be more daring by charting out your own scenic drive through local country roads.

Reflection: Take a Saturday or Sunday drive exploring a new area you have never driven before.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fear Limits Our Dreams

Recently I was watching an interview with Jazz great Ramsey Lewis. In the interview he shared how he never considered himself as a composer. He thought of himself as a jazz performer of others’ music. He stated that to him, Burt Bacharach and Duke Ellington, were composers not him. He then candidly shared that at one point he realized fear was a major factor in his mindset about this matter. He shared how this limited him and he felt more peaceful and more joyful about his music once he opened himself to accept that he could be a composer as well.

His newest album, Songs From The Heart, is all compositions written by Ramsey Lewis. The following You tube link has some samples of the music and thoughts from Ramsey Lewis about the album. Take a listen to the video and listen to the music and what he says-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s82tbVWpNqI In the video you can hear his feelings about his being considered a composer. He shares as this new album came up he immediately started thinking of other peoples’ songs he could put on it. It took someone else to remind him he had his own songs for people to enjoy.
Reflecting on the interview reminded me of how fear can limit our progress in our life journey and the dreams we are attempting. Fear can smother and weaken us so we give up on what we want in life. The fear may be of what others may think. Fear of failure in making fools out of ourselves. Fear of imagined negative consequences often chain us into being stagnant and not growing.

With anything new in our lives there will be fear. So with each new dream, each new learning experience; we will be faced with fear. The important thing is what to do with the fear. John Maxwell in his book The Success Journey quotes Dr. Susan Jeffries, “As long as I continue to push out into the world, as long as I continue to stretch my capabilities, as long as I continue to take risks in making my dreams come true, I am going to experience fear.” Fear is a reality and we can’t hide from it. It is part of the risk process in trying new things in life. We need to keep pushing out into the world on our journey each day. Fear keeps us hiding from our journey.

Another fear quote in the same book is one I have shared often with students, “The hero and the coward both feel exactly the same fear, only the hero converts it into fire.” (Cus D’Amato). It is how we react to the fear that is important. It is about our attitude. Do we give up, or reevaluate and continue in a forward motion. There is nothing wrong about feeling fear. The wrongness is in letting fear control us and conquer us.

Going back to Ramsey Lewis, he conquered the fear by beyond open to his skills as a composer. He now has an album of his own compositions to share with the world. New songs that would not be here if he had caved into fear. What is being withheld from the world in bringing more beauty and joy into the world by our letting fear smother our dreams?

Reflection: Take some quiet time to reflect on dreams and new learning experiences you have been desiring. Is fear holding you back? Brainstorm some ideas on how you can get back on track on things you have put off in your life but really wanted to do.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Enjoying God’s Creatures





About a month ago our family visited the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch nearby our home in New Braunfels, TX. It is a wildlife park where you travel by car through 4 miles of Texas Hill Country terrain viewing a variety of animals from Africa and native Texas animals. According to their website they have over 40 different species of animals.

Before you begin you are given a bag of food to toss out of your car for the animals. Unlike a zoo where the animals are caged, here we humans are caged in our cars and the animals roam free in the confines of their territory.

The setting lended itself to great photography opportunities. I was driving so my wife, daughter, and nephew took most of the camera shots. I did get some in as you can see a couple photos here atop of this column. We enjoyed the opportunity to be so close to the animals.

The animals were very docile and probably enjoying the easy food. Even though it is best not to buy extra food, as the animals were primarily eating the grass and just saw our food as an extra snack on the side. For the most part everyone driving respected each other. There were a few pesky types that would impatiently drive faster than they should to get to the end of the trail quicker. If a person is in such a hurry why do they go to such a place where the pace is tranquil and slow?

The Ranch also had a small animal petting area of primarily goats and sheep for children to enjoy getting up close and personal with the animals. If you are in the New Braunfels, Texas area I would encourage you to check The Wildlife Ranch out.

Spending the morning there made me think of all the diversity in nature. I then thought of the God behind it all. When you view animals at a zoo or aquarium and think about the complexity and diversity I do not understand how people can not think of them as God’s creatures. Whether creationist or evolutionist, all this diversity demands a God behind it from my point of view. But of course others prefer to rest their belief in random chance.

At the end of the day I thought of memories of how my mother always enjoyed visiting zoos and aquariums. When she was alive and I lived in Chicago I flew her in to visit and we visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, The Aquarium in Chicago and the Brookfield Zoo. Some people do not like zoos as they feel it is caging up animals. Yet I feel zoos provide an opportunity for more people to understand and enjoy animals. They provide important education about wildlife and can help us appreciate God’s creatures.

Reflection: Take a visit some weekend soon to a local zoo, aquarium, or nature preserve to enjoy the animals and nature. Take a few moments at the end of the day to journal or draw your reflections of what you learned by observing the animals.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Motivation With Personal Performance Reviews


One dreaded part of an individual’s work life is the Annual Performance review. The nervousness, upset stomach feeling and pre-worry that comes before the review; makes it a part of the work environment that many hate. The review is meant to motivate employees but often demotivates and comes across as a yearly despised ritual.

So what really motivates us in our work? Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us . In it he focuses in on three key elements of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The important thought about the three elements is that they are internal based in the individual instead of external motivators.

With autonomy the focus is freeing up people to do their work with out micromanaging the details of their work. Trusting workers to do their jobs frees them up to not feel like just cogs in a machine. Autonomy builds personal accountability and responsibility for the work and projects, a person is working on. In a micromanaging environment people can not do their best as they have to deal with the un-nerving feeling that they are being watched continuously which they usually are. This creates personal second guessing instead of releasing productive creative new ideas.

Mastery the next element relates to continual self improvement in your work. Pink places a portion of a poem by W. H. Auden in his section on Mastery:

You need not know what someone is doing to know if it is his vocation,
You only have to watch his eyes; a cook mixing a sauce,
a surgeon making a primary incision, a clerk completing a bill of lading,
Wear the rapt expression, forgetting themselves in a function.
How beautiful it is that eye-on-the-object look. – W. H. Auden -

The poem touches on a part of Mastery in one’s work of being in a state of flow. Being at a level where the work just flows with ease with rapt attention to what you are working on. Mastery also enlists a growth mindset of not being satisfied with the mundane but improving towards excellence. Mastery takes discipline and hard work as well. Daniel Pink brings out the example of the 10 year rule research that many people we consider great did not get that way in an instant. It takes on the average 10 years to build their skills before they were discovered or they had their big break. This time frame is based on researching the disciplined habits of sports stars, virtuoso musicians, and artists. Mastery takes time and effort.

The third element is Purpose. Purpose is a powerful motivator as it gives us a reason for what we are doing in our work and lives. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi is quoted in the book on the subject of purpose: “Purpose provides activation energy for living.” Purpose provides the energy to keep on going when we don’t feel like it. Creating clear goals helps shape and clarify our sense of purpose. We can have work goals for our vocational life and personal goals for other aspects of our daily living to keep us living more than ok.

Going back to the issue of personal Reviews; one main invaluable part of the book is the ending “Toolkit”. This is where Daniel Pink provides a variety of exercises to flesh out the elements of the book in a practical way for everyday life. One tool I want to share here is the “Give Yourself A Performance Review”. Instead of waiting for the Boss to review you -- review yourself. The example is in the context of work but this will help even in your personal life goals as well.
Once a month find some quiet time to look over your learning goals, performance goals, and/or personal goals. Honestly consider how you are doing on each goal. Is there a way you can improve on reaching your goals or do they need to be revised? Honestly look at the obstacles that are hindering your progress.
This exercise can help with your reaching your goals and may just help you be more relaxed as you face a work review evaluation.

Reflection: Take some time to journal about your purposes you have in your life. What is your purpose in going to your job? What is the overarching purpose for your life? Also Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE is about motivation. Another toolkit idea is to do a Personal Motivational Poster. Try to do one with a phrase you make up as a motivator or a special quote. You can draw or do cutouts of pictures from magazines. Or Daniel Pink mentions websites that help you create motivational posters with pictures you have taken. Check out these websites:

http://wigflip.com/automotivator/

http://bighugelabs.com/motivator.php

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Reading Lists
















Summer time is often a time for Bookheads like myself to take more time to read. Even people who are not Bookheads tend to read more in the Summer. One help in encouraging reading in the Summer are Summer booklists. I was reminded of this as I was reading the August edition of one of my favorite magazines, Success . It is a magazine geared to principles to help people be successful in life and business. They had a reading list of what a selection of business leaders, actresses, actors, and musicians were reading.

As I looked through the list I saw books I have read in the past. The article also gave me ideas of new books I want to read in the future. I then went to Google’s search engine and searched for Summer reading Lists and there was a variety of lists from Oprah, suggested children book lists, Universities and bookstores reading lists as well. Viewing such book lists gives ideas for books to look for at the library, or books you may wish to purchase for your Summer reading.

Here is the list of books I have started reading for this Summer. Some I have completed and others I am still working on:

Flourish by Martin Seligman – Dr. Seligman discusses key principles of Positive Psychology and how the discipline aids in people having a flourishing life.
Your Creative Brain by Shelley Carson – Dr. Shelley Carson provides the reader with concepts from her research in improving levels of personal creativity.
Drive by Daniel Pink – Another great book by Daniel Pink, this one focuses on developing our internal motivation skills.
Distance Counseling by Editors James Malone, Randy Miller, & Gary Waltz -- As a Counselor, I found this book eye opening as to the expanding effectiveness os Counseling of individuals by using the internet communication process.
Eccentrics by David Weeks & Jamie James – A psychological study on Eccentric individuals throughout history. Gives insights on key elements in the eccentric personality.
A Praying Life by Paul Miller – This book is a practical and honest look at the subject of prayer. Through personal examples of the author he shows the struggle with prayer and the importance of prayer.
Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias -- Ravi Zacharias edits a series of Apologetic articles on helping Christians have a firmer understanding of why they believe what they believe in a post modern age.
Creating Minds by Howard Gardner – This book is a psychological study of creativity looking at the lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham and Gandhi.

As you finish up the Summer you may want to go to your local library and pick out a book of your favorite genre to read. If you are needing new ideas for books click on the word GOOGLE here and it will take you to a list of booklists to peruse.

Reflection: Think about the books you have read this Summer. Reflect over what you like the most about the books. Check out a couple book reading lists and find a new book to read.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Live, Love, Laugh -- Key Words In Living More Than OK




Before we made our move to New Braunfels a co-worker of my wife gave her the three wooden sea gulls shown in the picture. On the wooden base each bird is attached to reads the words “Live, Love, Laugh”. We placed them in our new house in a built-in display shelf as one enters the living room area.

These three words capture much of the spirit of this blog in living our lives more than ok. As we recently walked through our neighborhood I noticed a couple houses have decorative signs with the saying “Live, Love, Laugh”. As I searched about these words on the internet I saw one sign that expands on them “Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often”. Wondering about the background of this phrase I then searched where the phrase came from. At answers.yahoo.com a reply to a similar question was that the phrase came from a poem by a poetess, Bessie Anderson Stanley. Here is a copy of the poem.

Bessie Anderson Stanley wrote a poem in 1904 entitled "Success." It reads in its entirety:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.


Let’s look at each word, the first being “Live”. We are placed on this earth to live not boring lives but to live well. We need to make the most of life and enjoy our time to the fullest. From the text of the poem the “live” is not just selfish existence but to make the world a better place. Take time to enjoy the beauty of creation. Living is also relating in a way to others to build them up. I see in the poem the importance of mentoring people around us to bring out the best in them.

The second word in the sequence in our bird picture is “Love”. In the poem the thought is to love much. The first thought that comes to my mind is the Greek term agape the one word for love that is used in the Greek New Testament in the context of God’s unconditional love. Also sacrificial love as is described in the Love chapter of the Bible, I Corinthians 13. Here is an except from verses 1-7:

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This love lived out in our lives can as the poem says, help us be a person who “left the world better than he found it…”.


The third word is laugh. The poem speaks of laughing often. A verse from Proverbs comes to mind. Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Laughter brings joy to our life and heart. Laughter is good therapy to help us be healthy as it relaxes us. It is a natural stress reliever. Comedy films are often popular as they help people feel good afterwards. Laughter therefore helps us to live better. It can brighten up a dreary boring day. Laughter also helps us from taking ourselves and life too seriously. I am all for being serious about life but sometimes we go overboard and we then need to learn to laugh at ourselves.

So as you go through this week think through these three important words, Live, Love, Laugh. Ask yourself are you Living Well, Loving Much, and Laughing Often?

Reflection: Reflect over the three words Live, Love, Laugh. What do they mean to you? Think over the poem and ask yourself how can you be an inspiration this week? On the coming weekend rent a comedy movie and enjoy some laughs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life Is Not Always Good, But God Is Always Good

We all have times when life knocks the air out of us. Moving is not always easy. Trying to adjust to a new job with accompanying stress does not feel good. Finding yourself in a new location without work in the midst of a recession and seeing few job openings but many unemployed competitors does not feel good. On a deeper scale, seeing the insane travesty of young people at a Norwegian camp massacred by a crazed killer claiming he is doing God’s work goes beyond life being not good. Life is definitely not good at times. It can be downright evil.

Following principles of Positive Psychology that I discuss in this blog will not stop the difficulties and travesties of life from appearing in our life journey. I have mentioned previously, I follow the Christian worldview. Some falsely assume that a follower of Christ walks down a path strewn with rose petals and angels spreading blessings of happiness, health and wealth in their every moment. That is a false view of Christian reality. Jesus had his share of difficulties and His disciples in the New Testament writings dealt with difficulties and persecutions. Christian beliefs do not stop evil and difficulties from coming into our lives.
This reality of our life journey brings to mind a Christian song that was popular in the 1990’s. It is one of my wife’s favorite songs and has an important message for us to reflect on. As usual when I do songs click on the title to hear the Youtube video and then reflect over the words of the song.

Life Is Hard But God Is Good by Pam Thumb

You turn the key
Then close the door behind you
Drop your bags on the floor
You reach for the light
But there's darkness deep inside
And you can't take it anymore

'Cause sometimes living takes the life out of you
And sometimes living is all you can do

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

You start to cry
'Cause you've been strong for so long
And that's not how you feel
You try to pray
But there's nothing left to say
So you just quietly kneel

In the silence of all that you face
God will give you His mercy and grace

Jesus never said
It was an easy road to travel
He only said that you would never be alone
So when your last thread of hope
Begins to come unraveled
Don't give up, He walks beside you
On this journey home and He knows

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

There is so much emotion of the reality of life in this song. It reminds me of how Scott Peck starts his book, The Road Less Traveled – “Life is difficult”. It is the hardness and coldness of life that “takes the life out of you…”. I think of the coldness of what happened in the killings in Norway. Young people at a camp, being deceived by a killer in police clothes; he shot them down in cold blood. The pictures of the prayer gatherings make me think how many at the gatherings were engulfed by the silence of where is God is these acts of evil.

The song also, reminds us that the tears of life’s pains are not forgotten. There is a Good God behind the difficulties. Even though evil tries to silence God’s Grace and Mercy He will break through the silence if we hold onto hope. God will be faithful to those prayers where you are just kneeling and don’t really know what to say as long as you hold on to hope. The difficulties are just a point on our journey they are not the journey itself. At those hardest points in life be assured God silently is walking at your side.

Reflection: Think back to a difficulty in your life journey. From your vantage point now, can you see what you learned from the experience that can help you in further difficult times? Take a moment to breathe a prayer for those around the world in major difficulties, such as those grieving in Norway over the loss of so many lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Appreciating Clouds





At a recent conference I was attending, during one of my sessions an attendee mentioned there was a Cloud Appreciation Society. At first mention I thought it strange to have an organization about clouds. Upon returning home I looked up their website -- cloudappreciationsociety.org . I marveled at their photo gallery of cloud pictures.

The next few days I caught myself looking up into the sky admiring the cloud formations around me. This brought back memories of younger days staring at the clouds and seeing shapes in the clouds. I don’t know if you ever did such things when you were young. It was amazing what you could dream up looking at the clouds. It was very relaxing and I realized it still is.

The above two photos are views from my home office. I have a beautiful view of the sky and clouds from my desk. This is very inspirational to look outside and appreciate nature. Sometimes there is a squirrel perched on the fence munching on some seeds. But since hearing about the Cloud Appreciation Society, it is the sky and clouds that catch my attention. Looking at the clouds is peaceful and allows my mind to slowdown. Savoring life and learning to slowdown and to appreciate the simple things in life is part of living more than ok.

The vastness of the sky dotted with puffy clouds makes me think of the Grand Creator behind the beauty of creation. Taking five or ten minutes to relax and savor the Cloudscapes helps me to calm down so I can focus anew on the activities I am trying to accomplish. We need to work and accomplish our tasks but we also need to rejuvenate by savoring God’s Creation.

Here is one thought from the Cloud Appreciation Society’s Manifesto:
“Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked. They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.”
One point that stood out to me in the statement is how the beauty of clouds are overlooked. That is often true of so many things in our lives. How in our over hurried lives we miss the small beauties around us that can improve our daily outlook. We need to look to the sky and dream new dreams from the inspiration we see.

Reflection: Take five to ten minutes to relax and look to the sky and observe the clouds. Jot down in a journal how the clouds make you feel. Write down a few memories of what looking at clouds was like when you were a young child. Also visit the Cloud Appreciation Society website http://cloudappreciationsociety.org and be inspired by their photo gallery. If you are a photographer take some photos of clouds you see.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What Does Your Next Chapter Look Like?

Each of us on our journey has a story to tell. That story is our life. Many people enjoy reading biographies. These are life stories. I have noticed over this past year in bookstores many actors, politicians, and musicians have been having their memoirs written. With some,honestly, I question what have they done to merit a memoir? Yet I am sure their fans will enjoy reading their story.

What about you and me? Do you have a story to tell? In reality each day starts out as a new page in your life story. As we reach major turning points and life shifts these become new chapters in our story. Family, friends, culture, government, life events, and our personal power of choice helps to shape our story.

In Counseling Psychology there is a therapy technique called Narrative Therapy . It focuses on the story of a client’s life. The problems we face are built into our stories and created by all the factors that shape our story. The solution is helping people re-author their lives in choosing to write new chapter directions in their story.

A song by one of my favorite musicians, Matthew West encapsulates the power of story and re-authoring in our lives. Take time to listen to the song by clicking on the title and reflect over the words to the song.

The Story Of Your Life by Matthew West

Is this the end? Or only the beginning?
The second chance You never thought you'd get.
The question is Will you do something with it?
Or spend your days lost in your regret.

This is the story of your life. You decide how the rest is gonna read.
This is your chance between the lines. To redefine what kind of legacy you
Leave. This is the story of your life and it's a story worth telling.

Breathe in deep. Feel your heart still breathing.
Let's go see the reason you're alive. Oh, you are here
and love is up to something.
So take your fear and leave it all behind.

This is the story of your life You decide How the rest is gonna read.
This is your chance between the lines. To redefine what kind of legacy you
Leave. This is the story of your life And it's a story worth telling.
This is the joy. And it's the pain. And all the pages in between.
Your finest hour. Your weakest moment.
It where you've been, It's where you are, It's where you're going.

This is the story of your life. You decide How the rest is gonna read.
This is your chance between the lines. To redefine the kind of legacy you
Leave. This is the story of your life. Go tell the story of your life.
Cause it's a story worth telling, It's worth telling
Is this the end? Or only the beginning?


On our journey we face joys, pains, moments of weakness, moments of natural highs, and finest moments. In each of the moments we make choices that redefine the direction of the story. So we have the power to re-author our lives just as Narrative Therapy is saying.

Often in the painful moments we may become despondent and think our story is over. And sad to say some people make the choice to end their story. But if we realize our story is worth telling with all the pain and joys together, we can wake up each morning knowing a new page is turning.

I like the line that says “Cause it's a story worth telling”. We may never have a book written about us or have a movie about our story. Yet to those around us our story is important. We have a legacy that will live on after we move on to the next world. What will that story be? Maybe you are going through a change, As I mentioned I recently moved so I have a new chapter facing me. What does that next chapter look like?

Reflection: Take 30 minutes in a quiet place to free write a new chapter in your life. Think through your present moment and where do you want to go next. What are some new possibilities for your story? Another idea --Go to your local library and pick out a biography of someone to read. It may be someone you know in history or just pick a biography by random and read their story.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Empowered By Our Past and Genograms

In the past I have mentioned that as a believer in life long learning, I enjoy learning at conferences. Last week I attended the National Career Development Association Global conference in now nearby San Antonio. Our work and personal life is empowered beyond boredom if we are taking time to learn new ideas from others. That is the main importance for me in going to conferences.

One topic that stood out to me first came from a keynote speaker, Mark Guterman of Meaningful Careers. Their website is MeaningfulCareers.com The topic of his presentation was “In Remembrance Lies the Secret…Lessons From The Past Guiding Us Into The Future”. He touched on a number of ideas yet the driving point that spoke to me was that we are impacted by the people in our past. Our families, close friends, and role models have an impact on how we shape our values for what we want to pursue in our work world and personal world.

I like quotes that speak a kernel of truth to me and one that stood out in Mr. Guterman’s presentation was by David Brooks, “We inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources, none of us exist self made in isolation from it.” We each are where we are at partly because of choices and responses to those in our past who have interacted with and impacted our lives.

We need to take quiet times aside, to savor the impact that those in our past have had on the development of our present state in this journey we each are on. We need to take time and think through how past advice and personal examples have helped to shape our present. Through appreciation and gratitude for their impact, this can help us move towards a more positive future.

After the Keynote speaker I found it interesting as I was looking at the afternoon speakers, there was a session on “Discover The Impact Of Our Past By Learning How To Use Career Genograms”. A genogram is a graphing or mapping tool to look at your family tree. Since I am a strong believer in savoring the past for what we can learn from it, I could not pass this session up. The speaker was Kimberly Key, who has a private coaching practice in Austin, Texas -- named Encompass Work and Family. Her website is encompassWF.com where you can find out more about her work.

I was somewhat familiar with Genograms and how they can give us insight into how we are living our lives in relation to our past family interactions. I must say I had never looked at them from the career standpoint. So this was refreshing to learn new ways to use Genograms. In some case studies reviewed in the session, I could see why people went the career direction they went in relation to past family members careers. In discussion and sharing in the session others pointed out that it is also a helpful tool maybe not to predict a particular career path, but to help people understand how their career values were shaped.

Both of these conference sessions helped me to see the importance of the past in our life journey. I often tell people we cannot change the past. But that day at the conference I gained a better understanding of how we can learn from the past to make better present choices. If you would like to learn more about Genograms check out the website www.genograms.org and try doing one.

Reflection: Try doing a Genogram going back to your grandparents on both your mother and father’s sides. Reflect over their lives. What do you remember or even think about family myths about relatives? Jot down in a diary or journal how your values and life experiences have been shaped by them.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Keep Thinking of a Better Way

We all have times of regret in our life journey. Sometimes the regrets come through difficult happenstance events crashing into our lives. Other times regrets come through foolish choices and foolish actions. In living a more than ok life the aim is to keep regrets to a minimum. I say minimum as try as we like, difficulties that come across as negative, will always appear from time to time in this life.

One way to keep negative regrets to a minimum is to have regular times of reflection in our time schedules to look over how life is going and review choices we are making to see if there is a better way of handling our life journey.

Recently I came across a song that speaks to this point. It is by a band named Sister Hazel. A Department Director, where I used to work at told me about the band. Their style is alternative rock with a folk-rock, Southern rock flavor to their sound. Other than enjoying their musical style I appreciated the depth they have to their lyrics. Most of the songs have a positive tone to the message or realistically makes the listener think through an issue.

Take a few moments to look over the lyrics to “Better Way”. You can listen to the youtube video of the song by clicking on the title. Think through what is being said about a life of regrets.

Better Way by Sister Hazel

When I was young, my father would say,
"Time bends its back for no one, my son
And the bright skies, they only fool the men who are blind
So, look through the smile and see what's behind."
Now you left, all my dreams drifted away
I would try to move past but my life's not the same
If I only knew then the things I know now
Then I'd take it all back and I'd turn it around
Cause I have so much to say And more to give today, yeah
This is no life to live, you gotta give I have so much to say
And more to give today, yeah This is no life to live, you gotta give
Must be a better way Must be a better way
Now, here I sit, in a cage all my own It's a new life, it's a brand new home
And it's made of steel, it's built out of fear It's closed up to you and it's part of the deal
If I only knew then the things I know now
Then I'd take it all back and I'd turn it around Cause I have so much to say
More to give today, yeah This is no life to live, you gotta give
Cause I have so much to say More to give today, yeah
This is no life to live, you gotta give Must be a better way Must be a better way Turn back the clock And put it all back I'll make the time last
Cause I've got so much to say And more to give today, yeah
This is no life to live, you gotta give Cause I have so much to say
And more to give today, yeah This is no life to live, you gotta give
Must be a better way Must be a better way
I have so much to say And more to give today, yeah
This is no life to live, you gotta give Cause I have so much to say
And more to give today, yeah This is no life to live, you gotta give
Must be a better way Must be a better way.

How many times do we say in life, “if I could only turn the clock back”; ‘this is no way to live”; “There must be a better way of doing this”. We are saying these things often after a negative occurrence in our lives. Usually after an event I find myself thinking over it and saying to myself, “What was I thinking I should have done that instead!” If I had a dollar for every time I said that -- I would be a billionaire. But as the song said at the beginning time does not bend, we can not turn the clock back and re-say the damaging things we said or re-do the damaging actions we did towards others or even ourselves.

Yet we can change the future by taking time to reflect on present circumstances and think over better ways of making new choices to reshape our next step in life’s journey. We can’t change the past, but we can ask forgiveness for past mistakes. This allows us to change our futures for the better.

Another phrase that stood out to me in the song was “This is no life to live, you gotta give.” It made me think of the Biblical thought in Acts 20:35, “In everything I did, I showed you by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is better to give than to receive.” A life of taking from others leads to regrets. A secret to a better life is to learn to give of yourself to others. This is so contrary to how we often act but if we reflect on the best times of our lives; it is often when we were not thinking of our self interest but helping others and sharing with others.

Reflection:

Take 30 minutes of quiet time to think through what is going on in your life. Is there a better way to be doing what you are presently doing? Think through are you a Giver or a Taker? What is one way in the next week you could give to others around you more?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Learning from Others’ Work Attitudes

In our process of moving into our new home I have observed a variety of work attitude examples that impressed me over the past few weeks. Part of Living More Than OK is a desire to continually grow and improve our life experience. One way to do that is to learn from positive examples that come across our daily path. We don’t often take notice of our interactions as we are not mindful in our living. We are too busy moving on autopilot to be mindful. It is through these mindful moments we can learn to improve our overall life.

I am again looking at work attitudes as we spend so much of our waking time in our work. The attitudes we carry in our work can drain us or energize our work day. Our attitudes affect those around us in the workplace. Attitudes can also follows us home affecting those outside of work. The examples I will share are attitudes of workers I observed that are positive examples to follow.

The first recent example that comes to mind is from a hotel we stayed at during our move process. We usually choose a hotel that gives a free breakfast. This one had a waffle machine and I always enjoy the free waffles. As we went to breakfast I was all ready to make my waffle. As I walked over to the machine a bright eyed older worker with a wide smile asked “would you like a waffle”. I was surprised as usually the workers at hotels simply are there to replenish the supplies and clean of the breakfast area. Three minutes later she had the waffle on a plate for my wife and I to share. Her friendly servant attitude helped make my morning brighter. I watched her help others with coffee, juice and waffles and I could see everyone she touched with her friendliness appreciated her service. Her attitude made a positive impact on the atmosphere of the breakfast area.

Another example is from an alarm company we use for our home. I was setting up our service with Vivent and as always I did not have to deal with an irritating computer voice system. Instead I was quickly connected with a friendly worker to set up a technician appointment. I could feel her smile through the phone and her happy attitude. I asked her why are the workers at your call center always so friendly? Do they put something in the employees’ drinks to keep them friendly and happy? She replied, “I guess we just love our jobs and enjoy working here.” Now, I worked at call centers before and most people don’t see them as the most enjoyable workplaces. Yet this company is doing something where their workers enjoy working there enough to present themselves in a friendly courteous manner which helps customers who are trying to obtain help.

My last example comes from a book I am reading God Wants You Happy by Father Jonathan Morris. The book is filled with important principles how our connection with God helps to improve our lives. But in tune with my present topic, he starts out the book introducing the reader to an elderly butcher in Brooklyn. In his description he mentions the Butcher’s broad smile. An attitude of happiness and friendliness brings customers back even though his small shop had to deal with large food supermarkets coming into the neighborhood. An attitude can make or break a business. In this man’s case his happy attitude kept his business thriving against the competition.

These were just two examples I experience of many in the past few weeks. The example from the book is placed here, as a bookhead, to remind us we can also learn from examples in books. The important take away is we need to be mindfully aware as we go through our life each day to see how we can improve our life. We can be better in our workplace situations by following the examples of excellent workers we observe.

Reflection: Write down three recent examples of excellent customer service you observed from workers around you or at a restaurant or store. What can you learn from these examples to improve your work attitude?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Moving and Attitudes in Our Work

We finally moved into our new house and are adjusting to unpacking and setting up where everything goes. Probably the hardest part for me has been adjusting to a new kitchen. Trying to remember which drawer has the measuring cups, where are the coffee cups, or trying to remember where the pots and pans are. But after four days I am learning.

With all the stress of the move one aspect that I appreciated was the moving company who moved our big furniture pieces. To save money we moved most of our boxes ourselves. For our furniture we went with a local moving company. I know my limits and would rather trust our large pieces to professionals.

Observing the movers in action; loading the truck in Brownsville and then unloading in New Braunfels helped me to appreciate their skill and hard work. I also started thinking about work attitudes. The movers worked as a team and I sensed a positive spirit between them as they joked with each other. From shrink wrapping our couch and recliners to wrapping up my wife’s dining room hutch they took care in what they did. I mentioned to one of the movers how well they worked together and that they appeared to enjoy their work. He went on to tell me about a three story move once, where they were bringing down a large marble furniture piece and the owner seeing them in good spirits said to them. “Shouldn’t you be cussing carrying such a difficult piece?” His response was how would cussing and having a bad attitude help in moving a large marble furniture piece?

He is so right a nasty work attitude does not contribute to excellence in work. Jessica Pryce-Jones in her book Happiness at Work says of work attitude: “Bad attitude is bad news. Because it is more often a cause for downfall than failing to do a job well…” Bad attitude spreads negativity throughout the workplace. It affects a person’s motivation to do an excellent job and then can affect the motivation of those around them. This results in poor work results and complaints of boredom as the bad attitude worker is not open to learn new ways to improve their work.

A positive work attitude is like the movers I observed. Dedicated to being careful with the customer’s belongings, working energetically even in difficult situations. We had a one story house which is nice for movers but the morning was very hot so they were sweating profusely. They sure appreciated the bottles of Gatorade we picked up for them at the Stripes Gas Station.

Reflecting over their hard work caused me to reflect on my work attitudes. In my work life my hardest days were when I fed into negativity. These days would cause a downward spiral affecting work performance and my life outside of work. Thankfully those days have been few and far between as I have mentioned before from a spiritual standpoint as a Christian, I try to keep a God focus in my work. I try to do my work as pleasing to God first and then secondly for the customers I serve; which for the past 10 years has been helping College students succeed in their lives.

The moving experience helped me to see all types is work is important. To have a better work experience an attitude check is a must each and everyday.

Reflection:
Reflect over your work experience. Do you primarily carry a positive or bad attitude in your work experience? Write down a couple of ideas how can you improve your work attitude by “kicking it up a notch”, as the Chef, Emeril Lagasse , used to say on his Food Network show?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Life Moves and Life Poems

My family is making a move from Brownsville, Texas to New Braunfels, Texas. We have visited many times in the past the Hill Country area and my wife and I thought it would be a good place to retire. As happenstance has a way of doing, events transpired for the move to occur now when we are still a distance from retiring. When you have settled in one place as we have been in the Rio Grande Valley for 10 years, it is hard to move to another place; even if it is a place you like. For me there is trepidation in that I am stepping out with no set job yet. My wife has a new opportunity but even that for her -- she has to face a new situation.

I find solace in that recently at church and other spiritual readings we have encountered, Faith has been a topic facing us. Any change takes faith to step out to try something new. In our faith we know in our heart that God has opened this new direction. So even though all the pieces are not together we know the puzzle will fall into place.

I was recently practicing a Michael Card song for a speech at my daughter’s school and it made me think of God’s direction in our lives. I have the words below for The Poem of Your Life. Click on the title hyperlink to listen to a Youtube video of Michael Card singing it. He is being accompanied by my favorite guitarist Phil Keaggy.

The Poem Of Your Life by Michael Card


Life is a song We must sing with our days A poem with meaning
More than words can say A painting with colors No rainbow can tell
A lyric that rhymes Either heaven or hell

We are living letters That doubt desecrates We're the notes of the song
Of the chorus of faith God shapes every second Of our little lives
And minds every minute As the universe waits by

The pain and the longing The joy and the moments of light
Are the rhythm and rhyme The free verse of the Poem of life

So look in the mirror And pray for the grace To tear off the mask See the art of your face Open your earlids And hear the sweet song Of each moment that passes And pray to prolong

Your time in the ball Of the dance of your days Your canvas of colors Of moments ablaze With all that is holy With the joy and the strife
Of the rhythm and rhyme Of the poem of your life
Of the rhythm and rhyme Of the poem of your life


Poems have various stanzas that make up the whole meaning of the poem. Viewing our life journey as a poem we see each turning point segment begins a new stanza. Recently as I prepare for the move I look back at the memories of our home here, friends and co-workers who will be missed. In faith I look towards a new stanza of the poem beginning in our new setting of New Braunfels (click to view the N.B. Visitors website).

It is comforting to know that God is guiding the minutes of my life. God helps create meaning in my poetic journey. In a way I can see Him as the Poet and Artist behind the shaping of my life. Yet through the pains, the joys, the plans, the serendipitous surprises He allows me to make personal Choices, which creates as the song says, “the rhythm and the rhyme the free verse of the poem of life.” Based on our choices we can make our life a heaven or a hell.

Reflection:
Take time to write a Poem about memories of a previous Poetic stanza in your life or write a Poem about the next stanza you see yourself stepping out in Faith towards.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Encourage Reading With Book Fairs

This week of May 2-8, 2011 is Children’s book week. The official website to promote this week is www.bookweekonline.com where more information about it can be obtained. They have an important quote listed on their “About” page – “A great nation is a reading nation." That is a statement I sincerely believe in. If we want to keep our country great one important factor is keeping people literate. Reading needs to be encouraged to keep growing fertile minds of creativity and critical thinking. We as a society need to start with the young which is the importance of Children’s book week. Then of course all ages need to continue to read to keep reading at the forefront of culture.

Earlier this week I experienced one way to encourage reading in children and adults. In the nearby city of McAllen, they had their first International Book Fair May 1-3. I remembered the Book Fairs when I was living in Chicago. Especially the 57th Street Book Fair down near the University of Chicago campus. The book readings and the books from various publishers on display made for an atmosphere to promote the joy of reading. I knew this one in McAllen would not be comparable since it was just starting out. But as I have said since my daughter calls me Mr. Bookhead, where there are books I must go. I was not able to attend the first day but went out early on the Monday morning. I made it to the McAllen Convention Center at the starting time. Knowing the Rio Grande Valley I should have known that Monday morning is not the best time to attend any kind of Fair.

As I walked into the main hall I noticed a small amount of the booth spaces were open. There was a Publisher from Mexico there which makes sense as this is a Border town. The local Barnes & Nobles had a large booth space. There were a couple of Christian Bookstores open and to my surprise a used bookstore. I had been in the Valley for 10 years and did not know McAllen has several Used bookstores.

In speaking with people there I found out that Sunday had been very crowded which was encouraging to hear. They were anticipating more people to come out in the afternoon. Local schools had been invited as well to bring children. That was a positive idea to invite the schools to the event. Probably a Saturday, Sunday , and Monday timeframe would have been better.

As I was leaving, I met the man who dreamed up the book fair event. His name is Oscar Moreno. He shared how his family as he was growing up encouraged reading. Book fairs his father took him to in Mexico caught his interest in reading. Oscar brought up a concern he has how so much of free time in the Valley is spent watching movies and videos so he wanted this book fair as a way to encourage more reading in the Valley. I encouraged him to keep up letting this event grow in the future as it is a tool to help encourage reading. I have a lot of respect for a man such as this who took his dream and brought it to fruition. He shared how many people scoffed at the idea, even well educated lawyers. I told him not to let negativity from others to dissuade him from doing this again. Hopefully his idea will expand to the Lower valley of San Benito and Brownsville.

When you have the opportunity to attend a Book Fair take the opportunity. It helps you see what book stores are in the area. They offer opportunities to meet authors and learn more about the writing process. The experience can also open the minds of young children and young people the importance of reading.

Reflection: How are you encouraging the joy of reading in children that you know? Mark on your calendar next years date for Children’s Book Week - 2012: May 7 – 13. Take a moment to reflect over the last book you read for enjoyment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Surfing Through The Difficult Waters of Life

Recently our family saw the movie, Soul Surfer the weekend it came out. We went to it as we heard it was a true story and inspirational in nature. It is the true story of Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. She is a young lady from a surfing family. One day while practicing she lost her left arm at age 13 in a random Tiger shark attack. In real life she was attacked October 31, 2003 by January 10, 2004, she bounced back, competed in a surfing competition and finished fifth place.

IT is a powerful story of resilience in the life of Bethany from losing her arm to not giving up and coming back to go on to be a professional surfer. The movie is based on a book that was written back when the tragedy occurred. The movie shows the range of emotions of her family and from Bethany. Being so passionate about the water and surfing it is understandable in a way to see her wanting to go back into surfing soon after having lost her arm. Then as she tries in a local tournament her failure catches the best of her and the disillusionment affects her life.

In the disillusionment period she goes with her youth pastor and youth group to help with the Indonesian Tsunami victims. Through this experience, in stepping back away from surfing it gave her perspective in seeing that without her arm she could still help. In this sequence there is a touching yet comical scene as she helps a little child overcome the fear of the water. Then coming back home she sees the mail from other handicapped people she had encouraged by competing in the local tournament where she felt she was a failure.

There are various elements in her life that reawaken the passion for surfing. With family support and hard work on her part she trains for another competition. Her family helps out in her training and she doubles up her discipline and work in training to do her best. She does well enough in the next competition to keep her drive going to where she is a now a Professional surfer.

Resilience is the bouncing back from hardship in our lives. IN this story her spiritual faith is seen as one element in her resilience. She has her share of doubts from the standpoint of why would God allow this when she is so passionate about surfing. Also seen just how the positive side her spiritual faith and her Mission work in Indonesia gives her hope and expanded purpose that even though losing her arm she is possibly more useful in touching people’s lives.

I would say her family is another element to resilience to help in her bouncing back. They were 100% behind her in whatever direction she wanted to take whether to stay in surfing or find something new. OF course they knew sea water was in her blood. It is touching to see her family cheering her practice on and then when she enters the competition.

The final element of resilience I see in the movie is her discipline and hard work shines through. This is so important and is so lost in our culture. Hard work is not emphasized. Just get noticed on a reality tv show or promote YouTube videos about yourself and lady luck is supposed to open the door for you according to the American idol culture we live in. IN reality it takes hard work and passion. Before the attack Bethany’s passion and hard work is seen and after the attack and she knows that surfing is what she really wants hard work and passion is seen again. These are two vital aspects of resilience if we want to succeed in what we are doing. The passion is the motivator of the hard work and discipline.

This is definitely a must see movie from the standpoint of a positive story and what we can learn from it to improve our lives. I could imagine the change in peoples’ lives regaining new drive for their passions if crowds were attending this movie. OF course that has not happened. The critics knowing it is a true story of a Christian have done all they could do in their power to stop people from watching it. The Village voice reviewer trashes it simply because she is a Christian. This was one of the more terrible reviews I have ever read as he is blantantly going against the film just because the Christian sentiment in it.. Any critical thinker watching the movie can see the director does not go over board on the Christian angle. It has to be there as that is who she is but it is not overtly sappy spirituality. Another famous reviewr was a little more mild in his review but again since she is a Christian harps on his opinion that the movie does not deal with real struggles and she seems to rebound too quickly in his viewpoint. Well it was her life not his. Plus I don’t know what movie he was watching as you see the turmoil of the parents and you see Bethany’s doubts as well. The truth is she did rebound quickly due to her youth, her family support, her faith, her passion and her discipline. All things we can all learn from. Reading the critics made me know why more people went to see a movie about a cartoon bunny that plays drums and a horror slasher film than Soul Surfer. Such a sad commentary on a society that definitely needs to hear the message and example of resilience in this film instead of brain dead cartoons and horror movies.

Reflection
What can we learn from a movie like this? Since I am a low risk taker one thing I immediately pick up on is this is another reason I would much prefer being in a swimming pool that going into the ocean with all kinds of dangerous creatures. But seriously think and reflect on a hardship time in your life. What did you learn from it and how did you bounce back? Then from the standpoint of after the first failure in coming back she took some time off to do a mission trip to Indonesia. We need to remember sometimes it is good to step back and try something different in your life to gain a new perspective.