Haiti Challenge

I admit I haven’t done much reading on this disaster in Haiti.  I’m just sitting down to write about thoughts that have been going through my mind for 24 hours with no time to process.  Yesterday the recurring theme on Twitter was, “Watching scenes from Haiti.  Wow.  Shocked.  Praying for Haiti.”

From where I sit on a daily basis I get my news from Twitter.  I fire up my iPod Touch and read “tweets” from people who make sense to me.  But this post is NOT about Twitter.  It’s about people’s reactions to the world.  My Twitter feed has given me a very unique perspective on this event from people who I highly respect.  I don’t hear from strangers.  I hear from very intelligent, thoughtful, and caring people.  And their response has been one of awe, compassion and action.  And that is what this post is about – action.

My life has changed since Sorin was born. The thought of my son suffering is unbearable.  And when I look at cnn.com and nytimes.com and see the photos of Haiti, I see news through a new lens now – awe.  I see it through the parent’s lens, and I know each person suffering is someone’s child.  And they need help.

As I said, I haven’t done much reading on this.  But really, what do you need to know?  You need to see pictures and hear a couple stories of what’s happening.  From the nytimes.com:

“You can’t do anything about the dead bodies, but inside many of these buildings people may still be alive. And their time is running out.”

–Eduardo A. Fierro, a structural engineer
inspecting quake-damaged buildings

Their time is running out.  I’m sitting on a laptop computer, sore from a hard day’s work, and ready to get some sleep.  But their time is running out.  

Compassion.

I have no other stories to share.  Do you really need one?  My purpose is very simple:  action.  It’s too easy to pass up opportunities to help.  I’ve done it so many times in the past.  Not this time.  I was inspired by Bebo Norman’s tweet where he said that he would donate $5 for everyone who repeated his plea (on Twitter) for financial support to Compassion International.  My challenge is this:  

  • donate $5 or $10 to World Vision, Compassion International, or the Red Cross (texting “disaster” or “Haiti” to 90999 will take it right out of your phone bill)
  • write on my Facebook wall that you did this (or comment on this blog post)
  • I will match your gift 

I started the challenge this morning, and I have 4 partners on my team

If you’d like to forward this blog post to someone who may be interested, please copy and paste right after you visit one of the three websites above.

Awe   =>>  Compassion   =>>   Action

3 Words for Twenty-10

I think new years resolutions set you up to fail.  Have you ever actually kept one past the third week of January?  On the other hand, I’m a big proponent of reflecting often on the details of life – where you’ve been, what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you’re going to do it.  The title of my blog, The Game Plan, should signal my readers that I believe in organizing strategies and executing the plan.  To my core I’m a teacher and coach.

In my last post I talked about articles by Michael Hyatt and Chris Brogan that are exercises in reflecting on the past and planning the future.  I highly recommend both articles.  It’s not too late to put together a plan for 2010.  In fact, I think without the pressure of the first few days of the year you can strategize with a more level head.

Chris Brogan has an exercise he does called 3 Words.  From his post:

Over the last few years, I’ve practiced something I call “my 3 words,” where I come up with three words that I use as guidance for how I should conduct my efforts in the year to come. I set goals around these three words. I build deadlines and projects around these words.

Here’s my 3 words for twenty-10:

catalyst:  A catalyst is someone or something that makes things happen.  I want to take more initiative with my family time (especially with a baby girl on the way).  Catalyst.  I want to add value to people’s lives.  Catalyst.  I want to take Katie out more often.  Catalyst.  I want to create excellent content on my blogs. 

athlete:  I understand the world of athletics; I think in terms of sports.  Athletes are into training, planning, practicing, performing, and then reviewing the whole process and doing it again.  Thinking of the word “athlete” makes me pursue my fitness.  Though I may not compete in a race this year, I want 2010 to be a solid year of training.  Athlete.  I want to prepare for each week (and month) as an athlete prepares for a game.  My life would be much more efficient and enjoyable if I spent a little more time preparing.  Athlete.  I also want to explore the idea of failure.  Athletes fail.  Failure is ok… if you learn from it.  I’m afraid of failure.  But if I fail I will know I’m trying hard and am fully invested.  “I’ve never failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

coffee:  This is my most abstract word.  Coffee this year reminds me of my morning routine.  Before my family is awake I’m up reading my Bible, journaling about life, reading a good book, and preparing for my day.  Coffee.  I’m also going to pursue a few more meaningful relationships for me and my family.  Coffee.  I want to host friends and family at our house.  Coffee.  I want to get into some strategic relationships with other Christian men who I can do life with.  Coffee.

Disclaimer:  These three words may mean nothing to you, and they can’t be fully understood from this post; it’s not meant to be all-inclusive.  But they have been pondered by me for over a week and I’ve internalized them and started to process them here.  Accountability is good.  Having goals is good.  Failure is ok.  Learning the process to growth is essential.

Oak Pruning Translating To Life Lessons

Many days of the week I say to myself, “I wish people could see what I see.”  As an arborist, I am daily in the upper portions of a tree’s canopy which gives me views of neighborhoods, cities and towns that most citizens will never see.  What’s the highest you’ve ever climbed in a tree?  Routinely I’m up 50-70 feet in the air.  If you’ve ever been in tall buildings and looked out the window, you a little bit  of what I’m talking about.  The view is just so different that what we see on a daily basis.

When I get really high in an oak tree, I notice things the average person would never see.  I also have a trained eye when I’m up there because I’m looking for dead wood to trim from the tree.  Sometimes the dead wood is really obvious because the bark is pealed off.  Sometimes it’s obvious because there’s no buds on the end of the branch.  And other times it’s obvious because a fungus has grown on the bark and it looks different that all the other branches.  But there’s also branches that have buds from last year, though they’ve died.  You actually can score (scrape) the branch with your hand saw to see if it’s green (alive) or brown (dead or declining).  Keep in mind very little of this can be seen from the ground.  You need to get on top of the branches and up close and personal to decide what comes out.

Dead wood is a part of a tree’s life.  There’s various reasons a limb may be dying or declining, but inevitably some branches will die and they need to be removed.  Isn’t the same true of life?  Wouldn’t you agree that there are areas of one’s life that have died, or are declining, and need to be removed?  In the Bible Jesus says

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

We have dead limbs that need to be taken out.  And we have live limbs that need to be pruned so that they produce more fruit.

Are there areas in your life that aren’t bearing fruit?  This Christmas season is about “goodwill towards men.”  Do you have that?  Or are there branches in your life that need to be pruned away because they’re dead?  Maybe you have good limbs that need pruning so that they’ll produce more and better fruit.

I think I have a little of both.  I’m certainly bearing some good fruit.  But I have dead wood that needs to be removed.  I have habits that need to break – sinful actions of thought, word and deed that died when I committed my life to Christ.  Yet they still linger in my life.  I also have live limbs that are alive and healthy, but they need to be pruned so that they can continue to produce fruit.  This is where this lesson gets tough for me.  I have too many irons in the fire.  I need to focus on the important branches, the branches that will produce the most fruit (in relation to my direction in life).  This means some good things need to be pruned away.  It’s not to say that they won’t come back later in life, but right now I need to be focused on establishing family and career.  If it doesn’t produce fruit in those two areas, it probably needs to be pruned away.

As you reflect on the end of the year and the season of giving and goodwill, what branches in your life are dead and need to be removed?  What branches are alive but need to be pruned so that they produce more fruit?

Loss of Innocence

I understand you don’t want to hear any more about Tiger Woods, but I’d be withholding from my readers if I didn’t acknowledge what’s on my mind, and in fact what I’ve discussed with a handful of you.  My brother said it best, “It’s a complete loss of innocence.”  I know I’m kind of a dreamer, even an old-school guy when it comes to this stuff.  I’d even say I’m in denial about pro sports these days.  Here’s a few of the stories that disappointed:

  • Kobe Bryant and that girl in Colorado
  • MJ divorced Juanita after stories of his “women”
  • Brett and his divorce with Packers – he should never have to wear purple, it’s just not right
  • Alex Rodriquez and Barry Bond – two of the greatest players ever – steroids
  • Tiger Woods – the most recognizable athlete in the world, on voicemail trying to dodge his wife

I’m not going to write extensively on this, but as a huge sports fan who understands the importance of positive role models in society, I can’t begin to explain my disappointment.  Nothing is pure.  I know that.  I just really want a good story from one of these great athletes.  Looks like my last hope is Tim Tebow.

What I’m Reading – December 2009

Have you ever had the question posed to you:  “If you had one super-power, what would it be?”  I had this asked of me numerous times in college and the answer was always the same.  I wanted to fly.  I mean really, what could be any cooler than that?

But now I’m thinking that the super-power of that super-hero named Book Worm would be pretty cool, too.  You know Book Worm, from that one show.  Or was it a comic strip?  Or am I completely making this up?  Anyway, I’ve given up on my desire to fly.  Now I want to be able to read at super-human, yes super-hero speeds.  Because my library isn’t getting any smaller and my desk is getting cluttered with unfinished books.

It seems most readers that I talk with have the same problem.  We just can’t finish a book before we start another.  Then another.  And another. And soon we have four books going.  I remember having to do this in college because we had 4-6 classes per semester.  But now I should be able to pick up one or two books and have them finished before I start another, right?

Needless to say I’m not reading fast enough and my attention-deficit disorder is getting the best of me.  So here’s what I’m reading right now:

There’s actually two others I’ve consciously put down until this list gets shortened, so I’ll save myself the embarrassment.  If I had the powers of Book Worm I wouldn’t have to worry about this.

So what are you reading?

Things I’m Thankful For

Thanksgiving is a great time for family and reflection.  It’s a holiday that everyone can agree on and this is evident in our culture’s universal celebration on this weekend.  Of course as I’m writing this plenty of people have moved beyond Thanksgiving towards Christmas and the Black Friday event that’s gotten completely out of control.  But still, Thanksgiving is a great weekend.

Briefly, let me reflect on what I’m thankful for.  Let me start with the Big Rocks:
  1. Family:  Katie is such an amazing mother.  She works so hard and makes me so proud.  Sorin is healthy and a joy to watch as he plays throughout the day and grows up before our eyes.
  2. My job:  While this isn’t a career for me, Bill at H&H Arborists is an excellent employer.  I’ve learned a lot from him and had an opportunity to grow in my leadership and management.
  3. My parents:  mom and dad are right across the street and have helped with Sorin and other duties around our house.  They are very giving individuals, both of their time and their resources.
  4. My in-laws:  Steve and Sue are very welcoming and involved in our lives as we work into parenthood.  
  5. My relationship with God:  My rock and my Savior.  All comfort and security is found in the Creator.
And then I’m thankful for many things that are along a different line of thinking.  Let me explain:
  1. My gifts and abilities:  I am discovering day after day how God has established qualities in me that show how He will use me in this world.  Sure, I’m frustrated with certain areas of life (I’m not in the career field I want to be in) but he’s given me passions and skills, thoughts and ideas to where I can see where this is leading me in the future.
  2. Social Media:  I have the ability to keep up with so much information right now.  I follow top notch pastors from around the country.  I hear industry tips and best practices from exercise specialists who are further along in their career than me which motivates me and my business plans.  I have relationships with friends on Facebook that weren’t possible years ago because they’ve moved away.  Social media has allowed me to be hyper-connected and it’s a really good thing.
  3. Things that are FREE:  With so much information and good products available, think of what we get for free.  Google has made everything knowable within seconds.  My blog freely allows me to reflect on life and share it with whoever wants to listen (all five of you).  Twitter allow me to listen to and write to thousands of people on a variety of subjects.  And YouTube allows me to watch U2 live from the Rose Bowl, all for free.
  4. My health:  I love running.  I won’t be winning any races any time soon but working out is enjoyable for me.  I’m always up for a challenge and my goals are changing by the season.  
  5. My career goals:  God gave me the passion for exercise and education.  I feel like I’ve been charged with helping people become healthier individuals and this is an admirable calling in life.  God has instilled this in me and continues to bless me with the thoughts and ideas required to have a successful business and affect on my community.
  6. The Office and Community:  Katie and I laugh weekly very hard when we watch these two shows.
  7. Sorin’s Puma sweatsuit from Grant and Jes:  You’ve got to see him in this – he should have one of these outfits at every stage of his growth.
I’m very thankful on many different levels.  We live in a very privileged society and we should never forget that.  

Goal Setting

If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.  ~Author Unknown

How true is this?  Have you recently analyzed your goals in life?  Could you list your top three priorities on a sheet of paper?  How are you spending your time?

Goal setting is an exercise that requires our daily and weekly attention.  I am very easily distracted, and I’m not alone.  In today’s age of technology there are so many things that battle for our time, and they often win… unless we have a set of goals in place.  These goals need to address what’s important in our lives and no one can create them but ourselves.  We must internalize them and make them our own.
One of my biggest challenges in helping clients become more fit and lose weight is to help them understand the importance of goal setting.  “I want to lose weight”  This is a bad goal.  “I want to be healthier.”  This is also a bad goal.  Why are these bad goals?  Because they don’t give me enough information.  They’re not SMART goals:

Specific           (what do you want to happen; why; how)
Measurable     (how will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?)
Attainable        (are you in over your head or is your goal within reach?)
Relevant          (is it your goal or someone else’s; how does it fit in your life?)
Timely             (to be completed next week, next month or next year?)

This is a criterion I learned while studying physical education in college.  While it first seemed a little over the top, I now realize how essential these five components are to proper goal setting.  So without a goal we will never accomplish what’s important to us.  The world distracts us so we need to focus.  And when we establish a goal, it needs to have the five SMART components.

Challenge:  

  1. write one short-term goal to be completed this week
  2. write one long-term goal to be completed within one month

Only Do What Only You Can Do

One of my favorite pastors is Andy Stanley from North Point Church.  Andy is the son of Charles Stanley, who my mom grew up listening to.  So it’s kind of fun to see how the next generation takes after the first, both in preaching and in listening.  Andy probably delivers the clearest message I’ve ever heard.  He’s very compelling and I tune in weekly to his leadership podcasts

Years ago I was going through a book with college ministry leaders by Andy called Next Generation Leader.  One chapter was called Only Do What Only You Can Do.  The description went like this:  the less you do the more you accomplish.  I got the idea but I struggled to put it into practice.

I was leading a team of students that put on our weekly meetings for the Link, the college-aged ministry of Blackhawk.  I knew that it was my job to get my team to do more work.  The more they took ownership the better our team was performing.  It was their job to get the equipment to the venue, get the equipment set-up, put together the script for the night, and make sure all the media components were cued up.  But after that there was nowhere to go.  That was the final product.  It worked, it was good, but there was nothing left for me to do.  There was very little that only I could do.  So Andy’s principle didn’t fully sink in.

Fast forward to Summer 2009.  I’m working at H&H Arborists as the lead worker on a crew of three.  Bill, the owner is busy all summer doing sales while the crew is out doing everything from pruning to removing trees.  It’s a young crew – with eight years of experience I’m the veteran. 

My job is to figure out how to complete each job efficiently and safely.  As the only man on the job with real experience, this can only happen so fast.  Thankfully Bill is very willing to take precious time on the job site to train the guys on many days where the job requirements are appropriate.  (I say this because many other tree companies don’t value or practice intentional training like H&H.)  So now my job is to balance training with being a productive crew. 

After a few weeks I’ve developed the guys’ skills.  They can do light pruning, mostly from the ground.  Soon one of the guys is comfortable in the tree so the crew is getting better.  And this is where Andy’s principle really started to sink in for me.  Now the crew is to the point where they can function in certain situations and I’m tempted to work along side them but I can’t.  There’s other work that only I can do.  Sometimes work gets done fast when everyone works on something together.  There’s accountability and there’s encouragment when you’re side-by-side.  But if I’m doing something that they could be doing, there’s something I’m not doing that they couldn’t do.  This isn’t always the case, but I’m challenged daily to evaluate how to get the work done most efficiently. 

Only do what only you can do.  It’s become a simple principle to understand but an important one to practice.  Businesses move forward when they’re efficient and this is one step to that end.

If you’re in a leadership position, are you doing thing other team members could be doing?

A Night Off, A Night Alone

In one of my educational psychology classes in college, I remember a professor talking about the brain and learning.  He said that when we learn, the brain is like a sponge; it can absorb only to a certain point.  Sponges can only hold so much water before they need to be squeezed out.  Purging is essential for the sponge to function properly; same goes for the brain.  It needs to be emptied at regular intervals to continue to be efficient, even effective.

I’m finding myself in a season of busy work.  Life is very busy right now and the routine sometimes gets the best of me and I get complacent and lazy. 

  • the same morning routine.
  • the same thing for lunch
  • the same search for a new job
  • the same evening with family

Are these all bad?  No!  I love my time with family.  Sorin is changing daily.  Katie and I had a great talk at dinner last night.  My days aren’t always (or completely) boring.  But I certainly lack a freshness to my daily activities.  I get stuck in a rut.  Certain things lack excitement.  I need to squeeze out the sponge before I can refill.  For me that means a full day off.

For two evenings I’m home alone.  Katie went to Cedarburg for three days to be with family, so I’ve got run of the house.  And Katie knows this about me – sometimes I just need this alone time to refocus.  Life has been very predictable.  But tonight I knew I was coming home with no pressure or responsibilities to be “on” with family.

Tonight I was able to catch up on a few blogs – less than I would have liked, but that’s probably a good thing.  At the same time I checked Facebook and then an interesting thing happened.  A couple people started posting comments on my blog and on my Facebook according to some of the things I’d recently written.  It started a series of small discussions that led me to think proactvely about my next career move.  Katie and I have talked about developing my fitness business and what that would entail.  Tonight I was able to share with some of my friends some of my thoughts and I was also able to see that I can get relevant discussions started with people – this is big if you’re starting a business.

My brain needed this.  I believe God had this night set aside for me to decompress from life and be able to engage with people in a way that I rarely have time for.  It was very refreshing.  It’s hard to talk about this because I don’t want it to seem like I need to get away from family to be productive.  But there is something to be said for retreats – retreats from the normal day-to-day routines that get us bogged down with sameness. 

So I’m happy with the night.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.  I need time away like this and so do you?  If you didn’t have to answer to anyone for a night, what would you do?  What could you accomplish?  Would it make any relationship better? 

On Encouragement

Last week I went to see a movie by myself.  Katie had Bible study, but she probably wouldn’t have been interested in this one anyway.  The documentary was called “Race Across the Sky.”  It’s the story about the Leadville Trail 100, a mountain bike race in Colorado that has grown from a cult following to national prominence after the release of this movie.

The Leadville Trail 100 is a grueling race that competitors have 12 hours to complete.  It starts around 10,200 feet and peaks somewhere above 12,000.  Twists and turns, climbs and drops, pavement and mud are all part of the race.  Some of the climbs seem like they can’t be any steeper.  At one point in the movie there’s a row of 30 bikers all walking uphill single-file because the rain had caused so much mud that the athletes couldn’t get any traction.

But on another portion of the course I saw other athletes struggling.  The section is called Powerline because the trail runs directly under a set of powerlines that are streaking down a mountain’s side.  The trail is bordered by rows of pine trees.  And this isn’t a nice smooth trail.  It has pits, boulders, bumps and gravel scattered everywhere.  Some of the leaders were walking up it earlier.  But at this moment the film was showing some locals who’ve adopted this section of the course as their own.  They’ve decided to help these bikers up the Powerline if they want to stay on their bikes.  What they do is as the biker approaches, they ask if they want a push.  Some decline, but many welcome the assistance.  So the next shot is a man coming along side a biker and pushing him at the hips as they climb the Powerline together

Don’t we all need that push sometimes?  Aren’t there times in life when things are either dull and complacent or frustrating and difficult, and an extra set of hands would really help us get up Powerline?

My biggest challenge right now is finding a job teaching or in the health and fitness industry.  We all know about the difficult economy.  Few companies are hiring.  Those that are have hundreds of applicants to sort through.  I’ve been at this seach for quite some time.  I really enjoy what I do and Katie and I have been making it work.  But it’s not a career for me.  I’ve been searching extremely hard advance myself and it’s been a tough road.

But today I talked to someone close to my situation who had words of encouragment.  He noted Psalm 45:1 that talks about pursuing a “noble cause.”  He said that he’s noticed how I have pursued a good career in which I will be very successful.  I’ve continued to study and grow as a leader and a learner.  I’ve read books and written reflectively about what it means to develop as a man.  He spoke into my life words of encouragement that were perfectly crafted.  They weren’t sappy and they weren’t over-reaching.  They gave me that push up Powerline that felt like a fresh pair of legs after miles of struggle.  He gave me that push up Powerline…

Encouragement is very powerful.  And it usually costs you nothing.  You can offer words, thoughts, your hand, your heart.  It costs you nothing.  But you’ll gain a sense of worth as you assist someone else up the hill they’re climbing.