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. 

Thoughts On Fatherhood

Last Sunday I had a father’s feeling as I was dropping Sorin off at child care at church. Katie and I haven’t been to church much this summer and when we did, we often let my parents take Sorin so we could actually attend church without interuptions. Sorin doesn’t take too well to dad and (especially) mom leaving. So this week it was my week to take him to child care. As we walked in and got registered Sorin could see something was up. He started to observe everything and got timid right in my arms. We put his bag down and started playing a little bit. At the first sign of him interacting with one of the staff I bolted out the door. I went around the corner to one of the mirror/windows where I could see in but he couldn’t see me. As I watched him get comfortable I had a mix of emotions.

I felt really bad that he was alone without me. Sure, he was in good and caring hands. But he doesn’t know that. He was all by himself and trying to stay busy. He would start to play with something, but then somehow he would realize I wasn’t there and he’d start crying. It’s hard to see your son sad and alone, missing dad.

I also felt old. Sorin has grown up so fast. Wasn’t it last month that I was getting up at 4am to give him a bottle because he was relying on me for food? Didn’t we used to have hold him so close because he couldn’t even hold his head up? And here I was watching him walk and crawl on his own. Find a toy and play with it. Roll a ball and pick it up. He’s only 14 months but he looks like my little man!! So I watched him and thought of myself as an older dad.

Finally I felt pride. Here I am watching my son – my son! I feed him. I change his diaper. I put him to bed. I wake him and dress him in the morning. I rough-house him on the floor and carry him around the house. I push him in the stroller and carry him on my back. Now I’m watching him through the window as he grows into his own life.

What a great calling: to be a father.

(originally posted on Sorin’s Blog)

How to Read 47 Blogs Per Day

Technology is progressing such that we no longer have to search out information or news:  it comes to us.  Each day we check email, Facebook, our favorite news sites, and maybe some blogs.  Is that accurate?  How do you spend your time online?  How do you get your information?

Would it surprise you that I read 47 blogs per day?  Would you believe that on average I catch up on my news in less than 20 minutes?  This includes 47 blogs and about 150 Twitter updates per day!

How is it possible?

Well if you look over my shoulder as I sit in my office, you’d see that I’m not reading every post or every update.  That’s probably obvious.  But with the help of Google Reader I can look through the titles of every post and even the first few paragraphs to determine if it’s something I should read in its entirety.  We all do this with the paper or our favorite magazines.  The beautiful part of this is that I’m sorting through blogs that interest me and news sources that I’ve chosen to subscribe to.

Here’s how it works:  Go to Google Reader and set up an account.  (If you already have a Gmail or Blogger account you can use the same login and password).  On the left you will see all your subscription.  Now you need to fill them.  Open a separate tab (tell me you’re using Firefox) and go to a blog you’d like to follow.  For example here’s Sorin’s.  When you visit a website or blog that updates their information on a regular basis, they’re assigned an RSS feed and the icon looks like this.  What you need to do is click this button and then “subscribe to RSS” and it will take you to a page where you can “add to Google Homepage” or “add to Google Reader.”  Choose the Reader. 

You’ve just subscribed to your first blog – and a good one at that!!  Start finding some good blogs to follow, then progress to websites and news feeds.  You’ll be surprised what’s out there.  If you need more help I’d be happy to walk through more details with you. 

Remember:  Make the technology work for you.  You don’t need to visit each website or blog, it will come to you!  Are you interested in the Health Section of the NYTimes.com or the Business Section of FoxNews?  You can have these websites come to your Google Reader rather than visit them every day.  You’ll never go back.

Controlling Facebook Noise

While the number of users and the time spent on Facebook is only increasing, I still hear friends talk about too much noise on Facebook.  

  • “I don’t need to hear what every friend is doing today.”
  • “It’s too much of a distraction.”
  • “I only really want to hear about a handful of friends.”
I coudn’t agree more.  It has been fun to reconnect with old friends.  Certain stories and updates are compelling and I’m pleasantly surprised to have online discussions from people I never thought I’d talk to again.  But as family life gets busier and my hobbies demand more of my quality time, I find myself needing to prioritize how I stay connected on Facebook.
Why Facebook?  I have found that Facebook does everything I want as a communication platform.  I can:
  • update my daily (and hourly) status 
  • import my blog (‘notes’ on Facebook)
  • share news stories
  • see what friends are doing and reading
  • share pictures
This post isn’t about why you should be on Facebook.  It’s about why you should stay on Facebook if you want to have an online presence without all the noise.
The only requirement on your part is the following: being able to honestly determine who’s on your Short List.
Here’s how it works.  Click on HOME which takes you to your news feed.  On the left hand side you’ll see your lists of categories, technically called Lists.  At the bottom click “more.”  Then your whole set of lists is displayed, and now at the bottom you can click CREATE NEW LIST.
A new window will open and first you should give your list a name (Inner Circle, Real Friends, Cool People, Jet Setters).  Then you can click on any of your friends (groups are also listed and available) to add them to this group.  That’s it!  
To make this feature really work, you’ll have to rearrange the list to the top so that Facebook reads it first – one less click when you login.  To do this you’ll have to expand your lists again (click MORE at the bottom).  Now all your lists will have three horizontal lines at the right and you’ll have the ability to drag your new list to the top (you can also arrange any list if you want to prioritize).  
So my newest list (“Inner Circle”) is at the top, and right under that is my NEWS FEED.  Now when I login, my homepage only lists the news of my Inner Circle list.  If I have more time, I can click on NEWS FEED and I get every update from every friend.
Will this help?  Are you able to determine your Short List?  Your Inner Circle? 
I truly wish everyone was on Facebook because I think it’s a very powerful way to keep in touch and share stories.  Don’t ask if you’re on my Short List.  Please feel free to reference this article to friends who are want Facebook to be more efficient.