Thursday, July 29, 2010

How Will You Use Your Life?

Life is a gift. We are here for a short span of time, we interact, we construct, we create, we consume. We occupy space and use resources, but what is it all about?

I so admire people who live their lives on purpose. I can think of some major influencers in my own life who have left huge footprints and I am better for having known them.

I think of my own father, who chose – on purpose - the town in which we grew up. He felt Lewisburg, Tennessee would be a good place to raise his growing family. He started a Nazarene church that is still thriving today, he was Mayor of the town for two terms and he was generally known as Preacher Biggs. His legacy was huge!

Just one month ago I received a nice Face Book post from a lady who was reflecting on my father’s legacy. She shared some of the positive impact his influence had had on her and on others in her family. Remember, my father died eighteen years ago. His influence is felt even today.

I’ve had mentors and life influencers who have taught me valuable skills, insights, and left huge impressions all over my life. Have you?

I hope you pause and reflect and give thanks for some of these people, and if they are still around, maybe you should send them a note of appreciation for their influence on your life.

But what I really want us to think about is what are we doing to leave our own legacy? How are you using your life? Sobering question.

I have a friend in Nashville and he is still investing into the lives of young ministerial students at the university campus from which I graduated. Keep going Wilbur.

My friend Harold has written over 25 books and they all are designed to improve someone’s handling of life and the stuff that comes with it. He is using his life as a writer and speaker.

My friend Kevin is writing and speaking to inspire and encourage people through the power of words. I admire you Kevin.

My friend Steve in Indiana is leading worship for a church and is active in bringing people into a closer relationship with God. I’m proud of you Steve.

My wife decided to get a university degree after raising her kids, and she sees ways of helping mankind with a sociology degree in hand. Honey, you will make a difference.

If you’ve been reading these blogs for very long you know my aim in life is to offer hope, encouragement and inspiration one word at a time. That is one way in which I am using my life.

I’ve had a few different career tracks, and I’ve lived a bunch of places. I do a lot of reflecting and mulling over of my life. Have I done enough? Have I been true to myself and my God?  Have I developed my skills to my best ability, all with the thought of bettering mankind?

I hope so.

You’re going to live your life anyway. You are going to occupy space and resources.

Are you going to be a taker or a giver?

Will you covenant to use your life to the best advantage you can?

I believe you will!

I got the inspiration for this blog from an audio interview with Ken Dychtwald in the August 2010 issue of Success Magazine. He was asked one day, “Ken, how will you use your life?”

So, now that I’ve got you thinking about this, here are other questions for us to consider.
-What lasting legacy will I leave behind?
-What seeds of greatness or encouragement will I plant inside of someone?
-What impact will I have on this earth?
-What good marks will I leave behind indicating that I’ve walked this earth?

How will you live your life?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Approve of Myself

Growing up is hard work. I have a life-long friend named Michael Ross. When his first child, Brent, was born I was living in Albuquerque and Michael and Diana were serving on the same church staff that I served on.

I remember that Michael would walk around singing to Brent “It’s Tough Being a Boy Growing Up.” Of course this was a made-up song, but it gave us some great laughs, especially as Brent would lie there crying his little heart out while Michael or Diana tried to sooth and console him.

Life is tough. It is sometimes unfair, difficult and mundane.

Some wise counselor has observed that the hardest work we will ever do is on ourselves. When we’re born, we’re like an empty disc just awaiting input to be written all over our lives. As we grow and develop we encounter all kinds of data – some helpful and truthful, yet other data that is corrupt, or it has “a virus”. Oh, “they” meant well, but “they” fed us wrong information and instilled wrong stuff into our minds.

The more I read and study, the more I have come to realize that many people grow up feeling less than worthy. They feel no sense of acceptance or approval, and have a great lack of the right kind of love and connections in their lives. Perhaps they play their memory CDs too many times and hear voices from their past that were so ingrained in them that they can’t get past the first cut on the album in their mind.

Sometimes these songs go like this:
“You’re lousy.”
“You are a loser.”
“I don’t like you.”
“I hate you.”
“Leave that alone. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“You’re fat!”
“You’re ugly.”

Well, you get the picture.

Sometimes we are loved in life because of something we do very well. We are accepted because we can perform some task or talent exceptionally well.

Great News! Did you know you are loved just because you are you? You are created in the image of a God who loves you more than you could possibly know. He has given you a specific DNA, a unique finger print, and a skill set that is perfect for you to give you a whole and complete life.

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone to be accepted and loved. You exist! That is all that is required.

Now, here is a critical key to helping you understand this and accept your uniqueness.

Approve of yourself!

That’s it. Say to yourself “I approve of myself!”

You may say:                         Instead Say:
“But I’ve done …”                   “I approve of myself.”
“Look at my size.”                  “I approve of myself.”
“I’m not coordinated.”            “I approve of myself.”
“I’m too …”                            “I approve of myself.”
“I’m not …”                            “I approve of myself.”
“But my Dad says …”               “I approve of myself.”
“My teacher once told me…”    “I approve of myself.”

You see, it’s not what “they” say. It’s what you now say to yourself.

Let me repeat that. It’s what you now say to yourself!

In the October 2009 issue of Success Magazine I read an article about Louise Hay, best-selling author and writer. One simple phrase jumped out and grabbed me as I read her article.

Louise shared her story and then told about the day when she discovered the phrase “I approve of myself.”

When I read this phrase I put down my magazine and said audibly “Wow! I needed that.” I felt as if I had found a piece that fit perfectly into my life. Louise says that she began repeating this phrase to herself numerous times each day.

I too, began repeating this phrase, and I too began to approve of and accept myself. I felt that I had discovered something significant that was missing in my own life and it was going to make a difference in my thoughts and attitudes and in how I viewed myself.

Understand that this phrase and mindset has nothing to do with a feeling of superiority or a “better-than-you” attitude, nor have I abandoned any of my fundamental religious concepts. This phrase has had a profound impact on how I view my skill set and my sense of self-value. I’ve found a healthy way of valuing myself!

I approve of myself.

Say it with me!

“I Approve of Myself! “


Always remember, the only person from whom you really need approval is yourself.

As Brian Tracy says, “I like myself.”

As Louise and I say, “I Approve of Myself!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Once Upon a Time

“Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who hoped that someday …”

In fifteen short words I just described your life and mine. Once upon a time we had a hope. We had a dream. We had a picture of something that we wanted or someone we wanted to become.

What was it? Who was it? What or whom has kept us from these dreams?

Has someone come along and punched holes in your dreams? I regret that for your sake. I hope you can find a way to hope and dream again.

Hope is good and necessary to life. It has been said that we can go four days without water, four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope.

Hope is good! Dreams can become reality. Let me encourage you to dust off your dreams and try, try again.

Remember this lyric?
They pick themselves up
Dust their dreams off
And start all over again.

Most elderly people when asked what they would do differently if they could live their life over responded, “I wish I would have taken more chances.” I have a blog coming soon dealing with this very topic of living without regret.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”

Remember, every dream begins with hope.

Every success story with a happy ending began with “Once upon a time …”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Bull's Eye

This quote caught my eye last Tuesday: “The arrow that hits the bull’s eye is the result of a hundred misses.”

Some wise old sage said it this way: “Try, try again.”

Winston Churchill said “Never, never, never give up!”

Babe Ruth was known as the homerun king, but some say he was also the strikeout king.

How many times have you and I tried and failed?

I remember a very painful experience in the ninth grade. The song Wipeout has just come on the rock-n-roll music scene, made popular by The Ventures and others. Wipeout is an all-instrumental number which features the drummer on a series of drum breaks spaced throughout the tune.

At a powder-puff football game, our jazz band was asked to provide the half-time music and our regular drummer couldn’t play so they asked me to fill in.

After we played the selected songs, someone in the stands shouted out Wipeout. The leader of the group asked me if I could play that song and I assured him I could.

Well, let’s just say it was less than wonderful. I overestimated my abilities at that point in my life and made a royal mess of that song and bruised my ego along the way. Hopefully no one remembers that fiasco except me, all these years later.

You see, I completely missed the bull’s eye that night. Thankfully, I managed to get in more practice as time went on and became an able drummer.

It’s like this in anything in life that we attempt. We swing, we miss, we sometimes strike out, but we keep going back up to the plate. Do we ever successfully do anything of worth with great skill the very first time we try? Probably not.

Just because we mess up occasionally doesn’t mean we are failures. We keep going back up to bat. That is the key. Swing and swing again. Try and try again.

I love watching my grandchildren. Eliot is ten months old and he has been learning how to put his thumb into his mouth. At times he would miss completely, or end up with knuckles and all in there, or sometimes his little finger and ring finger. His objective all along has been to go for the thumb. He finally mastered it. Yeah, Eliot!!! But he missed a few times along the way.

There is a terrific new book out called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle that you should know about. It has such rich content that I’ll let you discover that for yourself, but the bottom line is this: It matters not that we don’t successfully succeed the first time. We correct our angle, our stance, we practice and try again. We get better with each attempt. We study, we read, we practice,we evaluate, and we practice some more. That is the secret to hitting the bull’s eye.

Daniel says this, “Growing skill requires practice. Deep practice requires intense concentration, persistence and repetition, while making small corrections. Try something, firing a neuro-circuit and making a mistake, realizing you made that mistake and trying again. So the errors you make – the failures – are not failures, really. They are pieces of information you can use to put together the proper movement.

“People improve talent by learning from their mistakes. It’s finding and fixing. When it comes to finding ways to get into the neuro-spot, you need to reach and fail and fix, over and over again. This is what progress looks like.”

Michael Jordan once said: “I have missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot … and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life – and that is precisely why I have succeeded.”

I haven’t always won at everything I’ve put my hands to. I’ve had relationship foul-ups, job mismatches, made poor decisions, and a host of other misfires in my life. But I keep aiming. I keep shooting. I keep trying. That’s the secret.

Thomas J. Watson of IBM fame once said, “The way to succeed is to double your error rate.”

Look, listen, learn, observe, self-correct, practice and do it again. The bull’s eye is in sight, and with modifications, angle adjustments and practice I bet you can hit it.

Ready. Aim. Go for it!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

You Are Closer Than You Think

Have you ever started toward a goal or desire, something that you really wanted to achieve or own and then found yourself running out of gas somewhere along the way? *Joel Osteen, Pastor of Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas tells this story to illustrate my point.

“I was in Colorado for a few days of vacation, and one morning decided to take a hike to the top of a particular mountain. I considered myself in excellent physical shape and believed that I could complete this challenge in forty-five minutes or less. This particular hiking trail usually took the average person three-plus hours to climb.

"I started out at a good rate of speed and things were going well at first. After 45 minutes of rigorous climbing I felt burned out. My legs ached, I was severely winded and was ready to give up.

"About this time an elderly gentleman, heading downhill came around a bend in the trail in front of me. This gentleman looked at me and he could tell that I was struggling to make the climb.

"In a clear voice he greeted me and then offered these words of encouragement. “You are closer than you think, young man. Keep climbing.”

"Well, this spurred me on and after a bit of a rest I resumed climbing. In less than ten minutes I rounded a bend in the trail and there before me lay the most amazing view, the pinnacle for which I was seeking. I had made it to the top! What an amazing experience that was.”

How close have you and I come to something we earnestly and sincerely wanted and hoped for, yet we stopped climbing a few steps too soon? I’ve had moments in my life of great energy, great dreams and bursts of ideas that were certain to lead me to my ultimate goals, yet along the way I lost my focus. My grip weakened, and my drive and determination disappeared and I stopped climbing.

I have a computer file full of sketches and the beginnings of story ideas that I dreamed one day would be a source of encouragement, hope and motivation to my readers. But I stopped short of the finish line. I got distracted and I stopped doing the daily things that would have led me to the completion of my dreams.

Some years ago I read about Michelangelo, the great painter and sculptor. He seemingly could look at a block of marble and see the image captured inside of it. He felt it was his job to free that image from the marble.

In his studio he was reported to have numerous works that were in various stages of development. On one table was just the hint of a foot emerging from the base of a stone. Another block of stone showed a shoulder just beginning to take shape, or one eye and part of a nose.

Do you have scraps of beginnings in the workshop of your mind, on your computer or in your life? Have you abandoned some of these? Perhaps you’ve moved on to other projects. But the question remains, “were you closer than you think”?

We know from history that Michelangelo finished a museum full of art pieces, paintings and sculptures. He didn’t give up. He worked each day on the most important task at hand. He kept moving closer to his ideas and dreams and turned them into reality.

How about you? How close are you to something you want, desire and dream of possessing?

Perhaps you are closer than you think.

Maybe that dream job is within your grasp and all you need to do is send out a few more resumes.

Maybe that brilliant idea that will make all the difference in your world is just over the horizon and it is waiting for you to spend some quality creative time to capture it.

Maybe your medical healing is just around the corner with one or two more treatments. Maybe your medical team is about to reach a breakthrough. You just might be closer than you think to your medical miracle.

Maybe your business downturn is on the verge of an upturn. Maybe your marketing dollars and sales calls are ready to pay off. The economy is showing some positive signs of improvement these days. Your business just might be closer to blooming than you think.

Be encouraged.

Have hope. You Are Closer than You Think.

(*This is an abridged story. The full accounting of this incident can be found in It’s Your Time, by Joel Osteen, Published by Simon & Schuster and can be ordered by clicking on the Up-Words Bookstore link to the right of this blog. It is located on page 4 of these book listings.)