August 29, 2010

Limited By Design

Many of us often try to game the system. It is what we do in order to stuff more activity into our busy lives. Unfortunately, gaming the system often doesn't yield the results we would hope for or expect.

Honestly, it doesn't matter how much we try to game the system. The truth remains that our time on earth IS limited, and not only is it limited, it is limited by design.

Limited time forces us to decisively choose and show those around us what, and sometimes more importantly, who is really most important to us. Essentially, how we choose to spend our time is the true comparison of who we say we are and the person we really are.

For instance, we can say that we love God. But, if we fail to spend time with Him, our actions don't match our talk. We can say that we love our families, but if all they ever see is an empty chair, won't they question what we say is most important? Time is limited, and sometimes we have to make tough choices about how we are going to spend it.

Which is why it means so much when someone chooses to spend their own time with us. Haven't the richest times in your life been the times filled with people that care for you enough that they spend their time with you, helping you to grow, learn, and laugh? Are they not the times when someone has comforted us in a hard time, shared in our time of success, or simply listened when we were in need of another perspective?

Even when there was no apparent gain for them, someone has invested something in you they can never get back. The truth is once you decide how you choose to spend your time, you can never get it back. It is gone, and never again can you walk in those exact seconds and minutes.

Perhaps, God ultimately wants to see how we react when faced with the finite before He allows us to swim in the depths of the infinite.

What are you really telling those around you is most important in your life?

August 21, 2010

Gaming the system...

Sometimes, it seems like there is simply not enough time.

Our lives are full of so much restless activity! Of course, there are some things we have to do. (I personally believe this list is a lot shorter than most people think it really is.) There are some things we choose to do, and then there are the things we would love to do, if only time permitted.

In an effort to get more done in less time, we try to game the system. We spend lots of time and money on fancy time management systems, go to day long seminars learning how to best put our rocks in a bucket, and spend hours crafting daily plans attempting to account for how and where we are going to spend our time down to the minute.

Few will ultimately put any of these plans into action, and of the few that do manage to start, many will abandon their plans when real life floods over them.

Some of us try to game the system in other ways. We go to bed late and get up early, seeing sleep as a mere inconvenience. Often, the sleep that we are missing out on is filled with gallons of caffeinated beverages.

I have been, and to some extent, still am both of these individuals.

What does all of this gaming cost us? An article on WebMD points out that chronic sleep deprivation results in reduced performance, alertness, quality of life, and can even lead to heart attacks and strokes!

What about the schedulers and optimizers among us? Are they ruled by the schedule, becoming frustrated, angry, and guilty when real life enters into the mix? Oh, and it does, to be sure. There is our way, and then there is God's way. We may think we can plan for everything, but we don't have His vision, therefore we cannot. Period.

Are you spending hours planning for and micro-managing life, and if so, are you putting your plan into action? Do those around you see you as energetic and creative, or do you simply look tired?

It is time to drink in the complete fullness and beauty of the life, time, community, and world we have been given!

How are you going to spend your time today?

July 25, 2010

When a warrior returns...

This life goes quickly. Too quickly it oft seems.
One moment you are a child of hope,
the next an older man
with not but dashed and broken dreams.

What causes a man to cease pursuit,
of that dream that as a child took root?
What causes him to step no further,
and chase no longer with passion resolute?

The demons in his mind mock and jeer,
claiming he is less than worthy.
The warrior that stood once strong and proud
now lowly kneels with quiet tears.

He once was going to change everything.
What hope he had is now withered gray.
Who owns the blame for his undoing?
Will he ever overcome the bitter sting?

For so much more this man was made,
the Lord awaits his return to the fray.
For the enemy that haunts and torments
will once again feel his blade.

When this man awakens and the warrior heart
within his brokenness cries again,
No power shall dissuade or trouble
new strength found to play his part.

Where once a man broken fell, now stands strong again.
For his hope is not lost but found.
And his enemies shall laugh no more.
When the man accepts his mission.

July 18, 2010

It wasn't intended for this.

If you are using something for a purpose that it wasn't intended or designed for, you have no right to get upset or angry when it doesn't work as you expect.

For instance, the other morning as I was running out of the door for a workout, I grabbed a plastic container and filled it with water. The container was a Rubbermaid 1-Quart MixerMate. While this container has a flip-top cap and certainly holds liquids, it is designed for mixing powders with liquid, not for providing a remarkable spill-proof experience. As a result, water was spilled.

At first, I was upset and frustrated. There's a nice flip-top lid on the container. It holds liquids. Therefore, it must be spill-proof. However, I was not using the product in the way that the manufacturer intended for it to be used.

Conversely, when I use it to mix powdered drinks, it works great. The powder mixes with the water effectively. I am using the product as it was intended to be used.

Our lives are not any different. Our lives have been uniquely designed and created with specific purpose and intent. When we use the life we have been given in the way that the manufacturer intended, things tend to work the way that they are supposed to. Does that mean everything is perfect? Absolutely not, however, it greatly reduces the number of challenges and frustrations that we are going to experience along the way.

Are you using your life as it was intended to be used, or do you often find yourself frustrated and upset because everywhere you turn and everything you touch seems to topple over and spill?

If it is the latter, perhaps you are using your life in a way that the manufacturer never intended for it to be used.

July 11, 2010


If what you are doing today does not help you to be the best at creating your art, you owe it to yourself and to those looking to you for direction to stop.

Whether it is being the best family member, or writer, or broom pusher, you must understand that a divided focus will only prevent you from you being everything that you possibly can be.

The first step in doing this is to identify those things that you are doing that are not related to what you need to be the best at and stop doing them. Cut these things from your time budget relentlessly.

Next, start saying no. If someone asks you to do something that is not aligned with what you have been designed for, refuse to do it. Sure, there are times that you are going to need to attend an event or do something for others that is not directly related to your passion.

These are not the things that I am talking about. In fact, it is important that you still do things for others even if there is nothing in it for you. Keep in mind, the gifts and talents that you have been given are for the benefit of others, and not for your own selfish gain.

What I am talking about is getting rid of the routine time wasters that rob you of your potential. Ultimately, doing something routinely that does not make use of your unique gifts and talents benefits no one. Conversely, helping others by using the gifts that you have been given has tremendous mutual benefits.

Start making a difference by stopping. Now.

July 04, 2010

But how can I be sure?

The other day, a good friend of mine asked me how a person can be certain that they are doing the work that they have been uniquely designed for. Having read a multitude of books on personal growth, leadership, and making a difference, I naturally felt that I was informed enough to field this question.

My response to him was this:
  • Listen to the whispers that are calling to you, keeping in mind that the distractions that seek to prevent you from doing what you have been designed for are in your face and screaming for your attention.
  • Try doing many different things often until you find what you love to do. The key to this is failing fast and often until you find what works.
  • Focus on doing what you are best at, and manage your weaknesses.
From a textbook perspective, I get this and it makes perfect sense. However, as is often the case, reality proves to be much more different than theory. Application is all that really matters.

The short and honest truth is that you can't fully know that what you are doing is what you have been designed for. This is where that component of faith and trust becomes imperative. You can chase what you think you have been designed for, but if your focus is not on the one that knows best, your chasing is meaningless.

From my experience, here are a few things that I have found to be fairly good indicators of being on the right path:
  1. The path looks impassable, impossible, scary, and lonely. Just thinking about what might happen is usually enough to prevent even the bravest of souls from taking the first step.
  2. Once you decide to take the first step, everyone calls you crazy and will try to talk some sense into you. Most of the time, doing what you have been designed for looks foolish and impractical. Oddly enough, it is often the foolish and impractical that makes the greatest impact.
  3. You know that you're doing the right things when time ceases to have meaning. Hours pass in what feels like mere minutes; Days in what feels like hours.
What are some other ways that we can have an idea that we are doing the right things?

June 28, 2010

An argument for now.

Blaise Pascal warns that we should not live in times that are not our own. His thought is that while we think about yesterday or tomorrow, we completely miss out on all that needs our attention today.

Too often, I hear people talk about what could have been if they would have been born a few years later, or a few years earlier. "If only I had been born a few years earlier, I would have published my own book before the print industry went down the tubes." "If I would have been born a few years earlier, I would have secured a great record deal and would now be living off of the royalties the rest of my days." "If I would have been born a few years later, the technology to make my dreams come true would have been available and I would have created something really remarkable."

The encouraging truth is that now is the greatest time for you to do what you dream of, because you have been uniquely designed for now. It isn't daring to dream that is difficult. The challenge is in doing something to make the daring dream come true.

Do you want to write a book? Then check out the self-publishing options that are available. Do you want to captivate the world through your lyrical muse? Then record something and get it out there. Perhaps, you are somewhat uncomfortable with digital this and 2.0 that? That's okay too. With a little creativity, there are many low tech options at your disposal right now that will allow you to change your corner of the world.

Honestly, the time to impact the world has never been greater. Yet, I see people back off and avoid all that they could become because they don't believe that the time is right.

The time to do something remarkable will never be perfect or optimal, so why not at least try to do something now?

June 20, 2010

Childish Authenticity

The other morning, I woke up to find two remarkably great pieces of art on our kitchen table. In my home, the wall in our kitchen is covered with art more beautiful than any I could possibly find in some stuffy museum. All of these masterpieces were crafted by two of the most skilled artists that I know, my children.

As I beamed with joy (and of course a little pride) over the two new additions to our collection, it occurred to me that one of the reasons people are so frustrated, angry, and depressed is because somewhere along the way, they forgot to be childishly authentic.

When we were children, we created art with childish authenticity. We would paint masterpieces with nothing more than mud and a sidewalk! We would sing out loud for the world to hear our song! We would hit home runs and score touchdowns (yes, there is art in this too)! We would write poetry that changed the world!

We didn't do these things to become superstars or rockstars. We already were, and we wanted the world to know it!

And then, something happened.

We were told by someone in a position of influence in our life that we should stop playing and dreaming and focus more on our studies. Perhaps some of us endured ridicule for the art that we created and so we simply stopped, allowing our gifts and talents to be carried away from us like a leaf on the wind. Others of us may have abandoned our art because it wasn't "cool".

Honestly, these are ridiculous excuses that we use because we are afraid of failing. These excuses prevent us from doing what we have been designed for and from living the magnificent life we were meant to live. Sadly, many of us fall into the trap of blaming others for our inaction, and the rest of the world suffers as a result.

The choice is yours. You can go on blaming others, or you could be much happier, as could the rest of the world, if you stopped being mature and making excuses and started being childishly authentic again.

June 13, 2010

The beauty of rehearsal

In live theater, a lot can go wrong. An actor could forget his lines; An actress might miss her cue; A lighting technician may accidentally illuminate the wrong area of the stage entirely. All of these things could happen, and in some theaters, they do happen.

However, I venture to say that in professional theaters, events like these are few and far between. How, with all of the variables and crazy stuff that could occur, does the theater "go on?"

Rehearsal. Lots of it.

During rehearsal, it is okay to make mistakes. In fact, a lot of mistakes get made. Especially during the first few rehearsals. However, as more rehearsals take place, fewer mistakes are made. When the first night of the big show finally arrives, many of the things that could go wrong have already occurred and have been accounted for.

Our lives are no different. In order for us to be the best parent, or writer, or doctor, or religious leader, we need to practice at it. The difference between an inspiring performance and a mediocre performance is rehearsal. It comes down to what you are filling your time with between performances.

The only real mistake you can make when it is time to rehearse is not rehearsing.