What’s Your Code?

Different military branches hold to a moral/ethical code, an ethos, or in the case of the Vikings, laws. These codes and laws dictate and determine decision making, actions of the individual, and overall quality of life. Most branches of the military require their cadets to learn and memorize their branch’s code of conduct. What fascinates me is that most codes have the same foundational qualities. Here are a few that I have found to be most influential to me:

Navy Seals:

  • Serve with honor and integrity on and off the battlefield
  • Read to lead, ready to follow, never quit
  • Take responsibility for your actions AND the actions of your teammates
  • Excel as warriors though discipline and innovation

Army Rangers:

  • Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task
  • My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy

Marine Corps:

  • Honor is the bedrock of our character
  • Honor is the quality that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior:
    • To never lie
    • To never cheat
    • To never steal
    • To abide by an uncompromising code of integrity
    • To respect human dignity
    • To have respect and concern for each other
  • The heart of our core values is courage
  • It is the mental, moral, and physical strength ingrained in Marines to see them through:
    • The challenges of combat
    • The mastery of fear
    • To do what is right
    • To adhere to higher standards of personal conduct
    • To lead by example
    • To make tough decisions under stress and pressure
  • Commitment promotes the highest order of discipline for unit and self
  • It instills pride, concern for others, and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor

There is a theme from these lists. Firstly, integrity and honor are of the utmost importance. This is then followed by moral and ethical behavior. Finally, self discipline and personal growth are essential. It’s about pushing yourself to be better every day. Another quality that is valued is the care for others and not just self. These codes of conduct provide a foundation for living. Imagine how our society, our world, might change if we taught these principles to our children and lived them out in our own life.

I never had people in my life express to me the importance and value of having a code of conduct with which to live by. In fact, I never knew the value of building and defining a personal set of rules and regulations on which I should build my life. As a child, I was told to do the right thing and respect other people. These are good principles; basic, but good. I was never told why I should do these things. It was as if I was supposed to just know the value and importance of doing these principles. Now that I have my own children, I am building on what I was taught, but instilling in my children the understanding and purpose of having a personal code of conduct.

It wasn’t until recently that I found value and meaning in living my life with a code of ethics and morals. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t have a set of morals and ethics in the past. It wasn’t until four or five years ago that living with a code meant something to me. I started reading books from former Navy Seals, Special Forces, and prominent leaders. I kept seeing the same theme throughout each of their stories – living life with a code of conduct brings direction and meaning to one’s life. It provides a lens by which actions are taken, decisions are made, and words are spoken. A personal code of conduct helps put the focus on our actions, our choices, and our words. It means we learn to take personal responsibility for ourselves.

My personal code of conduct is as follows:

  • Do the right thing no matter the cost
  • Take ownership for my actions, choices, and words
  • Respect everyone, even if they do not respect me (I struggle with this one)
  • Be disciplined in all areas of my life
  • Serve others
  • Above all, seek after the ways of God and live according to his Word (I struggle with this as well)

So what is your personal code? What principles do you build your life on? I would love to read your personal code of conduct, and if you are struggling with building a personal code of conduct, I would love to help you create one and encourage you in your journey of living it out.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Watch The Company You Keep

“Bad company corrupts good character” (Menander and the Apostle Paul). “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). “Some would argue that you’re as successful as the company you keep. Certainly, there is a connection between our friends and who we are” (Simon Sinek). “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best” (Epictetus). “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses” (Colin Powell). I could keep going with quotes about the importance of watching with whom we keep our company. There is something to say about who we associate with, when writers, poets, and leaders throughout history are quoted giving warning and guidance about the company we keep.

When I was younger, I never believed that the company I kept would have an impact on who I became. Sadly, I also didn’t have people sharing wisdom about the importance of paying attention with whom I spent my time. Looking back, I can see the disastrous choices I made really were influenced by the people I hung around. Today, I keep a very close circle when it comes to the people with whom I associate. I know that influence happens whether or not I think I am strong enough to avoid negativity or poor behavior. My circle of friends must be people of character and integrity, as I want my friends to help me be a better version of myself. 

Colin Powell once said, “As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.” Colin Powell was a man of great wisdom. He took seriously the people he chose to let into his inner circle. He understood the power of influence and the consequences that happen when we don’t pay attention to the people we allow into our lives. “The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate – for the good and the bad” (Colin Powell).

In today’s world, friends are considered people who “follow” you on social media. Youth who live in a make-believe virtual world believe that friends are those found in their “friends” list on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc. I have even seen some more mature individuals get caught up in the same fantasy of friendship. Social media is a false narrative when it comes to friendship. The reality is friends are people we spend most of our time with. The question we should be asking ourselves is, “Who am I giving up my time for, and how are they influencing me?” 

Let’s go back to Colin Powell. He once stated, “With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.” The people we allow in our lives have a significant influence on the overall success we have in life. My wife makes fun of me a lot for listening to certain motivational speeches or podcasts. She does it all in good fun. However, there is a reason why I watch what I do. I want positive motivation and encouragement in my life. I want to learn from others and listen to the lessons they have learned in life. I want to be influenced to be better. 

I have learned that the more I sit and waste time on social media, the worse my attitude and mindset becomes. However, when I listen to motivational speeches or watch podcasts of individuals who have gone through tough situations and share the lessons they have learned, I find myself wanting to be better. I also become more aware of people in my life that do not share the same sentiment. If I find myself associating with lazy, apathetic people, I start to see myself becoming more lazy, apathetic, and full of excuses; because that’s what most lazy and apathetic people do…they make excuses. When I see people who choose popularity and greatness over integrity and humility, I find that I become more arrogant and hot headed. If I want to live my life with high standards and expect to become a better version of me, then I need to be very cognizant of the people I allow into my life.

 “Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere” (Colin Powell).

As always, stay humble and serve well! Oh, and be careful who you allow into your life.

Recognize Your People

Tom had a great idea to bring more community involvement to his organization. He researched and planned everything it would take to make his idea successful. He then brought his idea to his leadership, and they gave him the green light. He spent hours putting together materials, volunteers, and speaking with the right people to make his idea a reality. The day came, and it was a huge success. After the event, Tom was never congratulated, never thanked, and was never recognized for putting together a successful event for the organization. Leadership, however, saw the success that Tom’s hard work brought and decided to turn it into an annual event. The following year, leadership took control of the event and never once invited Tom into the planning or organization of the event. Tom felt defeated and discouraged for putting in all the hard work that he did and never getting any credit or recognition for the success he brought to the organization. The following year, he chose to stay out of the event.

Samantha works hard for her company. She is always bringing in the most revenue and putting up the biggest numbers for your company. Her way of doing business is a bit unconventional, but it works and brings in the most growth for her company. She is the top producer among her colleagues. She comes in early and stays late whenever she can. She also picks up extra work for her company. However, no matter how hard she works and no matter how much profit she brings in for the company, she has never once been recognized for her outstanding work and performance. After 10 years at the company, Samantha is wondering why she works so hard for her company when all of her hard work goes unrecognized. She struggles with not becoming disgruntled and detached from her work. 

Stories like these are numerous throughout companies, organizations, and industries. People who work hard, go above and beyond, and are at the top of their industry go unnoticed and unrecognized. They outperform their colleagues on a consistent basis, but are never recognized for their achievements and hard work. Why do we question our employees’ loyalty when we never recognize those who perform the best for our company or organization? If we want great people working for us, we must recognize those who work hard and make a positive difference in our companies. 

Recognition is essential in the workplace. As leaders, we may get caught up in the paperwork, bureaucracy, and other stresses that are put on us from those above us, but we must never neglect those we lead. We must make a conscious effort to recognize those in our company or organization that work hard and perform well. When we take the time to recognize those who outwork and outperform their colleagues, those individuals gain a sense of pride and ownership and are encouraged to keep going above and beyond. When others see that hard work is rewarded and recognized, they become more apt to putting in extra effort and taking pride in what they do. 

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying leadership should buy hard work. I am also not encouraging the overworking of our staff. I am simply suggesting that we start to take notice of those individuals in our companies and organizations that have been working their ass off without the recognition they deserve. When a leadership position opens in the company, instead of looking outside the company to fill that role, look inward and see the people who have shown leadership and management qualities through their hard work, performance, and results. Instead of a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant, recognize your people with paid time off or a weekend trip. Whatever you do, make it a point to recognize the people in your company and organization for their hard work and contributions.

When leadership takes the time to recognize their people, their people will, in turn, take pride and ownership in what they do. Recognition builds a sense of security and self-worth in one’s company. It also boosts morale and improves retention. It gives staff a sense of pride and positive reinforcement. It shows that they are cared about, and that their hard work and dedication is not going unrecognized. Recognition says, “Thank you for all you do, the hard work you put in, the accomplishments you have made for our company and organization, and we see you as an invaluable asset to our company and organization.” 

Be intentional in leadership. Recognize those who work hard and show dedication to what they do. Don’t get so caught up in the stressors of leadership that you neglect your people. Without them, your job means nothing.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

A Super Bowl Leader

If you were like me, and 280 million other people, Sunday was spent watching two football teams go head to head to see who was the best in the 2023 NFL season. Whether you were rooting for the Chiefs or the Eagles, one thing is for sure, they put on a fantastic show for their audience. I am a big fan of games that come down to the wire, and that is exactly what Super Bowl XLVII was all about. I didn’t have a preference as to who should win the Super Bowl, as I felt both teams were great competitors and earned their way to the center stage. Overall, the game was fantastic and both teams played their hearts out. 

There was a play that happened in the second quarter that forced a turnover for the Eagles and ultimately ended with the Chiefs getting a touchdown. Yes, the turnover was disappointing, but how the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, Jalen Hurts, handled the turnover was phenomenal. I have seen quarterbacks fumble the ball and get turnovers on many occasions. I have also seen quarterbacks yell at their offensive line and blame them for the turnover because of their lack of protection. Yesterday, however, Jalen Hurts did exactly what any good leader should do. He took ownership, blamed himself, and encouraged his offensive line. He didn’t point fingers, he didn’t yell at his men, he simply took ownership of his mistake and encouraged his team.

Phot Credit: AP Photo/Abbie Parr

There is something to be learned from Jalen’s interaction with his team. As the quarterback, he is seen as the leader, the guide, the one who controls the field. He depends on his offensive line, his running backs, and his receivers. However, they also depend on him to be aware, to be alert, to see the field and react accordingly. They rely on him to know the plays, throw on target passes, and be able to read the defense. As the leader, it is easy to point fingers and push blame when things do not go according to plan. It’s easy to point fingers at the offensive line when they allow the defense through. It’s easy to point fingers at the wide receiver who didn’t get into position in time. However, in reality, everything comes down to the quarterback. 

Hunter did something that is rarely seen in leadership these days. He took ownership. He pointed fingers at himself rather than at his team. He humbled himself in front of his team and his coach and took responsibility for the fumble and ultimate turnover that led to the opposite team putting points on the board. There is something to say about a young quarterback who would rather take ownership than push blame. His actions led to a more cohesive team. His team stepped it up and played their hearts out for him, and it showed, as the Eagles held possession of the ball for 20:32 throughout the game. 

Even though the Eagles didn’t go on to win the Super Bowl – blown by a cheap call in my opinion – they still rallied together as a team and played a great game. The team energy starts with the leadership, and Hurts showed that he was the best to lead that team. He took ownership of his faults, he rallied the team together, and his commitment to his team is what gave the Eagles the drive and confidence that they needed. There is much to learn from a young, 24 year old quarterback that found himself in the Super Bowl.

Ownership is essential in leadership. Heck, ownership is essential in life. It’s easy to point fingers and place blame, but in reality, it comes down to us. It comes down to our choices and actions. Ownership builds trust and relationships. It shows a commitment to taking responsibility and personal reflection. Being a leader who takes ownership empowers the rest of the team to be their best. It shows the team that leadership is willing to humble themselves. Taking ownership doesn’t always mean your team will win, but it does mean that your team becomes stronger, better equipped, and more driven. 

I applaud you, Jalen Hurts. You are a great example of what leadership should be. May we all take a minute to learn from your example. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Shut Up and Work! – Part 2

My last post had way more backlash than I was expecting. In fact, my last post was called “a revolting piece of garbage” by someone. I was told that my thinking was out of touch. There was even a comment about the words I used and the picture I chose for the article. You guessed it, someone had to make a race comment. I also received comments on how work is not work if you’re passionate about it. Honestly, I was quite amused by most of the negative comments to my post, and now, I’m going to double down on what I said previously.

Firstly, the statement, “Shut up and work!”, is about mindset and nothing more, which I mentioned in my previous post. People complain about having to put in work to get where they want to be. They make excuses for not doing what needs to be done. A perfect example of this is living a healthy lifestyle. Is this something everyone does? Absolutely not, seeing as how America’s obesity rate is extremely high. A Harvard study suggests that over 69% of America’s population is obese and, or overweight. Instead of seeing the importance and value of making better life choices and doing what is needed to become healthier, people make excuses and push blame for their lack of discipline and self-control. Does it take work to be healthy? YES! Will you enjoy it? Probably not! Instead of complaining and whining about having to exercise and give up garbage food, just shut up and work! Be disciplined in your lifestyle and you will see yourself become better.

Secondly, work is work; plain and simple. Everything takes work. It doesn’t matter if you love it or hate it, work is work. There is no new definition to work. Sure, you can throw out the line, ‘Well, if I love what I do then it’s not work.” Yes it is. You still have to work at what you are doing. Sure, you may enjoy it more, but you’re still working. You may not complain about it as much, but you’re still working. And you are still having to do the things that need to be done in your life even if you love it or not. Work is work. People complain they don’t have time to do things, or they have too much to do, but instead of getting up and getting after it, they sit on the couch or procrastinate and don’t get things done. If they would take on the mindset of, “Shut up and work!”, then what needs to be done, would be done. 

No one loves to do laundry, or the dishes, or clean the bathroom, and if you are a person who likes to do these things, you are awesome! I would say the majority of us do not enjoy these chores. So what happens? We wait to do them, things pile up, and then we have even more to do, all because we choose to complain about having to do them. Imagine what would happen if we became disciplined in our life, and we did what needed to be done in spite of how we feel about it. Instead of looking at the pile of dishes or clothes and rolling our eyes and getting frustrated that we have chores to do, we learn to shut up and get after it. We are really good at procrastinating, and as Alexander Graham Bell once said, “The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.”

Thirdly, the concept of “Shut up and work!” has nothing to do with government, politics, race, religion, gender, or whatever else you want to impose on it. It has everything to do with attitude and life choices. I don’t care what your skin color is, I don’t care what gender you want to affiliate yourself with, I don’t even care what political party you want to bow down to, what matters is what you do with your life and if you are becoming the best version of yourself on a daily basis. Are you willing to go the extra mile, be kind when you don’t want to be, be encouraging when you don’t want to be, be compassionate when you don’t want to be, be quiet when you don’t want to be? Instead of comparing yourself to me, my writing, or others, are you looking in the mirror and making the choices that better you and making yourself grow? Or, are you so caught up in your self-righteous ideology, that you can only see what you don’t like rather than what you can learn?  

Work is not bad. Never has been, never will be. Everything we do in life takes work, and the quality of our work will determine the quality of life we have. The harder we work the better we become. Instead of complaining about having to work, just shut up and do it! Make yourself better and stop comparing yourself to others. The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Out work who you are on a daily basis. Yes, you will have garbage days. Yes, you will struggle with apathy and procrastination. This is why discipline is essential. Without discipline, we stop growing. We stop becoming better. We stop moving forward. 

So, for all you haters who don’t like that I said, “Shut up and work!”, or don’t like that I used the picture I did, I don’t care. It makes me happy to know that you are reading my posts. I hope that you find time to break away from your self-righteousness and seek to understand and learn from what I am writing, rather than judging it and getting offended by it. It’s okay that you don’t agree with what I am saying, but can you find things in it that you can agree with? If not, I might encourage you to not read my posts. Go find something or someone that fits your small, narrow scope of reality. Because as many of you have pointed out, I am an educator, and I always encourage my students to seek out multiple perspectives and find things you can learn from each one. It doesn’t mean they have to agree 100% with everything, they just need to stretch themselves to learn from things they might not agree with.

Shut Up and Work

There is a shirt that I absolutely love. All it says on it is, “Shut Up and Work!” I love that statement. People would rather talk, complain, waste time, make excuses, and waste energy instead of getting results, become better, push themselves, take ownership, and put in the hard work. Here’s the bottom line, instead of running your mouth and wasting time, just shut up and work.

The more we talk, the farther behind we get. The more excuses we make, the less progress we make. The more we complain, the weaker we become. American lawyer, Mel Robbins, said it best, “No one’s coming to push you. No one is coming to tell you to turn the TV off. No one’s coming to tell you to get out the door and exercise. Nobody is coming to tell you to apply for that job that you always dreamt about. No one’s coming to write the business plan for you. You got to parent yourself. You got to push yourself.”

Our society lacks discipline, focus, and purpose. Let me take that back, our society doesn’t lack any of those things, it’s just all in the wrong things. Society is disciplined in complaining and making excuses, society is focused on playing the victim, and society’s purpose is to be heard and cancel people who don’t agree with the mainstream agenda. When we allow social media, mainstream media, and the news to tell us what to think and what’s important, we lose sight of what really matters.

We have a generation of people who expect things to be given to them, and when they don’t get what they want, they throw a fit, complain, and claim that they are oppressed. Here’s the hard reality. You don’t get what you want. You get what you work for. So, shut up and work. We no longer teach the value and importance of hard work. Society sees work as a chore rather than an opportunity. Yes, work is hard and not fun at times, but work brings purpose and meaning to life. We were designed to be workers. At the dawn of time, mankind had to work for everything – food, shelter, fire, water. As technology has advanced, we haven’t needed to work as hard, and we have become lazier, more apathetic, and have slowly started losing purpose. It has also created a “here and now” mindset. Instead of understanding the value of earning something, society expects it to be given to them.

People want to complain that the top 1% of our society is what’s wrong with this world. They want to complain that people who make the most money make it hard for the rest of us. All I hear are a bunch of people whining and complaining that they don’t have what they want, because they aren’t willing to put in the time or work that it takes to get them what they want. Instead of working hard and earning what they want, people want the wealthy’s money, the money the wealthy worked hard for and were willing to put in the time, work, and energy to obtain, to be redistributed among society. Talk about a selfish, self-centered, and entitled society. If you want something, shut up and work for it.

We need to change the mindset of future generations. We need to teach and show the value and importance of hard work, discipline, and self-respect. We need to bring back the mindset of resilience, perseverance, and grit. Instead of giving our children everything they want, we need to be parents who teach these foundational values. Instead of giving them every electronic device known to man, turn off the screen and have them do some actual work. We need to show our children that work is something to cherish and enjoy. We need to show them that we don’t get what we want unless we are willing to work for it. Instead of being a society that is entitled, complains, and pushes blame, we need to be a society that values discipline, hard work, self-respect, and integrity.

Hard Things

Life is hard. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, life throws hard things our way without any consideration of how we feel about it. Life can be ruthless, unforgiving, and at times, stone cold. Sometimes this is due to our own choices, but there are times when life throws us curve balls that we aren’t ready for. Besides death and taxes, there is one thing we can be guaranteed in life – hard things will come our way.

Life doesn’t get easier. As an educator, I have always heard students say, “When I get older, things won’t be so hard for me.” As an adult, I know that these students are in for a rude awakening. The truth is – life doesn’t get easier. We just get better at doing hard things. 

What was once hard for us in our younger years is seen as trifle compared to what we have to deal with as we get older. When we were learning how to ride a bike, most of us probably fell a lot. We probably scraped our knees, our hands, and got banged up. We probably thought, “I’ll never figure out how to ride a bike.” Years later, I am going to assume that you can probably ride a bike just fine. For those of us who didn’t quit, kept getting back on the bike after we fell, we learned how to do something hard. 

As adults, we are faced with hard things. They may not be anything like riding a bike, but we still find ourselves struggling, falling down, and getting beat up. This could be mental struggles, emotional struggles, habitual struggles, relationship struggles, spiritual struggles, or _________ (fill in the blank) struggles. The bottom line is that hard things mean we struggle. We get tired and fatigued, and we are faced with the choice of quitting and giving up or getting back up after we have been knocked to the ground. As Rocky Balboa once said, “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”

Hard things will never cease coming for us. We must purpose within ourselves that we will get better at doing hard things. What does that mean? It means that you get back on the bike. It means you try again and again and again until you succeed. It means you make healthy changes to better your mental, physical, and emotional health. It means you don’t give up. We get better at hard things when we push ourselves to overcome the things in our life that are hard. Just remember, life doesn’t get easier. You get better at doing hard things, and the only way you get better at doing hard things is by pushing yourself through it.

There is a simple truth in life – the more you do it, the better you get. This applies to nearly everything in life. Sometimes we get better with one or two tries. Other times, it takes try after try after try. The moment we quit, we have allowed what we considered to be hard to beat us. I want to tell you right now that you are better and stronger than anything you are going through in your life. Yes, you can beat what is hard. Yes, you can get better at doing hard things. It takes will, perseverance, grit, determination, and most importantly, discipline. It’s never going to be easy. Don’t forget that.

In today’s society, people no longer rise up to face challenges like they used to. When something gets hard, people want it fixed for them, or they will quit and complain. Many times, people would rather play victim to hard things rather than overcome and conquer the hard things in their life. People have a tendency to see hardship as a personal attack on their character and abilities. In reality, something is hard because we haven’t learned how to do it, get through it, understand it, you name it. Instead of feeling defeated by hard things, we should have an attitude of, “Challenge accepted.” 

Here’s another example. In school, some of us struggled with some kind of subject. Most of the time it was math, and if it wasn’t math, it was probably reading. Either way, we struggled with it and said, “It was hard.” However, as we progressed through our education, what once was hard became less difficult and was replaced with “harder” things, and what we once thought was hard is easy. That is what the essence of learning is all about. People who quit stop learning. People who stop challenging themselves stop learning. People who are complacent stop learning. People who stop pushing themselves stop learning. In other words, if you’re not willing to put in the work, don’t expect anything in your life to get any easier.

Getting better at hard things comes down to one thing – having a particular mindset. After all, mindset is everything. If hardship is seen as a blockade or a wall that is standing in the way of progress, then we must ask ourselves how we will get through the blockade or get over the wall. Most people see hardship as a sign to quit and give up. Some see it as a personal reflection on themselves. Others see it as a challenge that needs to be overcome, and those who see hard things in this way are those who get better at doing hard things. 

So the next time you are faced with hardship in your life, accept the challenge and do your best to learn, understand, grow, and become better. This way, you will get better at doing hard things.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Meet Them Where They’re At

I came home from work the other day, walked in the front door, looked at my wife, and I knew there was something off. To give you a little background information, we have been having issues with our septic tank on our property. Things haven’t been going well, and we were told that there was a good possibility that our leach field may be old and needing to be replaced. This is a $10,000 to $30,000 expense. We have only been in our house for just over 6 months, and we weren’t expecting this. 

My wife’s face was telling me a story. It said, “I’m overwhelmed, worried, concerned, and I don’t know how to handle it right now.” Now, at this moment, I should have seen it, recognized her needs, and met her where she was at. Sadly, because I’m flawed and don’t make the greatest decisions at times, I became guarded and cold. I said the things most men say, “There’s nothing to worry about. We’ll be just fine. It’s all part of the homeowner experience.” None of that was what she needed to hear or what she needed from me. She looked at me, with tears welling up in her eyes and told me, “I’m overwhelmed, and I don’t know how to handle it.” Again, I should have figured it out at this moment, but I didn’t. I looked at her with judgmental eyes and said, “Then I don’t know what to tell you.” And I walked away to get changed for the gym. 

Now, I know what your probably thinking, “What an @**hole!”, and you would be right. I was definitely not at my best, and I failed my wife miserably. While at the gym, I replayed everything in my head over and over. I knew how I acted and what I said was not what she needed. I knew that I had broken the relationship between her and I. I knew that I messed up and needed to make it right. When I got home, I walked up to her, threw my arms around her, and apologized for not being what she needed me to be in her moment of worry and concern. When I did that, she looked at me and said with a smile, “That’s all I needed.”

I have struggled with this for all of my life. I don’t know how to respond to peoples’ emotions. I am a very logical individual. I rely very little on my emotions. I always chalked it up to being a guy, but in reality, I have met very few guys that are like me. In reality, this is just who I am and how I operate. It has served me well in my decision making and stresses in life. Worry is not something I do, and when things get difficult, I put my head down and push on. This, however, is not what most people do, and because of that, it has hindered my ability to meet people where they are. 

I have had to work really hard to focus on meeting people where they are at, whether I understand their position and feelings or not. This has not been an easy feat, as I am bent on being a fixer and not much of an emotional person. My wife has not only been amazing and patient with me, she has also been my biggest helper in trying to understand how to meet others where they are at. 

I have learned that there are key elements to meeting people where they are at. First, we must get rid of “self” and enter the situation with a heart and mind willing to intentionally listen to the other person. It is only through listening to the other person that we can get to the next step – become what the other person needs. Most of the time, people just need to be heard. If you are like me, you might have a tendency to hear someone’s problems and immediately give ideas and suggestions on how to fix them. Even though the other person may need to fix their problems, what they are really needing is someone to hear them and sit with them in their time of need. 

There is a great scene in Pixar’s Inside Out that demonstrates the power and importance of sitting with people in their time of need. Warning: Spoiler alert. Inside Out is a movie about emotions inside our heads. The movie is about a 10 year old girl named Riley, who has to move to a new city with her parents, leaving her friends and her comfort behinder her. The emotions in her head – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Worry – have to work together to help Riley through this difficult process. As Joy and Sadness are trying desperately to get back to “headquarters”, they run into Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong. On their journey, they come across Bing Bong’s “rocketship”. However, a cleaning crew swept it up and pushed it over the cliff of the “Memory Dump”. Bing Bong watches as they push his rocketship over the edge. He runs to the cliff and begins to cry knowing that it is only a matter of time that Riley will start to forget about him. He sits at the edge of the cliff and starts talking about fond memories with Riley. Joy wants nothing more than to get back to headquarters, so she does everything in her power to offer advice and suggestions to help Bing Bong feel better so that they can get back on the road. However, nothing seems to be working. Sadness walks over to Bing Bong, sits next to him, and listens to what he has to say. She explains that she too has gone through painful situations. She doesn’t offer advice or suggestions on how he could feel better. She just sits with him in his time of need. After a few minutes of sitting, talking, and listening, Bing Bong says, “I think I will be okay,” and he gets up to continue the journey.

There is great power in just sitting and listening to people without needing to offer advice or suggestions. The most important thing we can do for others is to listen to them and be with them in their time of need. This means we need to remove our selfishness from the situation and be present. It doesn’t matter how busy we are, how much advice we can offer, or thinking that we have all the answers. What matters is that we listen, be present, and sit with people in their pain, hurt, worry, or whatever it might be. We need to remember that it’s not about us and what we want. It’s about the other person and being present in their time of need. 

We are all works in progress. Let us not fail at working on ourselves. Let us see the areas we need to change and diligently work at becoming better. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

The Dance

There is a dance that we all do in life. Some of us do it really well, others struggle to find the rhythm or the right steps in the dance. When we over complicate our life, the dance becomes muddled and unclear. When we simplify our life, our steps seem to flow with the rhythm of life. To be successful and mentally strong in life, we must learn the graceful dance of life.

The dance in which I am referring to is that of balance. We must learn how to balance our lives carefully. Balance is essential in life, and without it, we miss opportunities, ruin relationships, and live a life filled with chaos and mental anguish. Balance creates peace and understanding in life. It removes unneeded stress, and it allows us the opportunity to breathe freely. Life’s dance of balance is much needed in a world filled with chaos.

How do we live a life of balance in a world filled with chaos? We have this innate problem within us to say “Yes” more than we should say “No”. People say “Yes” because they want to please others, they may be afraid of conflict, they might have poor personal boundaries, or they want to be liked. The more we say yes to things, the more chaotic our life becomes, and the more unbalanced we become in the dance of life.

There is a phenomenal author by the name of Bob Goff. He has a book called “Love Does”. It’s a must read, and I highly recommend it. In his book, he discusses that we need to learn to quit things in our life. He calls it “Quit something Thursday.” It doesn’t matter what it is, if it doesn’t need to be a part of your life, quit it. Let it go. Quitting something doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means that you are learning to take control of your chaos and allowing yourself to become more balanced in the dance of life. Don’t keep filling your life with things you think you need to do, or with things you do not need to take responsibility for. Be okay with letting go of the chaos in your life.

Chaos comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be extra activities that you have said yes to, or extra work that you took responsibility for when you didn’t need to. It could also be personal choices that were made that jeopardize your physical and mental health. The more chaos we allow in our life, the more daunting the dance of life becomes. Life was never meant to be as taxing, stressful, and chaotic as we make it. Life was meant to be lived in joy, thanksgiving, and peace. We are the ones who have created the chaos we call life.

Our choices throughout life will determine the dance in which we choose to partake. The more chaos we allow in our life, the more rigid and unbalanced our dance will become. We may even get to a point in our life that our dance is more like a mosh pit –  a dance of survival rather than one of sweet rhythm and joy. The more chaotic our dance, the more we lose out on what really matters in our life. It is important that we take seriously the choices we make in our life and be aware of the chaotic imbalance that comes with some of those choices. 

Learn to say “No”. It’s okay to not be everything for everyone. Focus only on the “Yeses” that matter. Say yes to your mental health. Say yes to your physical health. Say yes to your children and your spouse. Beyond that, choose carefully what you say yes to. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying you shouldn’t look for ways to help others. I am saying, be aware of the burdens on which you place yourself. You don’t have to take on that extra curricular activity. You don’t have to have your children in EVERY sport. You don’t have to go to every function someone invites you to. It is perfectly okay to have a life where your heart and energy are wrapped up in what brings you joy and happiness. Allow balance back into your life and dance with great rhythm, grace, and peace.

Are You Still Growing?

There is a quote that says, “The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” This quote is a good reminder of not falling into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. However, it is also a good reminder that we should always be in a state of growth and progress, and to never settle for the status quo or become apathetic in our thinking. As individuals, leaders, husbands, wives, bosses, employees, etc., we should always be looking for ways to better ourselves and keep growing.

The world can be a dark place at times, and I believe that is due to a stagnant mindset. When we begin to have the, “This is me, so deal with it” mindset, we alienate our potential and hold ourselves back from becoming more. That statement is apathy at its best. That statement says more about you and your character than it does anything else. 

Everybody wants to complain that, “The world is going to Hell in a handbasket.” Whether this is true or not, the reality is if we all learned to focus on our own problems and issues and work at becoming better human beings, the world would be a better place. Instead of pointing fingers and pushing blame, we would take ownership of our own faults and failures and work to be better. I know, this is not easy to do, but the right thing is rarely the easier thing to do. When we put our energy into becoming better, everybody else’s “issues” become less important. In other words, our focus needs to be on our own growth and becoming the best version of ourselves as possible.

We tend to care way too much about things we cannot control. We get irritated at our boss for the decisions they are making. We get frustrated with our spouse for the things he or she said or did. We get angry with a government that seems to be incompetent. We worry about what the media is saying and how the world seems to only be filled with negativity. To be completely honest, not a single one of those examples should matter to us. They are outside of our control. Meaning getting angry, frustrated, and worrisome is going to do nothing but create a negative mindset within us. If we can’t control it, we need to learn to let it go. This is part of the process of growing and becoming better.

Each of us has a three foot radius that is within our control. If something is outside of those three feet, it’s beyond our control, and we need not waste energy, emotions, or thought on it. Becoming better means we are able to detach ourselves from issues and problems that are beyond our locus of control. One of the best ways to start this process is to turn off the TV, limit time and access to social media, and start reading and journaling. By reading, we are able to focus on self-improvement. By journaling, we are able to write out our thoughts and ideas and keep a record of our improvements. 

Becoming better should be our goal on a daily basis. Some days we will hit the mark. Other days we will fall short. Either way, our push to become better should never wane. Discipline is key, and it will take intentional effort to disassociate ourselves from issues and problems that are beyond our control. When you find yourself caring more about others’ actions and words, detach yourself from the situation – take a physical step back – and focus only on that which is within your control. 

Be confident, but stay humble. Stand with conviction, but be willing to listen and learn. Be angry, but do not let the anger control you. Be passionate, but do not let that passion destroy the relationships around you. Be focused, but not self centered. In all things, be willing to grow and become better. The more we all do this, the better our world will become.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

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