Photo Friday- Mountain Wisdom

A couple weeks ago I section hiked 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail starting In North Georgia and ending in North Carolina. The hike was amazing but it was physically challenging. There were many significant climbs that really pushed my body. I was ready for it mentally. I have hiked here before and I am in relatively good shape but the climbs here were especially exhausting.

While climbing out of one of the gaps I passed a guy who was going extremely slow.  Really, really slow.  I thought to myself, “This guy will never make it”.  And I kept heading up the hill.  This was a tough climb near the end of the day so I stopped SEVERAL times before the top.  While stopped and resting, this guy comes around the corner and passes me!  This went on several times.  I would blaze ahead and he would catch me. I realized that this was just like “The Tortoise and the Hare”!

I ended up introducing myself to the Tortoise and we talked a bit about his hike.  His plan was to thru hike to Maine.  We were similar in age but he had some health issues that required that he monitor his heart rate. He had a watch that kept his heart rate as he hiked.  When we both hit the top of the mountain, I was going to camp and bail out early from exhaustion.  He encouraged me to push on and join the group at a camp site about 5 more miles away.  I sucked it up and hiked on.  I pushed ahead and, true to the story, ended up arriving about 30 minutes before the Tortoise.

After contemplating what I saw, I realized the irony. The similarity to the story. The wisdom in going slower.  I am conditioned to attacking the mountain.  Attacking the task. Pushing really hard and getting it over with.  The way of an athlete and an overachiever!  But this method left me spent and exhausted.  I was burning too much energy going too fast.  The Tortoise was right.  So going forward, I began monitoring my breathing to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard.  This way I had power remaining in my batteries to go longer.  Attacking the mountain was NOT the best strategy.

I slowed my pace on the climbs and this made things much better.  In the end, the time I lost going slower was not really significant.  I was able to see more and keep the pain level contained which made things more enjoyable.  

This lesson really spoke to the way I’m wired.  I have always pushed super hard and this has been both good and bad.  I accomplished a great deal but at a cost.  This internal push has left me with a bad back, bad knees, countless missed opportunities and strained relationships.  If I had to do it all over again I would use more restraint.  Do a little less.  Save myself for the important things instead of wasting myself on the task. 

A great lesson learned on the trail- slow and steady wins the race!  

So what do you think? Do you have a similar story? Press “leave and comment” and tell me what you think!     

Photo Friday- Solitude

Sunrise on Hopkins Prairie- Ocala National Forest

We live in a very noisy world.  We have been conditioned that the constant noise we experience everyday is normal.  That we should just get used to it.  Noise is action and progress.  Noise is part of life.  We have been indoctinated that noise is a good thing.  But is it really?

For me getting away from the noise is a way for me to recover and recharge.  To find a place where there is no road noise or a place where I can really see the stars is magical.  Once you strip away the noise and the choas of everyday life, you have the ability to reattach to the natural world.  Where we came from.  Where we can find the peace and the solitude.

I have been striving to be more intentional about disconnecting and getting away from the noise.  Even a few hours to walk in nature provides the opportunity to unload stress and recharge my batteries. 

I must seek the solitude.  It will not find me.  I have to reach out for it.  

The photo above was taken backpacking the Florida Trail at Hopkins Prairie in the Ocala National Forest.  At sunrise, when this photo was taken, it was COMPLETELY silent.  Seems when you cut out the noise your other senses become energized.  You can really SEE the beauty, SMELL the foliage, FEEL the breeze and RENEW your connection to the natural world.   

Next week I will be spending time alone backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.  Backpacking has been a great way for me to relax and recharge.  Carrying everything on your back has way of making the things you bring simple and essential.  No extra stuff.  No luxuries.  

I am looking forward to dumping the noise and finding the solitude.  Unloading the schedule and responsibilities.  Exploring to seek out the majesty and also finding the hidden beauty.  A time to let my mind wander.  The opportunity to delight in the natural world around us. Regain the balance.  Reconnect.  Recharge.  Refresh!         

Can you identify with this? Do you feel renewed when you find solitude? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know your story!

Who Am I?

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

If you ask people this rather simple question you are likely to get several answers from each person.  They may provide descriptions such as father, accountant, golfer, husband, believer, friend, etc.  These titles provide some of the identities that make up their being as they see it.  These descriptions are really roles in our lives.  Each of these descriptions are different and unique.  There are also descriptions that may be less role based.  For example, they might say they are compassionate, thoughtful, a leader, a listener, a perfectionist, a servant, etc. These responses would describe the characteristics of who they think they are.

All of this to say- Who Are You?

I believe that much of the value in our roles are based on what WE DO rather than WHAT WE THINK WE ARE.  We tend to tell ourselves that we value roles that we don’t really act out in our everyday lives.  YOU WILL DO WHAT YOU VALUE.  We have a way of filtering out our roles and identities based on the time investment in fulfilling each different role.  

If you value your role as a father, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.  

If you value your role as an executive, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.

If you value your role as as a friend, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.    

If you value your role as a Believer, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.   

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your time and where you allocate your efforts to fulfill a particular role in your life.  By spending a large portion of your time in a particular role, you are placing personal value towards this role and thus you may be minimizing other important roles.  Realize that it is likely that you are choosing certain roles that give YOU the most value.  The roles that feed your ego and make you feel good.  In the midst of this you may be neglecting roles that are vitally important in your life.

I believe that it is a healthy exercise to examine where you are allocating your time and efforts to make sure that they are in balance with your goals and responsibilities.  We have a way of fooling ourselves believing that the role that brings us the most gratification or affirmation is our most important role!  Chances are you may be neglecting some other area of your life. This examination may lead to changes that will help to reduce regrets that will occur when your roles are way out of balance.

Take a quick and honest survey of where you are. You will be happy that you did!

So what do you think? Do we tend to perform the roles that bring us the most affirmation? Do you have an example of this that you can share? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

It’s the science stupid!

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Unfortunately, it has become quite fashionable to correct others and point to “science” as the basis for your argument and beliefs.  While using the word “science” is a broad characterization, I believe that the true message that is being conveyed is that you are stupid and I am more intelligent because I implicently trust the science.  

There are very few labels in life that are worse than calling someone stupid.

While the scientific method has resulted in great discoveries and has increased our knowledge of the way things work in nature, it is not foolproof and is subject to changing theories and discoveries.  The basis of the scientific method is really observation.  Changing different inputs and then watching and documenting the results to get an understanding of how things work.  And there are other factors to consider that tend to skew things and pollute the sauce and actually make the “science” stupid.

We are human.

One problem with science is that we tend to interject bias into our studies.  We want results to be a certain way to prove or disprove our theories and hypothesis.  I believe that it is really impossible to completely remove all bias due to the human condition.  We have opinions, feelings, emotions, aspirations, ego, shame, empathy and all of these characteristics are part of being a living and breathing human.  

There is art.

The portion of discovery that gets lost is the side opposite of the science.  This is the side that could be termed as art.  Often there is an element of intuition that goes against the math, the chemistry, the facts.  This intuition is difficult to describe and measure yet it is involved in nearly every great discovery.    

There is faith (or luck).

When a doctor finishes a medical procedure he will often end with a comment like, “Now we wait to see if this is successful.”  Even with all the modern medical innovations there is still the knowledge that, in the end, things may work or they may not.  I call this faith.  Others may call it luck.  Regardless of your viewpoint, there is a realization that even with the best data and knowledge, things don’t always end as planned.   

So before you sell out to science and call others stupid for their questioning or apprehension to get on board, consider that your “science” might be flat out wrong.  And by making your comments about their failure to believe the science, you are doing harm to both of you.  You are likely degrading them for their apprehension to go “all in” and you may actually be the “stupid” party to discount these common failures in science in your self-righteous haste! 

No Regrets Monday- Your Life…Work?

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

This is a series describing some of the regrets folks have shared during the last days of their lives.  The goal is NOT to add guilt to your life, but to allow you to take a look at where you are and take the opportunity to make changes.  I hope this effort will provide insight into your behavior and your long-term goals.  Blessing on your journey!

One of the crazy characteristics of American’s is that most of us DON’T use our vacation days.  According to a survey by CNBC, only 28% of Americans in 2019 planned to use all of their vacation days that year!  

Are we addicted to work?  Are we afraid that taking all or most of our vacation days would send a message to our boss that we are not fully committed?  Do we dislike being at home?  Do we lack the funds to take a vacation therefore we decide to just work instead?  Do you feel that staying home is a waste of time?  I’m sure that all of these are excuses are used to forego our vacation time.

One of the most common regrets shared by those in their final days is that they wish they hadn’t worked so much!

I am SUPER guilty here.  I can’t remember EVER taking a “staycation”.  I have forfeited so many vacation days unused it is ridiculous.  I really can’t point to a single reason other than the feeling that taking a day off without a trip somewhere was just a waste of time.  Additionally, I remember judging my friends who would literally game the system to max out ALL the time off.  Some would take every last hour that was allowed in the formula.

I think that some of it is cultural.  We pound the work ethic into our children to convince then that this is the only way to get ahead.  But is it really that important in our career?

During the Great Recession, my salary was cut in half along with others in my work group.  Most of the group cut back their hours accordingly.  I was in leadership and sales (seeking work that wasn’t there!) and I felt obligated to continue to work full time for half pay.  Although I was commended for my efforts during these tough times, it really had no long term effect on my standing as an employee.  The folks that surgically cut their hours were not treated differently than I was.  I don’t regret what I did, but it was a real learning experience for me.

So what should you do?  TAKE THE TIME OFF!  Spend time relaxing.  It’s good for you!  Spend time with your family.  Create lasting memories with loved ones EVERY chance you can get.  I would lay out the ground rules early with your employer.  Tell them that you intend to use your vacation days.  They will respect you for it and won’t be surprised when you max out your time off.  EXCEED THE AMOUNTS IF YOU NEED TO!  If you are salaried and you wish additional time off, let them know that you are prepared to forego pay in exchange for vacation time, if necessary.  Don’t abuse the benefit, but TAKE ADVANTAGE of the opportunity that it affords..

PLEASE…Take your time off.  Relax, recharge, create memories.  You will find that it’s good for you, your family AND your employer.  The time off should make you a better employee (and spouse, and parent and friend)!  And more importantly, as you review your choices later in life, this is a formula to avoid a potential painful and very common regret!  

That Baby!

Photo Credit: WDIV Detroit

Seems like we ALL are ready for this year to end! This has been a VERY tough year for many folks. Some have lost loved ones to the virus. Some have lost their jobs or their life savings. I’ve continued to hear stories of severe pain and misery this year. I think we all had big plans for this year and have been left watching the virus hijack our plans.

For many, the most immediate pain of this year resulted from the isolation and separation that was brought on by social distancing and the shutdowns. I have experienced this myself. I miss getting together with family, friends and especially spending time with the ones that we have that are most vulnerable. What a despicable disease to target those that may have the least amount of time remaining to see family and friends! I ache for these folks as they continue to sit in isolation waiting for this virus to finally go away.

This disruption and pain has a way of making us reflect on where we are.  What is important.  What we take for granted.  This feeling of uncertainty typically results in fear.  Fear is a very powerful emotion.  It strikes deep in our being.  Are you afraid of getting sick from the virus?  Are you afraid of what the future looks like for you after this is over?  

Yet, I can assure you that even with all the fear and uncertainty, there is still hope.  Hope in the future.  Hope that things will be made right.  For me, my hope is the little baby in the manger.  That baby! See, I have felt His love.  I have seen that He is faithful.  I have enjoyed the countless blessings that He has lavished on me and my family.  I know that he has plans for me and they are good.  And most of all, I know the end of the story and it is also good!

Do you feel hopeless? Having trouble seeing a way out? Does the virus or your situation leave you in fear of the future? Maybe the problem is that you don’t know the end of the story. You are holding on to this world as if the world is all there is. You see death as the end of the story. Yet, I can tell you that there is so much more. If you are feeling uneasy that is because you were made for eternity. You were made without an end. Death is NOT your final act.

That baby!  That’s the difference.  God’s gift to us.  This is the hope that we all need.  Listen- your story is bigger.  MUCH bigger.  He made a way so that you would have joy and peace.  So you could enjoy yourself and your time here on the earth and live WITHOUT fear.  That baby.  The Christ.  Emmanuel.  God IS with us!

Thank you for your continued support! Blessings to you and yours this holiday season!

Merry Christmas!

Photo Friday- You Have No Excuse!

Photo taken at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens by the author

I snapped this picture while walking with the twins at the zoo on the day after Thanksgiving. A beautiful flower, might be a golden rain tree, but exquisite in color and unique with its upright form. The zoo is a great place to see and appreciate the diversity of life. It is also a bit depressing to me to see these magnificent animals in cages for a lifetime of display. I am sure that they would all choose freedom in lieu of a life of protection and easy meals.

I believe that the incredible diversity and breathtaking beauty of nature points directly to the Creator. If everything was based on mere chance and natural selection, I believe we would see certain species dominate and we would miss the huge display of thousands, really millions, of unique species, crazy colors and beautiful shapes and designs. Chance would not result in this level of diversity.

When the scientists were mapping out the human genome, one of the lead scientists had an “ah ha!” moment in which he recognized that someone designed the DNA. It’s like seeing a precision machined part and recognizing that this part could not just occur naturally. He saw the fingerprints of the Creator. He recognized that it was too intricate and precise to happen by chance. He was an atheist before this discovery but this “ah ha” moment completely changed his viewpoint.

In the first chapter of the book of Romans, the scriptures declare that we have “no excuse” to deny the existence of the Creator. His work is breathtaking, delicate, massive, complicated, and orderly. He created as an artist works to create unique beauty for pleasure. He made our world both practical and beautiful. Without the artist touch, everything would resort to simply plain and practical.

I have witnessed beautiful flowers growing up through the debris next to a pile of trash in the inner city. I have heard birds singing in a burned out forest. The beauty of His work will overcome the ugly and our abuse of the land.

He hasn’t put His brushes down. The Creator continues to amaze with each and every sunset.

Don’t you see him?

He’s calling you to spend time with Him. Walk with the Him in the cool of the morning. You have no excuse. He wants you.

YOU are his greatest masterpiece!

No Regrets Monday- Dreams or Responsibility?

This is a quick series of short Monday posts reviewing some of the regrets that folks commonly have when they reach the twilights of their lives. Enjoy!

“I wish I would have followed my dreams instead of doing what was responsible and expected of me.”

When I was in about middle school, I took a standardized test that was supposed to help me determine what my career choice should be based on my current likes and dislikes. I think it was called the Army Test. This was your typical fill in the bubble type test and it went through a bunch of questions where I would chose the item that suited me and what I enjoyed doing. At the end of the test, the results came back with two career choices- Home Builder and Forest Ranger.

So these may seem pretty normal except my father owned a construction business. I was already doing the “Home Builder” thing. I remember being a bit disappointed about this choice. I felt like- duh? What good was that answer? Yet, in retrospect, it may have reinforced my choice to pursue construction as a career.

Even as a boy, I had always loved the outdoors. I loved to fish and spend time in the woods so the other choice also seemed to fit. I also remember pondering that the Forest Ranger path would result in a much lower wage. Seemed like the only responsible choice was the Home Builder.

I don’t dislike construction, but I still feel that pull of the outdoors and the wilderness. In fact, getting out into the woods is my “go to” way to recharge. My way to cope with the stress and the monotony is to disappear into the woods into its breathtaking beauty:

Where it is quiet.

Where I can think.

Where things are in perfect order.

Where I can breathe.

Where I can recharge.

Construction has been good to me but I sometimes wonder about what may have happened if I had taken the Forest Ranger route. Maybe I would be more relaxed. Maybe I would have smiled more. Maybe I would have been more excited getting to work each day. Maybe my relationships would have been better. Maybe the forest is where I really belong.

The real risk in life is sometimes doing what your heart is telling you- not your head. Yet we often equate risk only to money or expectations. But life is more than just money and what other folks expect of you.

There is a reason we dream. There is a reason to the connection. I can’t go back, however, what I know now is this. Do everything you can and in our power to follow your dreams!

No regrets!

Bad Things Will Happen

When I was young and cocky, I would brag to others that when I was pulled over by the police, I would always get out of the car. I didn’t like them standing next to the car talking down to me. I felt like it was insulting. Then there was a time when I was pulled over and I got out of the car and the policeman, with his hand on his weapon, ordered me to get back in my car.

Sure, I had options- I could ignore what he told me. I could argue with him. I could bargain with him. But then I saw his hand was on his weapon. I knew things would not go well if I didn’t listen to him. So, I got back in my car as he instructed me to do.

I am sure that he was thankful that I complied. I am sure he didn’t want problems. He wants to go home after his shift to his family. Being a policeman shouldn’t be a standoff. There should not be the thought that you can just push back and disobey. They are doing a very difficult and dangerous job and we should respect them for their service to the community.

If others in the news would have listened and complied with the police instructions, I suspect that we wouldn’t be where we are now. When you argue, slow walk or blatantly disobey direct orders from a policeman things just don’t go well. This decision provides an opportunity for things to escalate and get stupid. When you are told not to do something and you still do it, this disobedience trips a trigger in all of us. Think of how you feel when your children directly disobey you. It makes you angry, doesn’t it? Things just go better when you do what you are told to do.

This current attack on police authority will only embolden others to disobey police. This will likely have the exact opposite result in trying to prevent injuries and death during police interactions. A complete disregard for law and order will lead to MORE problems. If you disobey the police it’s likely that bad things will happen.

I have learned from decades of service that bad policies from emotional responses often result in very harmful unintended consequences. You hurt for those who are hurting. You want good things for them. You want progress. You want to see change. But emotional solutions rarely lead to effective results if you fail to consider the potential downstream consequences. This current attack on the police is destroying the lives of all law enforcement and potentially taking away security from the communities that need it most.

The statistics confirm a relatively small number of problems (15-25 unarmed deaths depending on the source of statistics in 2019) compared to millions of law enforcement interactions. About the same chance as getting hit by lightning. This is the “science” of the issue. Yes- there are bad actors in the police. Yes- we need to be better. We must make changes. But you don’t burn down your house to get rid of termites. Let’s seek out the bad actors and remove them from service. Let’s stop encouraging disobeying the police. Let’s stop the mob violence. Let’s support our police and let them do their job. They are our neighbors AND our family!

So what do you think? Are we helping thIS ISSUE or just causing more problems? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Weak Leader?

 

Great companies have a common characteristic. They have strong leaders. But what is strong leadership? I think if you ask ten different persons you will get ten different answers! I think an obvious sign of a strong leader is they generally have a group of very dedicated followers who understand their role in the overall vision for the company. I don’t believe that strong leadership is characterized by the volume of their bark or purely the degree at which they drive their team forward.  Being strong doesn’t mean being feared or intimidating.  

But what happens when you have a weak leader? A leader that struggles at making decisions or providing vision or hitting deadlines? Is this a sign that they don’t have the tools to lead? Although these and other signs may be a function of overall weakness, it may not be their fault. You may be the problem. You may be the barrier to their leadership strength. Here are a few ways you may be weakening the leaders below you.

Changing Work Priorities

You have placed this person in a leadership role in order to use their judgement on managing the staff and prioritizing assignments.  If you are directing their staff to complete items that you think have a higher priority without consulting them first you are undermining their authority.  This is sending a message to the team that your leader is not capable of prioritizing correctly and that they are incapable and you need to get involved.  The real reason may be that you have a control problem. If you must change priorities for the team, follow the organizational chart and stay in the chain of command.  Don’t manage folks just because you can.

Gossip

If you are having issues with a report and you are running your mouth to other folks in the organization, the gossip will obviously be damaging to that person’s credibility.  And you may be just plain wrong.  Don’t assume you have it all figured out.  Keep your mouth shut and go to the person and discuss your issues.  Give them an opportunity to explain and rebut your assumptions. Gossip is never the answer. 

Different Management Styles

Don’t assume that another person‘s management style is weak just because it’s not the same as the way you manage or lead.  The measurement is the results.  Is this person doing their job as a leader?  Are the folks that they are leading engaged and performing properly?

Fuzzy Or Changing Goals

Have you been completely clear about what the goals are and what items are most important?  Do you change the priorities often?  If the person is unsure or in a constant state of flux, how can you hold them responsible for anything?  Provide clear objectives and be consistent.

Competition

Do you feel that this person is a threat to you?  This may sound strange since they are actually below you in the organizational chart.  Does this person intimidate you?  Are they sometimes more knowledgeable in some areas.  Do they just grind you?  Do they have a great following in the workplace?  This should be all positive, however some folks can be very insecure, have big egos or are narcissistic and will fight you or anyone else to “win”.  Just remember that you are both on the same team!  Showcase your talent and let your people grow in influence.  Don’t hold them down.  When they grow and prosper, you grow and prosper too!

Undermining Authority

Do you allow folks to come directly to you instead of their direct report?  This can be a situation where “If dad says no, go ask mom!”  Don’t provide direction or approve a decisions downstream.  Always push them back into the chain of command.  By directly managing people downstream you are undermining their authority.  You are directly weakening their leadership.

I am sure there are more examples of this kind of behavior that destroys the strength of their leadership.  If you want strong leaders, it is up to you to empower them!  Support them by respecting the chain of command and the organizational chart.  Give them all the tools they need to be successful.  Do not direct their people even if you are the owner of the company.  Support them in front of the rest of the company.  If you have issues with them, discuss the issues privately.  Respect them and their work and they will grow in strength and effectiveness.   Quite often the true “weak leader” is the person you see in the mirror!

Have you experienced this before?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!