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!

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!

This is what happens after the riots

That’s a picture of me sitting on the front porch of our very modest house on the west side of Detroit in 1964.  This was a typical working class neighborhood of story and a half houses- autoworkers, policemen, construction workers, mechanics- a classic Detroit blue collar neighborhood.  This was a vibrant time for Detroit.  The auto companies were booming and Motown was at its peak.  The streets were filled with kids playing baseball, riding bikes, playing tag and laughter.  I loved our neighborhood.  There was always something fun going on.  It was a safe place and I had a lot of friends.

All of this was disrupted by the riots that occurred in 1967 in Detroit.  I was six years old and I remember the fear that swept through our neighborhood.  Even though the majority of the unrest was in other sections of Detroit, my parents were concerned about letting us out of the house.  The following year, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series and I remember the uneasiness in the car during a trip downtown to celebrate the victory.  We took security for granted and my parents were not prepared to deal with this uncertainty.

Shortly after the riots, my father made the decision to move out of the City.  After a search for a new home, we moved about 25 miles north of Detroit into the suburbs.  This decision was not an easy one.  We loved our neighborhood and the area where we lived.  We were close to much of our family.  We were close to shopping and parks and all the things that we liked.  But the area did not feel safe anymore.  

So my family joined in the exodus to the suburbs along with countless other families and businesses.  After the riots, the political leadership shifted more progressive and what followed was a series of administrations characterized by corruption and mismanagement.  The exodus of people and businesses and poor leadership destroyed the City that I remember.  Detroit is now a shell of what it once was.  Over a hundred years of success and wealth left the City, mostly to the suburbs.  Detroit was once a beacon of prosperity and the fourth largest city in the country.

I worry about the effects of the current unrest, political division and the anarchist groups in our country.  There are already reports in real estate publications of an exodus to the suburbs in New York City fueled by the current unrest and the COVID situation.  If given the choice, security is something most families will not compromise.  When people and businesses leave, the tax base erodes and this starts a financial spiral downward that is nearly impossible to stop.  Additionally, in today’s business environment, most folks are no longer forced to live or work in a particular area.  We are now extremely mobile.  We can pick up and move.  For many of us, we have found that as long as we have an internet signal, we can work.  There are no concrete reasons requiring that you stay in the city.  

This also has ramifications nationally. If the country takes a turn towards socialism and the central government balloons in both size and control (along with taxes), we may see another exodus.  This will be an exodus out of the United States.  This shift would be a result of a lack of financial security and a loss of the personal liberties that have been the trademarks and success story of the U.S.  We have seen this occur in our hemisphere with Cuba and Venezuela as they shifted to communism and socialism. During these changes, countless businesses and families left their homes for security in the U.S.  There are also plenty of U.S. ex-pats all over the world that have made the move to other countries for various reasons, so this option has been proven to be realistic.  In today’s world and global economy, The U.S. is now competing with other countries for the residency of our U.S. citizens and businesses.  Security is not something to mess with.  Families and businesses will not tolerate conditions that are either unsafe or insecure.  

So what happens after the riots?  The exodus.  You can’t expect people to tolerate insecure environments when they can find peace and prosperity somewhere else.  Let’s hope and pray that the current unrest and uncertainty ends so we can avoid the downward spiral that has historically followed these events.  

So what do you think?  Do you think history will repeat itself to see an exodus if security is in question?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

So You Want To Change The World?

I believe most of us are wired with a goal of doing something really big with our lives. Write a book. Get our name on a building. Develop something new. Make a mark on the world.  Do something really big.

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Big goals are great. They stretch us. They make us see over the horizon. As I have grown older and gained more wisdom, I have learned that big is relative. Kathy and I have traveled the world on mission trips trying to help organizations make the big impact. And what we have found is that change is really about the one person that you encounter. One moment. A single soul. A single life at a time.

 

This has been our recent revelation. We don’t tend to look big anymore. The truth is you cannot place a price on a soul. A life. A legacy. It’s priceless. The value is infinite. A single soul can shake eternity.

The photo above is a group of life changers. No miracle drugs, new innovations or amazing technology solutions. No senators or mayors or CEOs. This is a group of teachers who had a profound impact on my life. I won’t pick them out or use names, but there are three of my elementary/middle school teachers in this picture.

First, my science teacher. He was well liked by me and my friends and he laid the groundwork for my leadership style. You do not need to be a tyrant to lead people. You can lead with your heart. Its ok to let your feelings show. You can truly care and its a good thing! While learning from this teacher, we were able to develop a friendship that was a positive influence on my life. This teacher even took me and two of my friends on a weekend ski trip. This was on his time. Not a school thing. Just a weekend of fun. Impact? Yes- a life changer!

Second, my geography teacher. She would give us maps to color and require that we memorize the capitals of obscure countries. At the time I thought it was a giant waste of time. But later I learned that this memorization exercise was a precurser to what was required in college and beyond. She also showed me a picture of a great big world beyond my corner of the world. She introduced me to different cultures and political structures. I have become a lifelong student of geography and this was only possible from the effort of this lady. She changed my vision of the world. Opened up my eyes and expanded my horizon.  Big impact!

Third, my english teacher. She would spend countless hours diagramming sentences, correcting poor grammar and building my writing foundation, that has been a strength for me throughout my life. (ahem- please don’t grade this!) She taught me about rules and precision. She taught me that being perfect was really hard. A small mistake counts. And if you can communicate effectively, your life will be better. I am a direct product of her work. I have often been tasked by my employers to write because it comes easy to me and I understand the power of one word. I learned this from my english teacher. She put me on a road toward excellence in communication. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

These three teachers changed my life. They had a direct impact on my skills, abilities and my attitude about learning. They were instrumental in my personal value and pursuit of life-long learning.

So you want to change the world? I say do it one person at a time. No giant programs. Just one-on-one. Soul to soul.

Change the world?  Be a teacher and be a life changer!

Boring Freedom

I have always liked the 4th of July for what it is.  A day of celebration of family, good food and a reflection on how we have been blessed as a nation.  A day at the beach or the pool is usually in order.  Relax and watch the waves or spend some time on the boat enjoying family and friends.  Nothing really spectacular or unique or cool.  Some fireworks and good food.

The 4th is the celebration of freedom, right?  We all enjoy the gift of living in the United States and probably take freedom for granted.  Freedom is an amazing gift but like any other good thing it can be abused.

I feel like we are losing our grip on the simple and boring.  We do not celebrate this kind of thinking as a country anymore.  If you have simple and wholesome values, you can actually be ridiculed now for being boring and normal.  The fringe is what we celebrate.  The unique and sometimes even outrageous.  If you are a quiet and average American you are not cool.  So what is so wrong with normal?

We have become a nation that is obsessed with freedom for the edges and the fringe.  And what we have lost along the way is innocence and a respect for the simple and good.  This obsession over cool and edgy has been the breeding ground for a generation to grow up too quickly. The self-indulged “right” to express yourself however you want. The change of a complete generation’s life goals from “raise a nice family” to power and money.

We have transformed as a nation into one giant, never ending, self-centered argument. We have lost the ability to communicate.  We only yell at each other.  We’ve completely lost any vision to see the other side.  In this noise, there is no celebration for the boring people who go to work each day and try hard to raise a family and maintain some semblance of normalcy and reality for life.  Trying to shield our children from the nonsense.  This celebration of the outrageous.  The “big show” going on around us.

I think we need to get back to our roots.  Review our values.  Be frank about what we have created.  Review our commitment to the next generation.   Can we do it?  Or is the genie out of the bottle?

This 4th of July, I celebrate freedom for everyone including the boring people.  They want the opportunity to live without being cool or edgy.  Just have a great day with family and friends and be thankful for the blessings.  Nothing spectacular.  Nothing epic.  Just another boring 4th of July!

Five Tips For Parents (Without Time Machines)

Gosh- if only we had a time machine.

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A place where you could go back in time and fix things that went wrong. I love some of the movies that do this. Back to the Future. Hot Tub Time Machine. Somewhere in Time. The Terminator. Go back and fix the wrong and change history.

But for now with raising kids you get one chance. ONE CHANCE. So don’t screw it up!

I certainly could have done better. More books- less sports. More one on one. Put more emphasis on the “soft side” of life. Better faith leader. More time less work.  I had MANY unflattering moments where I lost my cool, lacked self-control or did something incredibly stupid that I wish I could have taken back.

The problem is that you can’t start over. They can’t unforget things.  We can’t change time like the time travelers.

But we did do some things right. And these things had an impact on our kids lives. They really made a difference.  And it helped form the way that my children see the world. We were not perfect, but have some things that went well.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Hard Work: The only place a child will learn (at least in the U.S.) to work hard is at home. My father taught me that lesson and we did our best to teach it to our children. You need to work to get what you want. Nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. This requires sweat and effort. Get your kids off the couch and make them work. If they understand what hard work looks like, they will be a contributor. They will be a good citizen.  They will be able to make a difference in the world. It’s your responsibility- not theirs.

Value of Money: The best thing we did for our kids is to have little money.  This was really a circumstance- but it had great power.  They did not get everything they wanted. They understood that wants are not needs. We raised them in a very modest lifestyle that allowed them to see that money is earned and not picked off a tree in the backyard. Kathy would gather the pennies and roll them and take them to the bank. They knew about the value of money. They learned how to save.  I don’t know how you can raise children in an affluent houshold and get this message across.

Good Grades: We instilled a culture of excellence in school work. I did not give my kids the choice to go to college. Why in the world would you do that? Ask a child if he wants to continue the seeming misery of school work? Seems like most would take the easy route. That’s not parenting. We had our own grading system and we rewarded good grades and good reports from school. Just like the workplace- right? Why would you NOT do this for your kids?

Tradition: We always worked to create things that were uniquely ours. Family traditions. We created traditions that were only ours. Don’t overlook the power here. Children love this. They crave structure and predictability. They thrive in it. Create a rhythm to their lives. Give them something that is uniquely for your family. Even silly stuff. They will remember even the smallest details. Make it your family’s own. Big power here.

Competition: We encouraged our children to compete in sports, arts, activities and other areas. The world will make them compete. By sheltering them or ignoring this fact you may be setting them up for failure. Competition can be ugly and daunting for a parent. But YOU need to get them ready. This is your job.  No one else will do this.

There are more to this list but this is a few majors. The point is- you have to be an active parent. It’s not an easy job. But you can’t jump in the time machine. You can’t change it once it’s done. Don’t have regrets. Do the very best you can. Push your children. They are not your buddies. They want instruction. They want structure. Give them what they need to thrive. You can’t go back. No “do over” here!

So what do your think?  I know many would love the time machine but we can’t go back. One time.  One chance.  Do you agree?  Click on “Leave a Message” and tell me what you think!

Searching for Home

Kathy and I had the privilege to serve in a refugee camp on the Panamanian border. The camp has several hundred Africans and some Pakistanis who are stuck in the camp due to issues with the Nicaraguan government letting them pass through their country. We spent time hearing the stories of their journey through the Amazon rainforest and being robbed by the mafia in Columbia. These were men looking for a safe place for their families. They risked it all to find a place that is safe and secure. Some told us stories of walking through the jungle with a compass simply pointing them north. They spent days walking through swamps with water up to their chests.

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An incredibly dangerous journey.

They shared the struggles back home and the reasons why they left on this journey. Stories of killings and brutality. Corruption and political struggles.

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As I sat and listened I realized that the conditions back home were so bad and dangerous that it was actually better for them to risk traveling through the jungle with the hope of finding home. This is not a story about money. This is about safety for their families. Searching for a place where they can live without fear. They were searching for home.

They are risking their lives to help provide a safe place for their families.
There is no guarantee that they will make it.
Yet, they will put it all on the line for a chance to make it to the U.S.

How about you?

The U.S. certainly has its problems, but we have justice and peace. The Pakistanis knew it. They knew that the U.S. was a good place. A place with good and caring people. A safe place with opportunity.

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So as we as a country discuss “walling off” our country in I can’t forget about the faces of these people. They are risking their lives to find something better for their families. They will continue to point their compass north. They will continue to struggle to find safety. Something we take for granted. A place where they can sleep at night without worry. A place of peace and security.

The march will continue.  Heading north. Searching for home.

Photo Friday: Service and Sacrifice

Deer Point

This picture was taken on the rear patio of the old Officer’s Club at Deer Point (Now called the Bayview Restaurant) at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  As I looked over the bay at the sunset and snapped this photo, I realized that thousands of servicemen and women have stood at this same exact spot looking over the bay and thinking about there loved ones who were far, far away.  There are few places that you could be that are more isolating than Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

My visit to the base was a real eye opener for me.  I was overcome with the realities of what it must be like to be a military family.  These great Americans sacrifice a portion of themselves and share their families interests, to serve our country.  I think we tend to focus on the danger of loosing their lives and miss that fact that they are really giving up their lives as they live and serve the country.  They are far away from home and stuck on a base isolated from the people and the things that they love and cherish.  I was reawakened to this sacrifice made by millions of men and women during the history of the United States.

These men and women who sacrifice to serve our country are truly the greatest Americans!

So what do your think?  Are you from a military family?  Have you experienced the sacrifice first hand?  Have you stood in this same spot before?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! Click on “like” if your agree with me!