Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 104: Another Boy

Throughout the past several weeks an organization by the name of The Center for Medical Progress has been releasing expose videos of Planned Parenthood. This is a little bit out of my normal writing, but I have to share this. This is the fourth video released, and the most indicting up to this point. It shows clearly there is some kind of profiteering going on with fetal tissue. The video, which is very disturbing, even shows aborted children. In the last line of the video, the doctor exclaims with some kind of sick joy that the 12 week aborted baby was "another boy!"

(If you're reading this in your e-mail, you can watch the video here)

I know this is a major issue and it has a long history in this country. I am not using this space to speak as a prophet, talking about "God's judgment on this nation" for such atrocities. There are many who do this. I am not writing here to call on politicians for Planned Parenthood to be defunded. There are many who do this too.

I'm writing as a father. I'm writing as a papa who, five minutes after watching that video, got to greet my 20 month-old son at my door. He was full of smiles, his blue eyes as bright as ever.

I thought about the eyes on that video.

My boy was only in his diaper and I held him for a sec before he wanted to walk up the stairs himself, his chunky legs moving one by one up the steps slow.

I thought of those legs on the video.

I saw my 20 month-old boy, growing so quickly – walking, running, talking, laughing, climbing, grabbing, screaming, joking, rebelling, cuddling – and knew at one point he was just "another boy," 12 weeks in the womb and that boy could have been doing the same thing just a few years from now just as my boy is doing today.

I was heartbroken thinking about "another boy" in that video, more personalized than usual in those types of settings as a "boy" rather than a "fetus," but also less personalized, made less human, because he was just "another boy," another dead baby, broken up in parts to be sold for profit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 103: A Challenge in Account Management

Account management is a tricky role. On the one hand you are the client's advocate. You are in the position of establishing and building a relationship of trust with the client and often it has to do with helping them get what they need or want within your business. Sometimes you can deal with it yourself, but more times than not it requires pulling different folk together.

On the other hand, you have to lead the client in a way that sometimes puts your business in front of their wants or needs. This means putting at bay demands or requests that put your team or company at a greater risk .

This means that in this role you are pulled at both ends and sadly none of us are Gumby.

At this point I don't have any real answers, just challenges. I'm dodging and weaving my way through this, gaining experience and regular feedback to develop this role.

But I do know the role requires trust on both sides. The company trusts me to represent it well to the client and the client trusts me to help them get good work at a good rate. I guess it seems like an easy answer and there are a ton of ways for trust to be established or broken. But it's the most important aspect of account management I see at this point. It's the key to keeping all in this role from being Gumbied (trademark pending).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 102: I Ain't That Practical

I love the world of ideas. Chicago would take backseat to Idea City if one existed.

I love the theoretical and pontificating about hypothetical scenarios based on esoteric philosophies I don't really know much about. Concepts – yes!

I love it all perhaps because I'm contrarian or argumentative. I think I wrote somewhere here that back in the day, when I was like 7, I wanted to be a lawyer. I watched L.A. Law as a kid and envied Harry Hamlin and Corbin Bernsen in their power suits playing out courtroom drama, thus I was also a big fan of HH's role in Mad Men. I loved the fight and I loved the flash. I think it's still there and is about as practical as LA Law was.

And that's just it. I ain't that practical. I am comfortable in the world of ideas, even if all mine aren't well thought out, articulate, or informed. I struggle to get into the world of "how does this affect me today" type talk. If you asked me to teach you how to tie your shoe, I'm sure I'd rather talk about how shoelaces are an example of a way we like to control our lives.

I fee like Frank Lebasky from You've Got Mail who, if he wrote a book, would "write about something relevant for today, like the Luddite movement in 19th century England."

Though my life is filled with a ton of practical decisions each day, I don't know how to draw the connection in my communication with others. It shows pretty clearly in my writing and teaching. I know it because I'll feel like I come up with something really good to communicate and it comes time to provide an actual, real life example, and I'm stuck. Dead stuck. This makes preaching tough. I'm writing a wedding sermon right now and all of it is just straight up ideas floating at 30,000 feet. Thankfully no couple in the history of weddings has ever remembered what the preacher said.

Also, I ain't a steps person. I can't give you "3 ways to a better you." I can give you 3 ways I want to vomit all over that because I don't think it works. And maybe that's it. I just don't like practical advice because, to me, it has no foundation. I don't know the "what" or the "why." That bothers the crap out of me. Yet at the same time I am hard pressed on how to get from the "what" or the "why" to the "how." And we all know the people that do that dominate life. Those peeps who are principled yet practical – JAM.

The only area of life where it is a bit clear to me, where I see the practical, is financially. That budget ish is real practical rooted in solid principles. Boom.

You're asking, "don't you want to know how to be practical so you can relate better to people?" Maybe you're not asking that, but I am. And yes. I want to be the principled, practical person. Those cats that are able to live in the "why, what, how" world are cats I look up to. They are few.

Sadly, the "how do I get there?" thought feels very practical to me...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 101: Dad Life Observed

This morning I got to sleep in until about 7:45. Sleeping in for this dad means getting up between 7:00 & 8:00. This is Dad Life.

The Wifey had been up with The Boy since around 6:00, which, by the utter grace of God is actually early for him these days. By the time I got up, The Wifey probably had at least one cup of coffee. She also made homemade waffles and they had already eaten First Breakfast. They had already had First Breakfast. They may have also read about 10 books and played for nearly an hour. 

I came out to the living room and shortly after The Wifey was falling asleep on the couch. I told her to go back to bed and I'll take care of the boy. She said she wouldn't be able to fall asleep even though as she was saying it she was falling asleep. The bedroom door closed and it was just my energetic Boy and me. What does a dad do now? 

I grabbed my mug of coffee and decided to walk to the "Choo Choo Park" with The Boy, which is a park near our place where he can watch the El trains go by. He even knows the directions; if I don't make a right turn at the intersection that leads us there he starts crying. So when I did today he exclaimed "CHOO CHOO PARK!!!" 

As we walked up around 8:30 I saw two other dads, each with their sons. And their coffee. This is the Dad Life. The boys were playing in the sand pit area and I tried to steer The Boy in that direction, though he has quite an independent streak. I wanted him to play with the other boys, of course, but I also selfishly wanted to interact with the dads. Such is the Dad Life. 

Eventually The Boy made it over that way, so he got to play with their boys and I got to talk with their dads. I saw more and more dads trickle in to the park over the next 15 minutes or so. This was the most fascinating part to me. 

Dad Life, at least where I live, is a universal experience. Saturday mornings are sacred times. They're sacred to moms because they know this will be the time dads take the kiddos out and they can get some extra sleep or sanity, probably a bit of both. They're sacred to dads because this is the best time they get with their kids, rather than the late-evening-after-work-meltdown time that's often the case. This is the time of cartoons and parks and cereal and pools. 

Talking with these dads shows that my life, while different compared to single and early married life, is not so different from other gents in my same position. We talked about swim lessons and the TV shows we like to watch. It was great to know that other parents choose to just watch TV after kids are asleep, even city parents, where I take on the added guilt that I think I should be productive and winning at night like I think they all are. And when The Boy decided to break off from the group, I heard them talk about sleep habits if their boys. There we were, dads with their kids at a park, meeting each other for the first time yet sharing life's moments as if we've been boys for years.

This is Dad Life. And it's pretty swell.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Day 100: The One Where I Talk About TV

Perhaps it's fitting that my 100th post in this experiment comes the morning after The Wifey and I just watched the 100th episode of Friends. Do any of you know which one it is? I've seen many die hard Friends fans in my life and I'm sure one of you knows which episode I'm referring to and is laughing to yourself because of some scenes you remember. Don't hide. Just admit it and share in the comments below.

Because of the 100th Friends episode, I supposed it's a good time to share a thought I've had for a while about TV shows. I want to share one observation about TV shows and a possible application for our lives.

TV, great TV, is excellent entertainment and an escape from reality. We are taken to another world – whether it be six good looking friends who live across the hall from each other (except for Ross & Phoebe who should have saved some dough and lived in the same building, right?), or a bunch of people who get stranded on a mysterious island after their plane crashes, or a future world with spacecrafts and robots. We get to be observers, but all the good shows make us wonder what our lives would be like if we were there. We long for it. But what is it?

It's the community.

We are drawn to the community, whether it's light and hilarious or dark and difficult, we're drawn to humans engaging with other humans in an unfiltered way. To be sure, TV magic cuts out or shortens in dramatic fashion the boring or dull moments of life – the waking up process, going to the bathroom, the morning commute to work – unless, of course, they move the plot along.

But I think TV magic also gives us a glimpse of moments in life that could have some comedic or dramatic flair that we have otherwise dulled down ourselves. There's a scene in Friday Night Lights where Coach Taylor goes over to one of his players' houses to let him know that he'll be playing in a game that Friday. The conversation lasted about two minutes in TV time. And for us as watchers of the show, that's the only way the conversation could have happened. How different would it have been if the player got a text from his coach? Or an e-mail? Or even a phone call? It wouldn't have been good TV. If that's the case, I guess the question I want to ask is, "is it good reality?"

Texts, e-mails, phone calls – all of them aren't bad and are useful in everyday life. In keeping with the parallel, TV shows use all of those communication tools as well. My only question is, do we rely on these tools too much in life and miss out on the opportunities to experience on a greater level the communities we are so drawn to on TV?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 99: Gaining More Clarity

This blog, the attempt to write everyday (though I'm slowing down) has always been an experiment. Sure, I ran the successful blogger's narrative in the back of my head somewhere: "I just wrote for a long time and then one post ended up going viral and now everything I write is treated like gold." But for the most part this has been a process of finding my voice, slowly growing some semblance of an audience, and finding what I like to write about.

There have been some small successes in terms of entries that have caught on. I've learned some simple ways to market. And I think I've gained a better perspective both on what I like to write about and what people like to read about.

I'm not there yet. I still haven't sat down to do any sort of real planning for this blog. I haven't dedicated myself to a set of clear topics that I can continue to go deeper into. This blog lacks focus and real direction.

But I am getting clarity. I am still enjoying writing, even though I committed to everyday for a year and yet there are now days when I don't blog.

I guess I write this as a motivator to myself and to you, should you read this. There can be so many things that hold you back from attempting to follow through on that idea you have in your head. How many times have you told yourself "I should try to ________" or told a friend "It would be fun to ________"? What is holding you back from taking that very first step? The reasons, I'm sure can be countless.

"I don't know how to start a blog."
"I don't know what I'd write about."
"I don't have enough money for that business."
"I don't think I'll be any good."
"What if it sucks?"
"What if I fail?"

I'm sure there are more. However, none of these are first step issues. Let me clear: Having the end in mind is a good thing. Picturing a thriving blog or business or whatever is important, but only if it allows you to reverse engineer back to step one. If, for any reason, you start with that end-view, but then only think of all the doubts, questions, concerns, and made-up scenarios, then scrap the end and just start with the first step.

You're allowed to make mistakes. You're allowed to struggle through figuring it out. You are even allowed to fail. They are all opportunities to learn. Those who don't learn are the ones who should worry.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 98: When You Get to See Old Friends

We just got home from spending the whole day with old friends of mine. It was the first time we've seen them in just about two years and that was for just a couple of hours at a Ruby Tuesday on our way down to Florida.

In two years we've moved three times, including the big move from Seattle to Chicago. I've made a major shift in career from pastoral ministry to software sales. And of course The Boy was born and we await the arrival of The Girl. Meanwhile, my friends are established in Atlanta. My buddy is finishing going into his final year of medical residency and they just had their first kid 10 weeks ago. This was the first time we got to meet him and it's the first time they got to meet The Boy.

So. Much. Has. Changed.

And yet nothing has. If anything, there's a greater sweetness, a deeper friendship because there's more life and experience that we bring when we come together.

This is just one proof to my economic theory of friendship.

Consider those friends who you've made a lot of deposits with in the past. Have there been any recently? Perhaps today's the day to write a note, make a call, or visit to be reminded just how rich it is.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Day 97: Core Commitments in Work Part 3

Another night of blogging was taken off last night as I had an unexpected visitor join us to crash at our place. A good friend from work actually. He lives in the suburbs, his wife and kids were out of town, and he's the kind of guy who needs to be around people, otherwise he goes to super dark places, like binge watching Call the Midwife. So I decided to invite him over to stay with us.

After he'd already decided to crash with us, I got a call from our realtor telling me that a house we were looking at was available for a tour after work. So, being the solid friend he is, he actually watched The Boy while The Wifey and I went to check out the place. It was literally two blocks from where we currently live and had potential. Unfortunately everyone else saw the potential and it's already under contract as of today. Oh well. On to the next!

So that's why I didn't write last night. And by the way, someone called me out on Core Commitment blog #2. She said it looked like I fell asleep mid blogging.

Yup. I did. That's actually what I was going for and I'm glad that my writing could convey exactly what was going onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn......

So this is the final installment of my short Commitments in Work series. In this last one I want to share about how I'm committed to what my work serves.

3. Committed to what my work serves.
This might seem strange. What does work actually serve or, better yet, how does work serve anything else? The point is this. Too many people in life let their work become the be-all-end-all. This may be truer in major cities like New York or Chicago, where young professionals run themselves ragged for their employer and continue to do it for 40 years. This is different than hustle. It's worship. By worship I mean devotion not only to work, but to what it claims to promise: power, money, prestige – an identity. In other words, people live to serve their work instead of letting their work serve others. The difference between the two is seen in what is sacrificed. I know that if I'm living for my work, then what I share below is being sacrificed. On the other hand, if my work is serving others, then it gets sacrificed for aspects of life that are more important. What are those? It boils down to two for me.

My work serves my family. I talked with someone yesterday who told me about two very successful financial advisors who have taken different paths. The first, he said, is the top producer in their market, taking home over a million dollars a year. He's well into his career, but continues to grow his business. Yet his family life is in shambles. The second, he said, is a high producer in their market, still taking home a comfortable six-figure salary, about a third of the first guy. This guy, though, had decided that his work was going to serve his family. While he still makes great money and works hard, he has chosen to put his business in maintenance mode so he can be home in time, go to all the practices, games, recitals. That's what I want. I'm committed to not letting my work get in the way of my family; rather, I want my work to serve my family. For me right now this means getting home at a decent hour, keeping the phone and computer off until well after dinner, The Boy is down, and some connection with The Wifey. It also means considering how my work serves goals for the family and thinking through ways I can be more available 3, 5, 10 years from now. That I think goes back to Commitment #1. I do not want to work so hard and earn so much that I end up losing all of which truly matters to me. It's sad to me to see men and women fight for acceptance and approval in the workplace – which is often what all that toil ends up being – when it's already right at home with the family.

My work serves my God. More important, even than family, is how my work serves my God. I believe Christianity is unique in it's perspective of work. It grates against a culture that "Ugh, why do I have to work?" or "I just want to win the lottery and never work again" or "I'm working so I can retire early." All of these represent the brokenness of work. Christianity acknowledges that. It's what I shared before. It's called toil. However, in Christianity, work is a gift from God and originates with God himself in creation. Work is first a good thing and we are called to work as if our company was owned by God Himself. It's still tough for me to grasp and understand all of the practical implications of it, but at the end of the day I am committed to doing my work as if it is for Him. I am reminded daily just how far short I fall of this commitment, but I am grateful for His kindness and patience.

I'm sure these will be fleshed out more over the years, but the foundation is there. Have you thought about this at all? What have you come up with? What would you add or change or take out?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day 96: Core Commitments in Work Part 2

Yesterday I began sharing about core commitments in work.

If I can be honest work right now is difficult. I don't mean that the actual tasks themselves are difficult, as if I'm doing complicated math or formulas. By difficult I mean that it's one of those seasons where it's harder than it should be. Much of what we do, if done right, can be fairly predictable. But for a number of reasons it has become almost unpredictable. It's nothing alarming or anything that keeps me up awake at night, but it is difficult. You can relate right?

So the timing of what I'm working through right now is perfect and, perhaps, if you find yourself in the same season as me, this is a good time for you to reflect on your core commitments in work.

So yesterday was about how I am committed to pursuing excellence in my work. Today I want to share about how I'm committed to generously giving out of what my work produces.

2. Give generously out of what my work produces:

Give out of my paycheck. Bottom line is work gets me greenbacks, dollar bills, benjis, the goods. Whatever. My work produces a paycheck and that money can be used for whatever I want. Part of that is wanting to make it a family thing, so my paycheck is our money. So this is not me getting paid and being utterly irresponsible, hitting up casinos, buying lottery tickets, or even something smaller like hoarding more of it for myself, only leaving my family with a little. The paycheck I receive working outside the home is only possible through the work the Wifey does inside the home. We make financial decisions together and the primary place of generous giving is our family. In addition, we seek to give generously to our church and other organizations through financial gifts, to others by way of gift giving, whether for a special occasion or just because, and to those in need for some hospitality and care, like bringing meals to new parents. Work provides the financial means to give generously.

Produces relationships. I love these. I love the fact that work produces new relationships on an almost daily basis. The work environment has provided me the opportunity to meet dozens of amazing, talented folk.

Produces experience. I'm learning so much right now...

My time is up; I'm falling asleep. I'm out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day 95: My Core Commitments in Work

Tonight, as I was running...wait, as a full confession I was really walking, hurting from the 20 minutes of pain I inflicted on myself prior to that.

Anyway, as I "ran," I was listening to the Bigger Pockets podcast. If you've never heard of Bigger Pockets, check out this post. This podcast was a special one, episode 100. It featured the founder of Bigger Pockets, Josh Dorkin. I've always loved origins stories, and this one was all about how Josh got into real estate, how he started Bigger Pockets (which includes how he chose such a weird name), and what he plans for the future. It really was an insightful podcast and reiterated the fact that this isn't a gimmicky website. If you've ever considered real estate at any level – buying a home, buying a rental property, flipping, commercial, etc. – I strongly recommend checking out Bigger Pockets and all the free resources.

Near the end of every podcast they always ask four questions: 1) what's your favorite real estate book, 2) what's your favorite business book, 3) what are your hobbies, 4) how can people reach you. I Josh's answer to number 3 stood out to me. He said that he doesn't really have any because he has three daughters and they are really his hobby at this point in life. He said that if you really knew him, his family came first, in front of all of his work, even though he works hard.

I really loved what he had to say here and I recommend checking out the podcast. It got me thinking about my commitments a bit more. I started thinking about my work and what my commitments are. Can I say the same thing as Josh in terms of my family's importance and work? How does work relate to my family? How does it relate to my friends, community, etc.? Is it just a job?

Given as how my walk ended up being just about as long as my run, three commitments popped into my head. I think they are core to how I live and pursuits of the man I want to become more and more. They are the foundation and the walls and the roof.

Over the next couple of days I want to share them with you with the two-fold purpose of clarifying them for myself and hopefully encourage you to ask the same questions with the intention of developing your own commitments.

1. Committed to doing my work with excellence.
This seems like the best starting point. It has three main points that flesh it out more: I was made to work. I was made to work hard. I was made to work well.

I was made to work. As much as I prefer the idea of enjoying early retirement or vegging out on the beach, or having a perpetual Disney vacation, I was made to work. Humans are fascinating. Our minds have dreamed up the pyramids, penicillin, and personal computers. Our hands have painted the Sistine Chapel, built the Eiffel Tower, and written Harry Potter. We make. We create. We work! And while I will most likely never be remembered for the work I do, and while it can often feel burdened and empty – toil! – I can't avoid the fact that I was made to work.

I was made to work hard. When the work doesn't have much passion behind it, it's easy to resort to coasting, just getting by, just getting the paycheck. I have been tempted by this with every job I've ever held. But against this is the proverb, "whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might." There's no mention of passion here; it's literally "whatever." Working hard doesn't require passion; it requires character. It requires gratitude for whatever work I get to do, whether that was selling candles when I was 17 or software now at 33. It means integrity with co-workers and clients, doing what I say I'm going to do. It means honesty, even if the conversation is hard and disappointing. And yeah, sometimes it means weird, longer hours because the job just has to get done. This is character. Passion is a bonus.

I was made to work well. There's the notion of just doing the work. Then there's the added component of doing the work as hard as you can, hustling and grinding it out. All of that can seem directionless and dirty. They are necessary, but without doing my work well, I can never be excellent. To me this involves straight up experience, getting reps in and working muscles that both need to get strong or are getting worked for the first time. I don't think there's a better way to become excellent than just doing it a lot, but along with this comes the vital necessity to learn from mistakes, get feedback from mentors and peers, make the necessary adjustments, and keep going.

Tomorrow I will share how I'm committed to giving generously out of what my work produces.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Day 94: When What You Hate Hates Back

I hate errands with a passion. Pretty much all of them. Grocery shopping, dropping off dry cleaning, and especially going to the post office. That's the death nell.

A little over two months ago I wrote about how we got a new car. New cars are great, but there are all the little payments that need to be made afterward. These payments aren't the car payment for us; these are all the wonderful taxes we have to pay. I think there's a state tax, but for sure a county tax and, because we live in Chicago, a city tax. Do you know what this tax is? It's called the Wheel Tax and apparently it's used to pay for the maintenance and repair of all of those sparkly, smooth roads you drive on in Chicago. And get this – the Wheel Tax has been in existence since 1908. I guess they had to slap city parking stickers on horse and buggy carriages.

Anyway, I neglected to buy this sticker. We didn't have it on our car before this one and I didn't have it for this one. I always thought the process was too much work. Again, I hate errands like these. Well, fast forward to yesterday and I come to find that we got a ticket on our car for $200 for not having this super tiny sticker! Unlike parking tickets, this one isn't really disputable. I just owe it to my hatred of running errands.

So I bought the sticker today. Tacked on that was an additional $60 late fee for not buying it within 30 days of when I bought the car. All in all, not getting the original sticker at about $85 is now costing me close to $350!

I think a lot of folk our age, especially people without kids, hate cooking. There's just something about the thought of combining all of these horrific activities into one – figuring out what you want to cook, making a grocery list, going to the grocery store, unloading the groceries, unpacking the groceries, following a recipe and cooking the food. For what? So that one, maaaayyybe two people can eat what is most likely a mediocre representation of the actual recipe.

No. It ain't gonna happen.

So either your rock out on the cheap, like representing ramen or cereal for every meal, getting fancy every now and then with a sandwich or pasta. Or you go out. You hit up Mickey D's or Jimmy Johns sometimes, but more often it's going out with the collective group of friends who are avoiding making a meal just like you. Why not throw in a few drinks too as you talk about how busy life is and there's no time to do anything for yourself, like cooking a meal? Before you know it, you're dropping $10, $20, $40 bones a couple nights a week. Then, because of age and me, you start budgeting only to realize that your hatred of cooking costs you $400-$800 a month.

What do you hate like this? What do you hate doing, avoid at all costs, only to end up having it kill your finances later?

Here's what I've learned that I want to pass on. There are necessary evils in this world that all of us hate. What do you do with them? Too often I straight up avoid them and they always end up costing me so much more time and money in the end. I've learned before and hope to have learned for the last that these always need to be tackled first.

Don't avoid them. Finish them first so that you can do what you really want to do.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Day 93: Prioritizing the Wifey's Birthday

I am foregoing a post tonight in favor of finishing up my wifey's 30th birthday present.

That's right – our anniversary is on the 7th and her birthday is on the 11th. This morning I determined that in the future I will just block out the first half of July to focus on these days and not attempt to accomplish anything more. It's just silly of me to think I could do anything else!

I'm pretty pumped about her birthday and her present in case you were wondering. She knows some things and will be surprised by others. That's always a good mix.

At any rate, I know she won't read this for at least a few days after her birthday. I guess that's another lesson I've learned in our three years of marriage. So I guess this post is a surprise of sorts! If you know my wife, please take some time to leave a comment below wishing her a happy birthday (if you read this via an email subscription, consider coming over to the blog and commenting). Even if you don't know her, I'd love for you to wish her a happy birthday as well. This is a big one – 30??? JAM.

Now back to work...

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Day 92: Three Years of Marriage Have Taught Me This One Lesson

The Wifey and I celebrated three years of marriage yesterday. If there's one key lesson learned in that time, it's this: You never marry the right person. You marry a stranger.

You never marry the right person. That kind of thinking causes marriages to fail for two reasons: One, we believe the person is the "right" person, the perfect person, so when he or she lets us down, our whole world shatters. Or, we believe we can make the person the "right" person (for me) and when we see that he or she isn't becoming that anger and bitterness form, creating a hard heart that eventually leads to a broken marriage.

If you're dating someone and you just want to make sure that they're the "right" person, stop now. Not because they aren't the right person, but because you're not. You're not ready for the joyful work of marriage.

And that's what it is. The Wifey and I have learned, are continually learning, and will learn that we aren't the right people for each other and that we can't make one another the right people. Each day is a practice for us to remember that we are uniquely gifted and flawed, bringing to the marriage great strengths and weaknesses that can build up or tear down. More importantly, each day is a practice of of remembering that we are in some sense strangers to one another, leaning on the the only One who knows us for who we truly are, warts and all. Jesus is the one who we have to look to in order for us to become the people we are truly meant to be and for us to have the marriage we have committed to.

So, whoever you think you know on your wedding day, that is not the same person you're married to one year, three years, or 50 years later. They're a stranger.

You do life together. Real stuff happens. Extreme pet peeves that never could be explained in conversations or seen in dating start to poke out – or even get developed – years into marriage. Babies are born earlier or later than you planned – or never. Jobs are gained and lost. Boxes are packed, unpacked, packed, and unpacked again. Fights that you could never have conjured up in your head take place. Adventures you couldn't dream possible occur.

All of this reveals parts of you that you never knew existed, let alone your spouse. Meanwhile, you're also growing new traits and aspects that were never possible apart from the path that you're on.

Learning this lesson early on in marriage – thanks in large part to couples who mentored us and long lasting marriages we've witnessed, as well as a couple reads, like this here – have given us perspective not only on these three years, but hopefully the decades that come. Nothing is guaranteed; we can't assume that because things are great now that they will continue to be at 25 years "just because." Why? Because we're strangers and not the right people for each other. For some reading this, that may freak you out, but accepting this beautiful truth is one of the most freeing realities you'll ever know.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Day 91: Enjoy the Silence

What do you do when you have a tough conversation?

This could be a personal conversation where you have to apologize for something, or confess something that you might have been hiding. It can be a business conversation where you have to talk about a tough budget matter or a mistake you've made in communication. Or it could be a job prospect where you are in the position of negotiating your salary.

All of these are tough conversations. What do you typically do?

Some of you might be like, "I don't have those. I avoid them." This post isn't for you. I don't think there's a blog post for that. It's just called "have them" or "don't be a wuss" or something like that.

Okay, so for those of us who have a modicum of courage or just know that our jobs rely on having those conversations, most people I know tend to ramble and overtalk because they feel uncomfortable. Is that what you do?

Today I learned an important less: enjoy the silence.

In a sound-drenched world, where we are constantly hearing voices or music, silence might as well be another planet. Being comfortable with it is extremely tough. Additionally, we tend to ramble in tough conversations because we want to find whatever words it will take to get the person or persons to be on our side again. The problem with that is we tend to talk ourselves into a corner, confuse everyone, and we just end up creating more problems than we started with.

So go and enjoy the silence. By this I mean be comfortable with the fact that it is a tough conversation by empathizing with the other person, focus on sharing what you do know with confidence, and know that you might not have all the answers. Then just be silent.

I think this is super tough, but the benefits of this approach seem clear:

  • You show that you understand the seriousness and care about the situation and the other side.
  • You keep your words clear and succinct, sharing the right information at the right time.
  • You don't confuse the other person or create more questions that just prolong the conversation.
  • You give the other person time to think and formulate their thoughts.
  • You let the silence close the conversation if need be. By this I mean that instead of talking a ton more, you may be able to simply say, "Alright, let's move on." 
I'm aware this is overly simplistic and may be tougher in personal conversations, but I think we would all do ourselves a favor if we chose against filling all space with our rambling locutions and sought to enjoy the silence (cue Depeche Mode).

Monday, July 06, 2015

Day 90: Transparency & Vulnerability

Back after my brief hiatus. It was the right move, a chance to reflect on this blogging venture that started 90 days ago (well, technically 93). Our time on the farm with family was fun.

Now, there is one small reflection I are to share.

Transparency is a buzzword I hear quite a bit. I heard it a lot in my non-profit days and I definitely hear it quite a bit now in the business world. When I was serving in the church, people wanted their pastors, deacons, staff, and leaders to be transparent. In business, people want CEOs, boards, directors, managers, and staff to be transparent.

Transparent about what?

In business, it has to do with financials or pay for C-level peeps. Take, for example, Buffer, who seems to be leading the charge to be as open as possible with their payscale. It also has to do with business process. Most people these days want salespeople who are honest and up front with them as buyers are becoming more savvy each day and can smell BS a mile away, thanks to the massive fan blade known as the Internet. Companies that seem like they have something to hide or aren't so quick to share information when asked can be labeled secretive, not transparent. As a result, they may be considered less trustworthy.

In the church, transparent was also the buzzword, but it meant something different. Sure, there are still issues around pay and finances. It should go without saying, especially in the non-profit space, that transparency with money is top priority. When churches or non-profits who freely receive gifts from others do not readily inform those donors of the finances, that is a red flag you should stop donating (same goes with being a stockholder for a company, so says Benjamin Graham).

But it went beyond this. People in the church were looking for all leaders to show a level of openness about their personal lives, not just their professional leadership. The imagery of a shepherd is powerful in the bible and is applied to church leaders. The key to note, though, is that the bible states there is one Chief Shepherd who leads us all, including the shepherds of churches. So, in a very real sense, pastors are sheep just like everyone in their congregation. The standard to which they call others to from the pulpit needs to be modeled, which means their failures ought to be on display as much as anyone else because that is how they can lead people to understand the grace of God.

Here's the point: This goes beyond the word transparency. A 12-inch thick piece of glass separates a bank teller from customers, keeping them protected, yet allowing them to conduct business. That's transparency. Let the business world keep that word. It's good there.

For those of you in the church, call your leaders beyond transparency to vulnerability. Trust me, the majority of your pastors much prefer transparency; they are happy to preach from behind a plate of glass where they can't be hurt by anyone, especially you. Remind them that as much as they are your leader, when in front of Jesus, our Chief Shepherd, we are all sheep who need his love, care, comfort, and leading. Too many pastors are afraid of this simple, powerful truth.

Don't let them hide in the open behind transparency. That means their just doing business as usual, using church in a transactional way. Fight, fight fight for your leaders to get out in front of the glass and walk with you.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Day 89: Let Yourself Off the Hook

I just woke up from a 45 minute night nap. It's just now hitting 10:00 pm.

The Wifey is out to the movies with her siblings, a rare time when all four of them get together due to one living in Indiana for college and the other down in Houston with her husband and daughter. I was asleep on a chair before they left and could barely wake up as her mom told me I should go to bed. The teenage Andrew lives strong inside of me as I'm sure I said in a whiny voice, "No. I'm good. I still have to blog." I'm surprised she didn't tell me to make sure I also put on my zit cream too.

It's been one of those weeks.

Thankfully, we'll all be together with her family for a few more days as we all head down to southern Indiana together to stay at her aunt and uncle's hobby farm. We were down there in October last year and had a great time; on the way back I even got The Boy to walk a longer distance than he ever had before.

This means Internet access for us is going to be choppy at best. I've thought about it quite a bit and have decided to let myself off the hook for the next couple of days and not publish a blog. I will most likely write and publish them all when I return, but with tonight and the days that follow, a few days away from publishing will be good.

I think it's important to do this as well because I'm the type of person who imposes a ton of guilt on myself if I don't do exactly what I say I'm going to do. I said at the beginning of all this that I would write have something on this blog every day for the next year and so far I have stuck to that. It hasn't always been pretty, relevant, and none of my posts have gone viral like so many famous bloggers talk about having happened to them. But I've done it, some of the time driven by the guilt. Sidenote: Whenever I start thinking about guilt, I think about the episode in 30 Rock when Tracy Jordan, the black star comedian of the show TGS, wants to take on a new religion and decides to become Irish Catholic, until Jack Donaghy, the classic white executive and one of the best characters ever in all of comedy, explains to him the guilt, the "crushing guilt" of being Irish Catholic. Hilarious.

Anyway, guilt is a horrible motivator and I don't want it hindering this weekend. So, if you're like me and find that at times guilt motivates your commitments, can I encourage you to join me this weekend and let yourself off the hook? It's a place where guilt begins to taste grace.

Enjoy the long weekend. I'll see you soon.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Day 88: A Recommended Site When You're Looking to Buy a Home

The Wifey and I have begun – in a very preliminary way – the search to buy our first home.

We learned pretty quickly that wanting to remain in the city limits the options out there for those of us with modest incomes. It is even more challenging when there is only one of us bringing home a paycheck regularly (The Wifey did make a little money rocking Mary Kay a few years back. Perhaps she will guest blog again some time to tell that story. Let's just say we still have some inventory...).

Knowing that our options are limited, we were forced to get a bit creative and start asking questions that normally don't get asked living elsewhere, say in a rural or suburban area. The primary question we kept coming back to out of all of them was, "What if we bought a multi-family building to cover most or all of our mortgage with renters and just lived in one of the units?"

Financially, this is a no-brainer. From other perspectives, such as family, community, living space, etc. it's not as cut and dry. Lots of conversations need to take place and we've had to make sure that we're on the same page. Thankfully, The Wifey is very much on the same team as me. We live within our means, we give, and we save. We want to stay with our community. We are growing to love the city more and more together, which is a huge shift from when we first moved in. And, we've never lived in anything other than multi-family properties. We've never had more than three bedrooms (which may change) or one bathroom (which may never change). We don't need our dream home now.

I could go on and on, but if you're considering buying a home, might I suggest you think about all your options other than a single family or a condo or any place where you're carrying all the mortgage?

So in making this consideration, I began doing research. I researched not only the process of buying a home, but what it might look like to get into actual real estate investing. When I did that, I stumbled upon this amazing, content rich website called Bigger Pockets.

Full confession, I wish the website had a different name because it's super misleading and sounds really gimmicky at first. I actually found it through an article I referenced from Entrepreneur magazine a few blog posts back. The author works for Bigger Pockets and is a real estate investor. The advice he gave in his article was sound and the website is full of very expert, practical, and insightful tips for people all across the spectrum of real estate experience. The forums, blogs, podcasts and ebooks that are provided all for free are perfect for anyone interested in learning more.

Now you might be wondering why I'm recommending a real estate investment site if you're just looking to buy a home for yourself or your family somewhere down the road. Well, I see it like this. For most of us, the home we buy ends up being are biggest asset, meaning it may end up being the most important investment you will ever make. If that's the case, why not approach buying your home from an investor's perspective?

I've only been around the site for about three weeks and I've learned a ton about my mortgage options, how to talk to lenders, what to look for when you buy, what expenses to consider when you buy, where to buy, etc.

So if buying a home is in your future at any point, whether it be your first home or your future home, I strongly recommend checking out Bigger Pockets, diving into the forums, and learning what you can so you can be a knowledgeable buyer, making the most out of the thousands you put in.

If you do join, look me up!

Day 87: It Takes More Than Talent to Build Something Great

I remember watching a documentary on a basketball player. The opening scene was a post-game interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, arguably one of the top 5 basketball players of all-time. Given his status as one of the elite NBA players, he was asked the question – "Who do you think the greatest player of all-time is?"

"The Goat," he answered.

Even if you follow basketball closely, "The Goat" is most likely a name that you don't recognize. Most of us know Abdul-Jabbar, Magic, LeBron, Kobe, Shaq, and of course His Airness, Michael Jordan. But very few of us know "The Goat," which was the nickname given to playground basketball legend Earl Manigault. He dominated basketball at a young age, even growing legendary because he could jump like nobody had ever seen; in fact, he could touch the top of the backboard (in the biopic of The Goat, there's a scene where he jumps and "makes change" off the top of the backboard, grabbing a bill that had been placed there and exchanging it for a quarter. The top is 13 feet high).

But we've never heard of him, even though throughout an illustrious NBA career, Abdul-Jabbar would still go on to make the bold claim that the greatest player he'd ever seen never played a game of NBA basketball (and very few college games for that matter).

The Goat never made it far because of a number of factors, including getting mixed up with the wrong crowd and becoming a drug-addict. Although he rebounded in life and has done great work for the community, in terms of his own ability, The Goat was "the greatest that never was." And while the factors I listed above played a role, The Goat was also unwilling to go beyond his natural, raw talent, listen to coaches, put in the work, and cultivate greatness.

I reflect on his life because of that very idea of being "the greatest that never was." Earl Manigault is a metaphor for so many of us in life who rest on our laurels, carving out a place that's just good enough for the talent that we bring to the table. For some, perhaps for many, they get convinced that because of the talent they bring, greatness will come to them.

Talent, natural ability, a knack, an instinct – none of these on their own can lead to building something great. Greatness comes through trials, through fire. Too many people rest only on their talents and take the easy road, coasting through life in Never Was Land. We are unable to realize that talent is meant to just get you to the fire faster than everyone else.

If you know what you're good at, that stuff that just comes naturally to you, ask if you're just coasting on the easy road or if you're trying to find the fire as quickly as possible. That's when you know you're on your way to building something great.