Something That Truly Matters - An Invitation

My son Mark sent me an email some time ago which hangs on my office bulletin board.

“Here’s what I’ve said to the universe about my writing: I’m OK with getting rich, as long as it’s not at someone else’s expense. My goal, however, is a rich life. I want the pleasure of applying my talents to something that matters. I want to make a difference to, and with, people who appreciate it. I want to be justifiably proud of what I do and what I create. I want to be fairly compensated by the process as well as the paychecks. I also want plenty of surrounding ‘ space’ to enjoy the fruits of my labors. And… I think that’s a very fair, honorable and sustainable proposition.”

I have it hanging there where I see it every day because I have the same philosophy. He described it perfectly. I couldn’t have said it better or clearer.

I am applying it to the launch of my first digital product, a workshop examining the pathway from...

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Following an “Aha!” Story Thread

Why look back at stories, events which happened in your past, that are linked together?

As I’ve said before, there are three major benefits: Enlightenment, encouragement, and entertainment. Sometimes it’s a combination of these.

A conversation with a friend precipitated a look back at a number of the churches my wife and I had attended over the years. They covered multiple denominations and several cities around the country. Two incidents stood out at that moment of reflection.

The first was the re-affirmation of our wedding vows on our twenty-fifth anniversary. There were about sixty people present on this beautiful October afternoon. Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows accenting the warmth of the varnished oak pews and the wood trim in the sanctuary. At the point where the minister asked us to repeat our traditional vows, we heard behind us the muffled sound of the guests repeating them to each other along with us. The minister had not suggested it, nor...

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Your Surprise Successes

And now a surprise! You are equipped to bless yourself. Yes yourself. But, you say, I know all the crap I've been through. I know all the lessons I've had to learn the hard way. I have an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks. How am I equipped to bless myself?

Well, here's an example for you. For many years, I’ve berated myself for not getting a doctorate in English and teaching at a small private college somewhere in New England. See how specific that is? Well, my co-author of the book Equipped to Bless challenged me to follow a thread leading back from my present substitute-teaching job at a local high school. So I started backing down through my life. I teach Sunday School classes for adults. I had taught teenagers for many years in several denominations. I’d been a Boy Scout leader. I had taught electricians how to program our programmable controllers. I had trained distributors to get more product to market. In Navy Boot Camp, I’d been selected Educational Petty...

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Experience and Helping Others

We are all equipped to bless. Who? Someone else, yes. What? A situation looking for an answer, yes. What equips us? Our uniqueness. Our connectedness. Our experiences.

Let's talk about experiences. Our growth is dependent upon our personal challenges. Were it not for challenges, we wouldn't learn much. You can sit in a classroom for days, listening to a teacher talk about the subject material, but you learn the most when the teacher passes out a test paper and gives you thirty minutes to answer questions about the previous lecturing!

Life itself challenges you with curves out of nowhere. You know what I'm talking about…health issues, employment issues, financial issues, family issues, etc. You don't see them coming. They just appear. And they don't necessarily go away easily or quickly. But after you’ve survived, you discover others who are struggling with those same issues. Sometimes the hardest thing is to wait for an opportunity to reveal the connection to the other...

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Enriching Connections

There are many ways that we are all connected. For instance, in casual conversation – at a party, over coffee, at lunch – the subject comes up and you find that the others in attendance have all received a speeding ticket at one time or another, (Yes, I’m still stuck on that topic. See how emotion locks in a memory?) The only uniqueness in the situation seems to be how much the damn thing cost! The conversation might lead to other facets of law enforcement, discovering more incidents of connection.

You see, connection goes way beyond clubs, churches, relatives, or jobs. Emotionally stored stories cast a thread into the world and draw in people or groups that have experienced the same or similar trials. At the time of this writing, two friends are being challenged by cancer. One's prognosis is horrific, while the other's is optimistic. Both are facing the future with hope, supported by family and friends who share love and laughs, some who share similar treatments,...

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Emotion Locks in Memories

It seems to me that the experiences I remember are touched by emotion. Factual experiences are often forgotten, or dredged up only with effort. Unless documented for some specific reason, they fall into some brain file usually labeled "Open only in case of emergency.” Emotional experiences, however, are quite different. In fact, they sometimes hang around much to the detriment of the present moment.

For instance, I can’t remember off hand what my neighbor and I talked about last week when we ran into each other in the back yard, even though we chatted for a good twenty minutes. But I still remember the last speeding ticket I got like it happened this morning. I probably deserved it, but it was still a trap. It happened thirty-five years ago, and it still makes me mad! I go off on a tangent every time it floats up in my memory.

Nothing can be done about it now. The officers are probably long since retired. They have no idea what my feelings are toward them. My thoughts...

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Perspective Changes Perception

We are each unique. It doesn't matter if we're an only child or one of an octet. Our life story is a string of emotional moments that is different from anybody else’s. We meet different people. We’re faced with different challenges. Each experience prepares us for the next experience. How we react to the challenges makes us what we are at this moment.

We can change our life story by changing our perspective. Just because a certain result came from previous similar circumstances doesn't mean it always has to be that way. You often have a choice, even when you think there’s only one option available. Viewing the situation from a different outlook can change the outcome.

Change is definitely problematic for some people, and perhaps some small amount of fear is present even in the bravest folk when faced with something new. Maybe that's a good thing, forcing us to evaluate before charging ahead. However, fear that freezes us so that we can't face the challenge with...

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Fourth of July Already?!

Can you believe the first half of the year is gone already? It just flew by. The expectation of an exciting Independence Day fireworks display hangs in the air. Anticipation can be a wonderful thing. It’s as important a part of the event as the experience itself.

My friend David was offered the opportunity to check off an item on his bucket list – a fly-fishing trip to Wyoming and Colorado. He accepted the offer about three weeks before the actual trip was to happen. David’s everyday life immediately went on autopilot. He accomplished all his duties and commitments, but he was thinking almost continually about the trip. He’d tell me about the equipment required by his guide, then later tell me where he bought it, and even when he expected the UPS truck to deliver. One day he was in a shoe store looking at a pair of boots for the trip. He expected to find exactly what he needed, but the right thing just wasn’t jumping out at him. He called a friend who...

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The Art of True, Pure Listening

Years ago, my church decided to contact former members to find out why they’d left. Before starting the process, two church members went to Befriender’s for some intensive training on how to listen. When they returned, we who were on the committee to interview the former members spent about six months of weekly sessions to learn the proper way to accomplish the task.

All that to say that listening is far more than just a simple act. It seems to be an art and a science wrapped up tightly together. Anyone can do it. Few do it well. You see, the problem is that you need to ignore actions like talking, suggesting, interrupting, fixing, waiting for the next pause in the conversation so you can suggest, fix, or re-direct the flow of the conversation. For most of us, this is difficult. For some it’s impossible. It took our committee six months to get to the point where we could do nothing but listen and encourage the talker to say more, and to do it naturally.

The results...

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Inventory Your Authentic Assets

A friend worked for a time in a major restaurant chain. Every Sunday evening they were required to take a complete inventory of everything in the restaurant. And it had to be accurate down to the last salt shaker and loaf of bread.

He and I were talking over lunch one afternoon, and began to apply the same process to human talents. Since he’s now in the counseling business, he has a different perspective of inventory.

He shared that people will immediately go to their negative side, remembering when a talent failed to bring a positive result. There’s also a feeling that listing the positive talents seems to be bragging, and again is not comfortable.

In his work, my friend gets clients to look ahead several years to what they would like to be accomplishing. It’s necessary for them to see that they already have talents that will help them get there. Failures that have dogged them to this point can be viewed as lessons learned if they will change their perspective.

An...

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