Live with Purpose

Plant, Water, Grow

That Feeling in my Gut

Sometimes I think about things I’m not doing but could be doing. Some of those thoughts don’t stir up any emotion in me at all.
But others stir up a very strong emotion in the pit of my stomach. Strangely, two kinds of thoughts stir up almost exactly the same emotion. It seems to me that the only way to distinguish between the two are the things I know about me, about my strengths and weaknesses.

For example, I sometimes see people talking about how they are building their sales or how they just love doing door-to-door cold-calling. I get a very strong emotion to that. And it’s not a good one. I am not good at door-to-door. I am horrible at cold-calling. I can’t even pitch someone on something unless it’s coming from my heart.
I get the same thing when I see someone making advances in an area of technology that I know is way out of my wheelhouse and that I will almost certainly never need to know. They’re rocking it, changing the world. I feel a tinge of “you could be doing that” followed closely by “there is no way.”

Then I see a video of someone speaking on stage with passion, talking about their “thing.” Dave Ramsey. Jon Acuff. Andy Stanley. Men who are so into what they are speaking about, speaking from their heart. They exude passion. And I get a very similar feeling in my gut. But this one is accompanied by thoughts like “I need to be doing that!” and “I love speaking like that” (even though my audience is rarely more than 15 people – makes me no difference). That often leads to questions like, “how do I get there?” and “what would I even speak about?”

The same thing happens when I think of writing. I read some books, like material from Andy Andrews, and I feel that same churning inside me. Not the bad kind, no. The good kind, that says, “I would love to know people read something I wrote and grew because of it.” Then, once again, I hear the questions, “how can I get there?” and “what would I even write about?”

I don’t know the answer to those two questions. And that’s where I feel like I am in the mire of uncertainty. I could do it. I even feel strongly that I should do it. My eyes sometimes well with tears watching these people in action.

But notice the difference. I feel very strongly when I think of some things I should do and just as strongly about some things I should not do. And, as I said at the start, some things I just feel ambivalent about. I’ve thought about that a lot, especially the strong “should” and “should not” feelings. What’s the tie in there, aside from the strong emotion? Actually, what is causing this strong emotion?

I believe it is this: for some things, I feel strongly because “that is me!” For others, I feel just as strongly because “that is not me!” The draw for one is as strong as the repulsion for another.

Fueling to the Finish – Three Practical Keys to Motivation

At one time or another we have all dreamed of doing some big thing.  Perhaps starting a business, writing a book, or traveling to some exotic place.  Maybe we wanted to learn a musical instrument or a new language or some great skill.  And the reason we have often failed to do that big thing is that we lacked the motivation.  Perhaps we had the motivation to start, but we certainly did not have the motivation to see things through.

When I was seven years old I decided I wanted to start my own newspaper.  I could just feel the excitement of riding my bicycle around the neighborhood, throwing out copies of the Collins Gazette (or whatever I called it) on people’s front lawns.  I imagined having a satchel of rolled up newspapers and how awesome I would look as I set out daily to deliver them.

So I sat down at the kitchen table in our house, took a blank sheet of lined paper and got to work.  I drew a picture of the paper’s editor (that would be me) and wrote a few words about this great venture and its proprietor.  After I finished that first copy, my hand was kind of cramped.  As proud as I was of my work, I didn’t really feel like making more copies.  “Whew,” I thought, “that’s a lot of work!  We have one neighbor really close by, so for today one copy will do.”   So off I went.

My Huffy bike had a satchel zip-tied to the handlebars, so I rolled up my one newspaper, stuck it in the satchel, and rode around my yard.  When I was between my house and theirs, I flung the single-page newspaper, just like I imagined.  Only it didn’t fly beautifully into their yard the way I had imagined.  Actually it landed only a few inches from my bike.  Hmm.  Disappointed, I picked up the “newspaper” and that was the end of my journalism.

I had lost motivation.  I think it’s safe to say that we all stopped short of some dreams because we lost or never had the motivation.  You see, that day I experienced a subtle truth about motivation: emotion can get you going but it is utterly unable to keep you going.  Continue reading

The Emigrant Mindset

Recently I was listening to a podcast (episode 157 of the EntreLeadership Podcast, to be exact).  In it, host Ken Coleman (the best interviewer around, in my estimation) was interviewing Brian Buffini, an Irish emigrant and entrepreneur.  Buffini was relating an observation of his, that emigrants to America who went from rags to riches shared seven traits.  He went on to say that he believes in these traits so much that he seeks to instill those traits in his own children.  Those traits are:

The willingness to learn
A “do whatever it takes” mindset
The willingness to outwork others
A Spirit of gratitude
The boldness to invest
The willingness to delay gratification
Remembering where they came from

Continue reading

You Be You

Personal growth expert Michael Hyatt often says he is a recovering people-pleaser.  I can identify with that.  Though some people might disagree, the fact is that internally I desire to make people happy.  Early in life, and less frequently as I’ve gotten older, I found myself caving, going against my own conscience and judgment, just to avoid a conflict or to make someone else happy.  In an odd balance of sorts, I was also very confrontational, but not always, and certainly not during some crucial times.

At some point a few years ago I looked back at my life and began recounting all the opportunities I had lost because I gave up meContinue reading

I’ve Got Time

When I was in school, I hated to prepare for tests.  I had this strange idea that, if I didn’t get the material in class, I probably wasn’t going to get it doing homework or studying for tests, especially if it was a subject I didn’t care a lot about anyway.  So I put off studying until usually a day or so before the exam.  And while I did well enough most of the time (and failed spectacularly several times), I was always tense as the teacher made the rounds, handing out the tests.  I could have known a month in advance and still, I would not make myself study until I absolutely had to.  I “wanted to”.  At least that’s what I told myself.  But in reality, I didn’t want to bad enough to put school in front of leisure.

I’ve talked to a lot of people in life who “want to” prepare for things much more serious than a physics test.  They “want to” get their finances in order, or prepare for their family’s future, or get in better shape, or start a new business – any of a number of things that would make life better for them and those around them.

And months or years later I see them and things are no different from before.  The reason is simple: they didn’t “want to” bad enough.  Leadership expert John Maxwell says, “When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing, we’ll change.” Continue reading

Why You Should Grow Like a Weed

A road I travel weekly has one of its three lanes closed for a construction project.  That single lane has been closed for well over a year, no traffic at all.  It’s easy to notice the debris that has collected in that lane over time, but there’s something else worth noticing in that lonely lane – weeds and grass poking up through the cracks in the pavement.

Over the months, having no traffic to keep them pushed down, they took advantage of their situation.  They soaked up the little bit of light that slips through the cracks, drank up the water that trickles down to them, and in hopeful defiance sprang up.  That was all they needed, because weeds and grass are opportunistic.

They did not wait for someone to scrape all the pavement from around them.  Nor did they hold out for fertilizer to accelerate their growth.  They did not need any more than the smallest of opportunities and a little bit of time.

And up they came.  And there they will sit until the construction crew either paves them over or opens the road to traffic again.  Then they’ll be dormant once again.  But they will not despair; no, they will be waiting for that sliver of hope and seizing on it when it comes.

In light of that, what excuse do we have?  We complain internally that our situation is too overwhelming, that we cannot overcome it.  We think we must wait until conditions are ideal, talking ourselves into holding back our efforts.  And while we do, someone else may spring up in our stead.  Careful – we may risk that opening being crowded if we tarry too long.  Soak in the light, the water, and use the energy they provide to defy the hopelessness that you thought had smothered you!  For when you sprout, you may drop a seed that gets carried and dropped elsewhere, to start a new field.

And what would happen if you believed the lie that it is useless, that the pavement far outweighs and outnumbers you?  No!  Be opportunistic, be hopeful.  For all it takes is a little light.

The Stairs Are Never Crowded

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost in The Road Not Taken

 

I work on the seventh floor of an eight-story office building that houses several hundred team members, maybe over a thousand.  Around the start and end of the work day, the area in front of our four elevators is, as you might imagine, fairly crowded.  Occasionally out of impatience (and honestly my internal aversion to crowds) I’ll take the stairs.  And especially lately, in a move toward being more fit, I’ve begun using the stairs several times a day.

There’s something noteworthy I have observed in those trips: the stairs are never crowded.

And self-improvement in general is very much the same way.  The path to growing ourselves and being intentional with priorities and choices is never crowded. Continue reading

How Did I Spend THAT Much?

One summer several years ago my son and I took a vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  I thought I planned well for the trip – estimating how much we would spend on food and entertainment, getting cash out of the bank before we left, and concluding that there was no way I would spend it all in the 4 days we were gone.

Except I did.

Once we got there, I essentially forgot about the amount of cash I had.  Each time we ate or went to play mini-golf or wanted to buy something, I looked in my wallet, saw plenty of green bills, and handed a few over.  Until about the end of the second day.  It was then that I realized that I had spent almost all our spending money.  Quickly I retraced our steps, trying to remember amounts and adding them together in my math-nerd brain.  Surely I had dropped some money accidentally or placed some in a pocket.  But no – I eventually concluded that my aimless spending had consumed what I thought we had too much of.

My poor planning and worse execution meant that the rest of our trip was financed from my checking account.  And worse, I wasn’t sure how much I would need for paying regular monthly bills upon our return.

Spending is a necessary part of life, and some expenses (such as mortgage and rent, utility bills, and the cost of driving to and from work) are mostly non-negotiable.   But other categories of our monthly budget are more flexible. Areas like groceries, spending money (aka mad money, blow money, etc.), and clothing expenses.

So when we face these expenses, how do we know when to stop? Or DO we know when to stop? Do we stop when we have bought all the things we wanted to get or felt like buying? Do we stop spending when we feel guilty?  Or do we, as I did, stop when reality smacks us in the face with the cold fact that our resources are depleted?

Hopefully your answer is, “None of the above.”  But, in case it IS one of the above, I’d like to give you a couple of pointers to help you be responsible and disciplined when it comes to spending in flexible areas and to avoid the guilt that accompanies over-spending.

First, do set limits. There is nothing so effective in helping us bring spending under control as creating a budget and setting specific limits. While it may feel restrictive at first, in the long run it actually gives us liberty and peace. Knowing we have “only” $100 to spend on some clothes gives us permission to spend $100, instead of wondering whether buying an extra shirt will take away from the power bill. And we feel peace later because we one area did not “steal” from another.

This requires some thinking ahead. If you need to buy for a dinner you’re hosting, budgeting $25 is probably not going to cut it. But neither is saying, “Well, I’ll just get what I need, and it will cost what it costs.” The former leaves you with a really skimpy party; the latter leaves you wondering how you spent so much.

Second, spend with cash where you can. Sure, you can’t buy things online with cash. But you can buy things in the store with it. This is where the envelope system comes in handy. We place a specific amount of money in the envelope for that category, and when the envelope is empty, we’re done spending there. It also helps to keep track of the total as we go. The thought of getting to the register and finding the total is a fair amount more than you budgeted for is a pretty good incentive to track as the cart fills up.

Third, give yourself a little margin for error, especially the first few times you set limits. Now, this is no excuse to spend double or triple what you said you were going to spend, but it does give you that little bit of space if an item puts you just over. I remember the story of a mom whose son had saved for a toy he wanted. When he finally had the money, they went to the store to buy it. But at the checkout, the added cost of tax made the total more than the boy had. Instead of helping out, the mom disappointed the child by telling him he just didn’t have enough. She missed a lesson on grace and margin in favor of teaching a lesson on, I don’t know, precision?

Sometimes it will just be a little over. However, if you find that you are constantly over, and that you often have to absorb an overage with margin, you either need to shop more conservatively or budget more realistically. Either way, as we progress, margin should be a rarely-used buffer, not worn-out padding.

As with managing our time, we feel more in control of our money when we plan how to spending it rather than drifting and letting money (or our wants) decide where to spend.

What things do you do to keep yourself from over-spending?

Do You Have Enough Margin to Finish?

While driving recently, I saw a sign in front of a convenience store.  It was handmade, on poster board, and stapled to a stick.  That much was well-done.  However, the hand-writing was not so well-done.  It read, “We have your chicken supplies here”.  At least, that’s what I think it was supposed to say (I wish I had taken a picture).  You see, as someone was crafting this sign, they ran out of room for writing the word “supplies” and had to cram it on the right margin.

It seems like I’ve seen that a lot in handmade signs – well-meaning but hastily constructed.  The end result is not quite what the author intended.  And don’t we do that frequently in life?  We mean well, and we know what we want to say or do, so we jump right in with little or no forethought.  Things look good, we are making progress, and then we notice we are running out of margin.

Continue reading

Nobody Bowls 300 by Accident

On a recent bowling adventure with my family, I had a thought that reminded me of life in general.  A fellow was putting forth plenty of effort but was doing poorly.  As a matter of fact, in spite of his valiant attempts, he scored rather low – around 120.  It was obvious from his reaction that he wanted to do better.  But it just wasn’t happening.  He was doing essentially the same thing every time and coming up short.  And his failure prompted him to try harder, to bowl with more force.  Yet his results barely changed.

Have you noticed that life is often the same way?  We try hard, give lots of effort, but the results are disappointing.  Granted, when we are bowling just for fun, the score doesn’t matter as much as fellowship.  But inside, I believe most of us want to see a high score when we’re done.  To get that, however, requires that we do more than randomly roll the ball with little forethought and a ton of hope.  Even pro bowlers, who train and practice for years, don’t hit 300 every game.  But they do produce high scores consistently.  How?  Well, there are a lot of factors that go into it, of course, but based on my own experiences and lessons learned from those who were much better bowlers than I am, I want to share three areas where being very intentional goes a long way in determining your score.  These same principles apply to life as well. Continue reading

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