Monday, March 20, 2017

Darlin' No Regrets

After the massive increase I saw in followers since my last musical post, I figured I'd keep the theme going.

Today's post is similar in concept to the last one, Dreams to Remember, but I came across some interesting information in some of my reading, and I felt compelled to share some more information on the topic.

I should say, that one of my biggest fears with this current path that I'm on, is becoming like many other people in this space, who just scream about chasing your dreams no matter what, and being true to yourself, and chasing your passions, without considering the realities that many people face, and without offering any legitimate, actionable steps that people can take to do all of those things.

Another fear, again, based on what I read from many others, is this: How many ways can you really talk about living a life of purpose, or following your dreams, or finding your true self, or being a person of integrity, developing your roots, etc, until people start to tune you out?

The good news for me, is that clearly that hasn't happened yet, because according to my blog analytics, there are at least 6 people who are still very interested in what I have to say.

But I do find meaning and value in the topics I'm writing on, or I wouldn't write them.

Today is no different. Hopefully there is value in here somewhere for you.

A number of years ago, a hospice care nurse by the name of Bronnie Ware wrote an article detailing the 5 regrets of the dying. You can read it here. Ware spent many years in this field, and had conversations with her patients as they approached the end of their lives.

Here are a few of the regrets:

1) I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

According to Ware, this was the most common regret of all. People looked back on their lives, at a time when they realized the end was near, and could clearly see the dreams that had gone unrealized.

Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, says this, "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the un-lived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."

Pressfield counts Resistance, with a capital R, as a great evil, not because of what it is, but because what we allow it to do to us. Resistance, according to Pressfield, is anything ranging from "reality" to family to "responsibility" to not feeling adequate, to "I'll get to it later" and any other number of things that we tell ourselves are keeping us from our dreams.

I don't know that I'm wise enough to fully articulate how I feel about his, but I'll try. Many of those things are real. We have realities, responsibilities, and families that require our attention and our devotion. We have commitments that we need to honor, and should not be running around at 33 trying to become a rapper by the name of B-Fresh just because that is a dream we may have (Read That Post Here)

Again, the problem is not those things, it is what we do with them and the power that we give to them. So many times we place them squarely in our path, and blame them for our current situation, rather than finding a way to incorporate the two. If we are not careful, not only will our dreams go to die, but we will become bitter and resentful towards things that don't deserve our wrath.

As I've said before, we need to stop reading the script that everyone around us says is it, and make decisions that are right for us. Not with selfish ambition, but with a desire to be true to who God has designed us to be, which is NOT just like everyone else.

Donald Miller, in his book, Scary Close, writes a quote from a dancer named Martha Graham that says,

Each of us is unique and if we didn't exist something in the world would have been lost. I wonder, then, why we are so quick to conform, and what the world has lost because we have. 

Find a dream (or two) that you can pursue, and don't live, or die, with regret.

2) I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Ware states that may people, in an effort to "keep the peace" in their relationships, opted to suppress their feelings. Often times, because of that, people carried around bitterness and resentment in their hearts.

When I was in high school, I hated going to dances. You may not be able to tell now, based on the cool and hip persona I have, particularly through my experimentation with B-Fresh, but I was not someone known for my dance moves. That, combined with my general discomfort in being around and in front of large groups, had me avoiding dances at all costs.

So I was dating a girl once, and as the homecoming dance approached, we BOTH agreed that we wouldn't go. She knew that I despised dances, and she was TOTALLY on board with us just hanging out together that night, without going to the dance.

The week of the dance, as I pulled up to her house, I saw her dart across the living room in a very nice, homecomey type dress, and hide in the other room. After some hem hawing around, I learned that SHE was indeed going to the homecoming dance, just not with me. It turns out that since I had decided I didn't want to go, one of her friends had invited her and she had said yes.

"Since you don't want to go, it's not a big deal, right? I'm just going with a friend."

"...No, that's totally cool. You should go, and have fun. Nooooo problem at all with that"

I kept that lie in for a couple of weeks, because that is how I sometimes handle things. When she could absolutely tell that something was bothering me, and I couldn't hold it in any longer, I unleashed a high-octane, profanity laced tirade and let her know that she had crushed my heart, dreams, and entire future, and that she should bear that burden for the rest of her life.

That's not really true, at least not the profanity part. When you are 17, everything is soul crushing, and I probably overreacted. But the problem wasn't that I was upset, the problem was that I held everything in, let it fester, and allowed it to consume me.

My encouragement to you, is that you not live so bottled up inside, particularly with those you care about. Sharing your feelings and emotions can be a vulnerable thing, and there is certainly a time and place for that, and a time to be more guarded.

I don't think we should be guarded in being fully, us. We need to get off the stage and quit performing in an effort to please and appease the "crowd".

Donald Miller writes:

Acting may get us the applause we want, but taking a risk on being ourselves is the only path toward true intimacy. And true intimacy, the exchange of affection between two people who are not lying, is transforming. 

You have been blessed with valuable gifts and you have valuable gifts to share with the world.

And I hope you will.

3) I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends.

My dad once said something along the lines of,

The value of our lives can be determined by the depth of our relationships and the impact we have on others. 

Or something like that. Maybe I just made that up, and attributed it to my dad, because that sounds like a very intelligent and meaningful thing to say, and my dad often says very intelligent and meaningful things.

Ware said that many of her patients, at the end of their lives, would suddenly realize that, in the hustle and bustle of life, they had neglected many of those that they had once cared most deeply about.

Ware says,

There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. 

It's pretty normal, I think, for us to get busy and focus on work, and family, and have relationships slide to the back burner.

But Ware says, that the thing people most want to get in order when they are approaching the end, are their relationships. I imagine that when the time comes, particularly if it comes sooner than we'd like, that there will be a phase during the process that will have us sad about the people we will leave behind. I don't know for sure, I can only imagine. But I hope, that for me, during that time, I hope it's only a passing sadness of missing out on future experiences, not a deep regret about what we've missed out on in the past.

One of the excuses I hate the most, is the idea of "being busy". It's not necessarily that it isn't true, it's just that I believe we make time for things that are important to us. A number of years ago I decided to make a concerted effort to change the way I was explaining my busyness when speaking to others. When it is something important, particularly important to the other person, rather than saying, "I'm sorry I didn't have time to..." I started saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't make time to...".

For me, it's a little more honest. We make time for things that are important to us. And we really make time for people that are important to us. At least we should.

True friends and loving family are things to be cherished.I hope we'll all take the time to do that without the need to be on our deathbed to help us realize that.

Ware, again:

It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

Write your own script, share your gifts, and invest in your relationships.

Much Love,

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I've Got Dreams To Remember

My man Otis.

I came across this song awhile back and really enjoy the opening in particular. And it got me thinking, that maybe sometimes we spend too much time remembering our dreams, and not enough time living them.

It's really important, I think, for us to remember our dreams. We should remember those things that we used to want to do, or those things that we dreamed about. We can talk about the things that we want to do, or the things that we might do.  We can talk about how amazing it would have been. 

Those can be good stories. They never happened, of course. So they can't be great stories. They are dreams we remember, but not dreams that we've lived.

There are some dreams that are so out there, they are so unlikely, that they are just fun to talk about.

I have a crazy dream of owning my own small, five table restaurant. Somehow, every table would be very private, the food would be incredible, and I would always have a table ready. It would be a place I'd constantly host friends and family for great food and fellowship. That's not a dream that I'm staying up at night thinking about. There's a pretty good chance that at the end of my life, I won't look back with great regret that I didn't ever have a restaurant to call my own.

But there are other dreams that do stir things up in my soul, and I believe other people have them to. Consistently, I interact with people who have dreams they are remembering but not living. I don't mean that as a judgmental statement, but I wonder how we get to that place, and how we can keep from getting there.

"I always wanted to...", "I used to want to..." "One day I'm going to..."

I don't know that I believe anybody can do anything. That may not sound very encouraging, but I think it's true. People have circumstances, and realities, and limitations that may prevent them from doing certain things.

Maybe I'm wrong. And maybe I'll change my mind later.

Perhaps the best way to say this is, "We can't all chase all of our dreams, all of the time" 

We all have "stuff" that gets in the way. But generally, I think, that "stuff" isn't going away. And if it does, it will just be replaced with more "stuff".

So despite the reality of our "stuff", I don't think we should blame it for us not chasing our dreams.

But chasing our dreams doesn't mean we dump everything and attack life with reckless abandon. But I do think we should all start doing more living of our dreams than remembering. I wonder where we would be if we didn't succumb to resistance so much? The resistance of our "stuff". What if we worked a little harder at the things that we said were so important to us? If we not only remembered our dreams, but moved on some of them.

Start by finding ways to prototype your dreams. Remember B-Fresh? It was short lived, but I gave it a shot, and now it's a great story. Inch by inch, one step at a time, and maybe one day you'll wake up and realize you really are living the dream. Who knows? We certainly never will if all we ever do is talk about it.

I hope you'll think about those things that you've always dreamed about. Are there things that are more than a fun story, that stir up something real inside of you? I hope you'll find a way to start moving away from just remembering and towards the living of your dreams, even if it's only a small step.

At the very least, it will make a great story.

Don't forget your dreams. But don't just remember them either.

Much Love,


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What Is Love?

As I sat in a meeting with a parent recently, I became very uncomfortable. No exaggeration, there was a discomfort in my soul, as I sat and listened to him discuss his child. I did the best that I could to hide how I was feeling, but that type of discomfort is the worst for me, and very hard for me to hide.

For the first 15 minutes, I just thought the guy was a jerk. I shouldn't say that I guess, but that is what I was thinking. He was clearly doing well financially, and was able to let everyone know without talking about it, at least initially. He reminded me of someone who had either come from money, and therefore believed that it was the best measure of one's value. If you had it you were important. If you were unsure about where you stood, then you just need to be the loudest and make yourself appear the biggest, and that would tilt the score in your favor. Or, he had come from nothing, and now had "a lot", and because of that, all of the above things remained true. Either way, he was finding his value and ours in all the wrong places. People, to him, were clearly not the most important thing in  the room.

As we started the meeting, he made it clear that he wanted to be in charge, and tried to dictate the direction that the meeting would take. He let everyone around the table know that he didn't trust us, and, again without saying it explicitly, he also let us know that he was better than everyone in the room.

This, is how I arrived at my jerk conclusion. It's possible, I suppose, that I am wrong.

But there are many jerks to encounter day to day or as we move throughout our professional and personal lives. I'm certain that in given situations, with different people, that I've played the role of jerk, depending on an individual's perspective, though I hope it wasn't to this extent.

So dealing with a jerk is not uncommon and certainly not unbearable.

As the conversation continued, I realized that being a jerk was the least of his problems. Based on his description of his child, his explanation about how he had approached their challenges at home, and the way he spoke to us as people who were trying to invest in the success of his child, it became evident that there was a bigger problem. One that, regardless of the collection of degrees in the room, the mountains of experience, or the commitment that we were willing to make, we could not fix.

In his home and in her life, there was a scarcity of love.

This realization was what put my soul in knots. He thought that buying her things and spending more money would close that gap. He thought telling everyone (including himself) that his financial commitment was synonymous with a commitment of the heart would make it so.

But you could feel it. Love may not have been absent, but it was certainly scarce. In high demand but in short supply. My heart was both sad and angry. I had nothing more to say to the man, other than what was demanded of me and my position.

And the following scripture jumped to my mind. I'm ill qualified to quote and interpret scripture beyond my meager understanding and perspective. So please read the remainder of this post with that in mind. Regardless of my lack of qualification, I feel incredibly strong about the message below. That, I think, speaks either very powerfully about the strength of my conviction, or makes me a fool for speaking so definitively on such a topic. I'll let you decide.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angles, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, but I have not love, I gain nothing.

This is a verse I've heard many, many times, and skimmed right over it.

"Yeah, yeah, everyone knows it's important to love."

But a closer examination for me, shows me that it's more than that.

No matter what you do, or what gifts you have or think you have. No matter how impressive your resume. Without love, it's meaningless.

Usually, we read the verse that follows. We read it at weddings, and we get misty eyed, and we think back to our wedding day when the verse was read, and we think about love and we get all warm and fuzzy inside. I don't really think love is warm and fuzzy. Not most of the time. And these two verses tell us that. At least they tell me that.

So, I hear this:

No matter what you do, who you are, who you think you are, or what gifts you have, if you don't have love and do those things in love, it's meaningless.

And then...

What does that look and feel like? REALLY. So I should do all these things in love, and what is love?

1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Remember that next time you look at your child, or your spouse, or your students, and say,

"I love you"

Much Love,

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Choices Have No Value

We live in a time where we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. At no other point in history have people been able to pull up so much information at the push of a button or by asking Siri, or Alexa, or Google.

Along with the information, there are now more choices available to us than perhaps at any other time. There is greater freedom of movement both geographically, intellectually, and professionally than ever. I'm not saying we have arrived at some type of societal nirvana, but in terms of information and choices, our cup definitely runneth over.

You would think, that with this vast expanse of information and choice, that people would be happy with their jobs, their lives, and their choices. Because with all of the options available, and with the ability to fully examine all of the options, they can make more informed decisions than ever.

A simple observation of the world around us tells us that this simply isn't true.

The problem that we face, is not that we don't have enough information, or choice, it's that we have too much.

A professor from the Columbia Business School conducted an experiment focusing on how people deal with the options at their disposal, and how we make our decisions. She set up a display of 6 different specialty jams in a grocery store. While this display was up, about 40% of shoppers stopped and viewed the display, and about 13% made a purchase (a realized choice).

For the next portion of the experiment, she displayed 24 different jams. More Choice!!!
This time, 60% of the shoppers stopped by to view the display, but only 3% of the shoppers ended up making a purchase.

More choices didn't lead to more choices.

The reason that this seems to be so challenging, is that, as I alluded to in this post, we often are searching for that ONE BEST CHOICE, so we begin to focus not only on trying to make the best choice, but we also focus on all of the choices that we are giving up whenever we eventually choose.

And this makes it very difficult for us to make a good decision, because we are often making it for all of the wrong reasons. Or, it makes it very difficult for us to make a decision at all.

In addition to acknowledging the fact that there is no one best choice, we also need to be aware of a couple of other truths:

1) Choices, by themselves, have no value. Until we make them.

We've become geared towards this idea that the more choices we have at our disposal, the better. More choices (to a point) can certainly be a good thing. When you can choose between different job opportunities, or you've been accepted to multiple colleges, or you have many girls begging for you to take them to the homecoming dance, in theory, you can examine your options and make a good choice.

But you can also examine your options and make a good choice when you only have one job option, one college acceptance, and one girl begging for you to take her to the dance. Generally speaking, there is always a choice, and we can always go through a process to make a good one, no matter how many choices it appears that we have.

The point is, 8 choices isn't worth more than 1. Because you only get to make 1. You don't get to take two jobs, go to two colleges, or take two girls to the dance (probably). So the only value, no matter how many choices that are before you, comes from the one choice that you decide on.

It's sort of like the stock market. All of that money that you have on paper, has no real value until you cash it in. Until you make your (one) choice, all you are holding is monopoly money, with no value in the real world.

And because of that:

2) When you make your choice, you aren't missing out on ALL of the other things that you passed up. I don't know about you, but there have been many times in my life, where I have agonized over making a choice because I examined all of the other choices I had, and determined that no matter what choice I ultimately made, I would be missing out on many other options.

"If I go to UGA, then I can't go to Tech, or Auburn, or Alabama, or take my gap year. Think about all of the memories I'll be missing out on. No Ramblin Wreck, No War Eagle, No Roll Tide, No backpacking through the mountains of Cambodia discovering my inner chi."

Yes, if you choose to go to UGA, then you will miss out on something, but not all of these things. You see, if you didn't choose UGA, then you would have to choose something else, but only ONE something else. If you didn't choose UGA, you wouldn't then attend all three other schools as well as take your gap year hiking the Cambodian hills.

In economics it is called opportunity cost. It is what you give up when you make a decision, and there is always a cost. But you can't weigh every single thing that you give up as a loss, because you could only realistically choose to do one other thing.

One of the most beautiful things that I've ever heard about marriage was told to me by a friend, who had the story told to him by a friend, who's pastor mentioned it in a sermon. So I can't give credit where credit is due. I think the guy's name is Dave Burden from Nashville.

And the comment was something like this:

When we are married, we wake up each day and CHOOSE our spouse.

And Donald Miller says:

Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon.

My take is that we get to wake up each day, and choose our spouse anew, as they are in that day, with all that we have learned about them, both good and "bad". And we get to choose to love them. Each day.

And to make it work, we should be making this choice each and every day, over and over again. In other words, from the day we say "I do" we choose and we keep on choosing.

The same holds true for all of our other choices. We need to choose and keep on choosing. We are so bad about making choices and then immediately thinking about all we've given up because of our choice, wondering if we made the "right" choice, and agonizing over whether or not we have done what is best for us and our future selves.

We need to let it go. The choice has been made. There are processes we can develop to help us make good choices, rather than focusing on best choices. And after we make them, we need to live with them.

Not live with them as in,

"Suffer through the consequences because you made the choice and now you have to live with it!"

But instead, live with them as in,

"Choose and keep choosing (that choice). Live with it, soak it up, marinate in it, and live it out."

If it turns out that it wasn't a good choice, or you want to redirect, that's okay. Just don't do it in response to decision making agony, or a desire to start again in hopes of finding the right choice, because you won't find it.

There IS value in your choices.

But only after you actually make them. And only after you commit to living them out.

Much Love,

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Start With Who

Related image

There is a guy named Simon Sinek, who has written a well known book, called "Start with Why". He has also given a Ted Talk, and has a website with his name on it, and is probably making millions of dollars off of being Simon Sinek.

On Tuesday, 13 people read my blog.

So, I probably don't have any business acting like I know more than Simon Sinek.

But, I don't think we should "Start with Why", I think we should Start with Who. 

Sinek's book focuses largely on the idea that we should, as businesses, leaders, and even as individuals, focus on why it is that we are doing the thing or things we are doing. He (intelligently) states that it is critical for us to have a well developed and strong why to guide our decisions and to help us refocus when things get challenging or when we get disoriented. Having a why to return to, can help us continue on when we may not enjoy what we are currently doing, when we are dealing with a difficult customer, employee, or parent, or when we are trying to make difficult decisions.

Obviously, those are are all really good points, and Sinek has a fancy website and a best selling book to prove that people agree with him.

And I don't disagree that those things are important. I just think there is something more important. And I think it's MUCH more important.

I think we should start with WHO.

When we determine who we are (self-awareness), who we want to be, and we we are willing to commit to becoming, it allows us to have a greater sense of direction than simply stating why we are doing something.

And, having a strong sense of who, will allow us to create a clearer and more purposeful why .

The other thing that I believe, is that our why can change, not only from situation to situation, but within the same job, or within the same season of life. Some days we may be getting out of bed excited to go to work because we are excited about what is taking place that day. Other days, we may have to remind ourselves that payday is right around the corner, and that, today, we are doing the important work of providing for our families. We may choose different things for different reasons. So it's difficult to always have one central why.

Sometimes, we may have more than why, and sometimes, we may have a why that we may not be totally comfortable sharing. Sometimes, it IS about the money.

Sinek would argue (and he would win, because he has done a Ted Talk, and he has a great sounding name) that we should have a deep and meaningful why that allows us to be "feel inspired and inspire others".

I think that has more to do with who we are than why we are doing something. I've mentioned this before, but the phrase that I've latched on to in regards to this belief, is the idea of being Deeply Rooted.

I'd like to share an excerpt from the book I'm working on, Live a Rich Life.
I hope it offers some encouragement on how to examine and articulate your who. 

You may find yourself in the dark sometimes, and not be certain why you are doing something during a particular season of life. This usually occurs to me about the time I'm settling student disputes that involve comments like, "He said when he grows up he is going to have more muscles than me" or reminding a student that going knuckle deep in his nose during class is generally unacceptable. 


You can always know your who. Your roots can and should be constant. And to me, who you are and who you want to become, is the most important thing you have to guide you along in this life.

Thank you for reading.

Think about the things that you believe deeply in.
Think about the person that you want to become.
Think about those that you care most about, and how you want them to see you.
Think about what you want to guide you in the challenging times.
Where and how will you root yourself?

Once your roots are determined, get to work strengthening them.
Bamboo, a viciously strong plant, spends much of its early life growing down, not up. As it appears dormant, it is actually spreading out a network of near impenetrable roots.
When the bamboo is ready, it shoots up, and grows rapidly, and soon spreads like wildfire.
But not until the roots are ready.

Get yourself ready.
A time will come when you will have a tough decision to make. A season of life will present significant challenges to you and your family. Your faith will be examined. Your roots will be tested.
A time will come when you are called to do something special. You will have an opportunity to chase the lion. A big moment will beckon. You will need to stand tall in that moment. And you can’t do that, not fully, without being deeply rooted.

Consider these action steps:

1. Provide yourself with some time to think about your roots.

Think about the things that you believe deeply in.
Think about the person that you want to become.
Think about those who you care most about, and how you want them to see you.
Think about what you want to guide you in your most challenging times.
Where and how will you root yourself?

2. Start putting these down on paper.
My encouragement would be to identify 3-5 key areas of importance for your life. For me, that was relationships, faith, family, and my personal character/journey.
Yours should be yours. After you decide, even if that is loosely, what those areas are, write them down.
Consider just going with a word association/word splash process on this. Just start writing, and see where it leads you

3. Look for patterns or words and themes that jump out to you from each section.
You may find that you can consolidate your main categories, or that you need to add a category.
Either way, take your word splash and form some short sentences, phrases, or reminders from each main topic.
Write these down in a concise, easy to reflect upon manner.

4. Once you have your roots written out. Start to seek out ways to develop them further.
This doesn’t need to be a burden, like one more thing to do.
Though I would argue that this is one of the most important things you can invest in, as I believe that it directly affects everything else you do.
That being your pace, find some ways to develop your roots. Find people to listen to online, talk to at the coffee shop, read books and articles, scripture, or observe people who you admire with similar roots.

Seek to nurture and develop your roots. With a little bit of looking, there are ways all around you to support this important and foundational area in your life.
Much Love,