5 Strategies to Create An Almost Abundant Supply of Personal Energy to Take You to the Next Level

Photo by macki2k

Photo by macki2k

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s new book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

I’m Getting Older, Yet Better!

Several years ago, I turned forty. This was an age that caused me to stop and reflect on my physical health. I felt tired all the time. I was stressed out. I was moody and would get frustrated with any kind of problem, large and small. I was going through some of the most difficult changes in my personal life that one can experience. I wasn’t happy with much of anything. I knew something had to change, and I took massive action as a result. Over the last six years, I have been on an amazing journey that has led to a healthier and happier level of living.

In the book The Power of Full Engagement (2003), authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz assert people need to learn two new rules when it comes to energy and performance. First: recognize that energy is the fundamental currency of high performance. Second: performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. Later on, Jim Loehr added a third important rule: the stories a person tells one’s self and others drives the way he or she gathers and spends energy.

Energy management goes beyond establishing morning routines. It encompasses whole life management. The better a person treats their body through food fuels energy. A stronger body through aerobic exercise and strength training adds a quality of life that many don’t understand. Better quality sleep allows the physical body to rest, recover, and repair itself which results in greater energy to do more.

In today’s culture, people have taken on the mindset that burning the candle at both ends is a badge of honor to “get ahead.” People go to bed late and wake up early; they eat junk food meals on the run. They sit in front of computer screens for twelve hours a day. Exercise is not prioritized, or non-existent. Is there any wonder there is an obesity epidemic in the modern age?

Conventional wisdom says sleep less to get ahead. Cut corners in health and wellness to climb to the top of the ladder faster than the guy in the cubical next door. Yeah, success might come faster, but so might a heart attack!

There is a better, healthier way to do things. Now, let’s take a closer look at living a richer life through proper eating, exercise, sleep, emotional habits, and sexual energy control.

Strategy #1: Eat Better

Eating the right foods at the right times has tremendous potential to create a good energy balance to live a high quality life. The average American, though, wakes up in a rush, runs through a Starbucks drive-thru to grab a high sugar and cream combo coffee and a high calorie pastry to go with it. At work, they grab other high carb and high sugar snacks to sustain them until lunch. At lunch, they eat fast food; they make more bad snack choices in the afternoon, and then they top it all off with a heavy dinner late at night.

But, with just a little bit of forethought on food intake, a healthier lifestyle can be achieved. It is possible to avoid putting so much bad stuff into one’s body. These bad foods actually make people hungrier, bigger, and less energetic all at the same time.

One book that had a tremendous impact on my own personal eating habits has been The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.

[Disclaimer: As a Christian, there are certain aspects about sex in this book that I am in no way endorsing. Read at your own risk. You have been warned. No hate comments, please!]

The biggest take away for me from this book is the slow carb diet (SCD). After reading the book, I began a focus on consuming more protein at specific intervals throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning. I also try to avoid bad carbohydrates whenever possible.

I don’t follow slow carb religiously, just a few of the basic tenets. But, with this diet plus exercising four days a week for twenty-five minutes each workout, I was able to sculpt my body. I dropped an extra twelve to fifteen pounds, moving from 175 pounds down to a consistent 160 pounds within a few months. I’ve never been a big guy, but even my family noticed a difference when I went on this food and exercise regimen.

Here are the basics of SCD as I understand them from Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Body book:

  1. Focus meals on lean proteins such as eggs, egg whites, meats, nuts, etc. Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already repeat meals, anyway; now you’re just picking new default meals.
  2. Eat 30 in 30. Translation: Eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Tim Ferriss and others on SCD claim this is the biggest change in diet that will affect weight loss.
  3. Eat plenty of veggies.
  4. Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more body fat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are the exception to the rule.
  5. Avoid “bad” carbs such as “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains.
  6. Eat every three hours.
  7. Enjoy one “cheat” day per week. This helps with plateauing weight issues when you are on the same diet every day.54

Strategy #2: Move Your Body!

A few years ago, I heard some wise advice that has stuck with me:

“How well we live our lives in our forties and fifties will set us up for how healthy we will be in our sixties, seventies, and beyond.”

When I heard this advice, I had just turned forty. I had exercised some in the past, but nothing consistent. I was not a healthy eater. I mentioned earlier that I was tired a lot, as well as stressed out at work and home. I came to the realization that if I wanted to age well, I knew I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.

I have zero excuses, too. My workplace has an excellent free workout facility for its employees. So, I began to develop an exercise routine that wasn’t difficult or strenuous but got me into the gym at least four times every week. I also try to work out at the same time each day. I attempt to schedule my workouts in the late morning or early afternoon, right around my lunch hour. For whatever reason, I landed at this time due to my personal schedule and energy levels. It seems to have worked the best for me, so I’ve stuck with it.

Many people have physical goals they are trying to accomplish with their own unique exercise plan to get them there. For me, I strive for a balanced exercise routine of four to five days a week. I’m not interested in running marathons, half marathons, or even 5k’s. I have no desire to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Paul Michael Levesque. With a large family and work responsibilities, I have time limitations. I have to keep my physical body “tight and right” in an optimal time frame.

I keep my exercise routine to a simple twenty-five minutes and I’m done. I do cardio on an elliptical machine two to three times a week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays. On alternate days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do a cardio warm-up on an elliptical for ten minutes. Then, I spend the remaining twenty minutes weight training with nautilus-style machines.

This exercise routine, combined with my protein-eating habits described in the previous section, has produced results. I have been able to trim off ten to twelve pounds of excess weight, sculpt my body, and stay at this level for over three years. With this twenty-five minute routine, four days a week, I spend a minimal time working out, and it has increased my energy to a high degree. I also need less sleep than I ever have before.

Want more energy? A methodical, consistent, and focused exercise routine really is a game changer when it comes to energy management.

Strategy #3: Get Some Quality Sleep

Sleep. Some don’t get enough. Others get too much. Either way, the right amount is important for energy management. When I was younger, I didn’t eat well. I didn’t exercise much. My sleep patterns were inconsistent. As a result, my energy levels were all over the place during the day as well as from day to day.

Over the last few years, though, I have established better sleep patterns. I attempt to go to bed the same time each night, around 10:00 p.m. I wake up the same time each morning, close to 4:15 a.m. These sleep habits combined with better eating and exercise have led to higher energy levels. I don’t need near the amount of sleep that I used to. I accomplish more at work. I’d also like to think that I’m a lot more pleasant person when I arrive home at the end of the day to greet my family in the evening. I have energy still left in the tank to pour out to the people I love the most.

I believe establishing good habits in the areas of food and exercise will result in six to eight hours of sleep. A person will wake up more rested. Of course, some people need more sleep than others. I get that part of it. I’ve always been on the low end of the sleep cycle. Others may need eight to ten hours of sleep. I’m sharing my own experience. This is what I have discovered in my own experiments in energy management.

Quality of sleep is an important factor for the greatest impact on minimal sleep. Here are a few sleep hacks I’ve picked up along the way to achieve better sleep quality:

  • Be careful of caffeine intake during the day, especially any time later than mid-afternoon.
  • Get 20–30 minutes of exercise each day, but don’t exercise in the evening hours. That could energize you too much before bedtime.
  • A short, 20-minute power nap in the early afternoon (if possible to get away with taking one!) can be a game changer for daily energy levels and mood.
  • If possible, establish a consistent bedtime as well as wake up time. This is a lot bigger deal than people realize. Do this one thing and a lot of problems will disappear.
  • Keep the room temperature on the cool side whenever possible.
  • Keep the room as dark as possible.
  • White noise generators or small fans help block out some of the background noises that may keep us awake or wake us up in the middle of the night.
  • Keep cell phones in a different room, or at least turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature so that email alerts, text messages, or phone calls won’t disrupt sleep in the middle of the night.
  • Avoid using bright screens before bed such as TVs, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Quick side note: In the latest version of Apple iOS, there is now a special “Night Shift” screen setting to help with this problem.
  • Consider melatonin supplements if needed.
  • Establish a regular “getting ready for bed” routine that cues the body that it is time to sleep.

In my experience over the last three years, quality sleep (not always quantity) is one of the keys to having more energy.

Strategy #4: Control Your Emotions

To most people, I’m sure I appear to be pretty stable and even-keeled when it comes to my emotions, at least in public anyway. I don’t get crazy enthusiastic about anything (which could possibly be an issue). But, I don’t grow upset about most anything, either. In public, I may not appear to struggle with emotional ups and downs, but in private, I do.

I don’t like surprises. I don’t like major, last-minute changes. I don’t like unexpected problems. When I encounter these issues in my life, I tend to have a strong emotional response to them. I lose self-control. I become angry, upset, and judgmental. I want things my way or not at all. “How dare you turn my life upside down by bringing your problem into my world and handing me a headache to deal with?” This is the attitude and self-talk that tends to come out of me.

What happens, though, when people lose control of their emotions? Valuable energy is wasted on problems that are oftentimes out of the person’s control anyway. Nothing can be done about them, but people tend to stew, fret, and be upset anyway. This type of emotional response results in exhaustion and energy-depletion. Joyce Meyer says, “It’s so important to realize that every time you get upset, it drains your emotional energy. Losing your cool makes you tired. Getting angry a lot messes with your health.”

On almost any given day, there will be problems that trigger emotions that pull people away from where they need to be. Many have a tendency to overreact to these problems, losing valuable emotional energy on them. Instead of getting upset and angry, seek out solutions to those problems and take action. Make a shift in mindset and energy to seeking solutions and taking action—a much better way to control emotions. Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler Motors said, “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

For the Christian, prayer is always an excellent, positive first step in attempting to deal with problems in which you have zero control. In fact, prayer should always be our “go to” response when we encounter difficulties. I know I can always run to the Father when I feel like life is out of control. When nothing I am doing or could do will make a positive impact to turn the situation around,

I know God can take care of it. We serve an awesome, all-powerful, all-knowing God. Nothing is too big for Him. Nothing catches Him by surprise. He promises those who seek Him will find Him. “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7 NIV).

Another helpful suggestion I have about emotional control is the practice of meditation. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation has done wonders for me. Now, anytime I become stressed, I find myself doing these breathing exercises and not holding onto the stress within my body. I attempt to release it as fast as possible through these breathing exercises. A calm confidence replaces my stress and I am able to deal with problems in a positive way.

Successful people have learned how to handle their emotions. They have learned how to channel negative, energy-depleting emotions into positive action. This flips the whole equation around and gives them more energy. Gaining emotional control will result in more high-energy, high-impact days. Paulo Coelho said, “When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It’s very simple.”

Strategy #5: Control Your Sexual Urges

Sexual energy is a lot bigger deal than people realize. Or, they realize it’s a big deal but don’t want to discuss it. Sex is one of those weird issues people often don’t want to meet head on within the Christian community.

I debated for quite some time if I should include this section in this post. The more I thought about it, though, the more I believe in the importance of sexual energy. How sexual energy is used impacts energy management. This section will not be for the faint of heart, but I will attempt to not be too graphic either. I do believe the topic needs to be discussed, though, in light of an overly sexualized culture. I have extended a warning!

God designed human beings as sexual creatures. He gave them a sex drive for specific reasons. He wants His people to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28, NLT). He created human beings with sexual desires for pleasing spouses, as well as for personal enjoyment.

However, western culture is over-sexed. Sex whenever and with whomever one wants has become the norm. Sex education begins at an early age in the public school system. Students can get free condoms at school. Because of the relative anonymity of online pornography, porn addiction has become a huge problem as well. Twenty-first century technology combined with mankind’s lust-driven sin nature has not been a good combination for anyone.

Unfortunately, Christians are not immune from this over-sexed culture, either. In many ways, I believe Christians may have more challenges in this area. The majority of believers do (possibly) believe God’s Word teaches sexual activity outside of marriage is sin. Whether they practice this belief, though, is a whole other issue. This is why so many believers carry around a lot of struggles, hang-ups, hurts, and guilt when it comes to sex, singleness, marriage, divorce, and re-marriage.

As a Christian man who has had his own unique challenges in this area, I have noticed a big difference in quality and quantity of sexual energy as I have moved into mid-life over the last several years. As this shift has occurred, I’ve also realized how high testosterone levels and enraging pent-up frustrations have drained me of much life energy I had when I was a teenager and young adult.

The challenge for younger Christian men and women who may be over-sexed is how to deal with their sexual energy in a positive way. From my own personal experience, I know it’s a huge challenge. I may have more questions than answers in this area.

Now that I’m entrenched in mid-life (at the time of this writing I’m 46), the sexual energy/hormone issue is not as much of a challenge as it was when I was a younger man. My life energy is more calm, stable, and focused. This has been a freeing experience in and of itself.

Let me add here that sexual drive is important and vital to a productive, successful life, especially for men. A man’s libido is the driving force that propels them to do anything and everything. A focused love/sex life in a monogamous relationship between a husband and wife is what has created thriving civilizations and cultures around the world. Comparing cultures that have thrived over a period of time versus those that have struggled, one key factor for those cultures that have flourished is: monogamous marriages between men and women.

In his classic book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill talked about the “transmutation of sexual energy.” He mentioned that men of genius used their sexual energy to fuel their creativity. Equally important, though, is the fact that the sexual relationship must include love.

Napoleon Hill says, “Sex, alone, is a mighty urge to action, but its forces are like a cyclone—they are often uncontrollable. When the emotion of love begins to mix itself with the emotion of sex, the result is calmness of purpose, poise, accuracy of judgment, and balance.”

To be successful, happy, and fulfilled, figure out a way to channel all sexual energy into a focused path. The best and most focused path is to love a spouse and engage with them in a physical relationship on a regular basis. Be completely devoted to them in meeting their physical needs and not obsessed with meeting personal needs outside of this relationship.

For those who are unmarried, the challenge becomes greater but not impossible. I’ve known several people who have remained unmarried, yet (at least on the surface) appear successful because they have a singular, focused pursuit in which to release their sexual energy. This focused pursuit could be a hobby (such as music), their occupation, or a life goal accomplishment.

Control sexual urges. Marry the right person. Love that person wholeheartedly, and meet their needs. Transmute sexual energy to fuel creativity. Then, go out in the world and do amazing things with focused energy!

The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.

According to Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams, Morning Habits Are A Key To Financial Abundance

Photo by David Kelly

Photo by David Kelly

[The information shared in this post can be found in Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams Has Morning Habits

Scott Adams is the creative cartoonist who came up with the “Dilbert” comic strip. He has done many interviews with online magazines and podcasts about his own unique morning routines.

Several years ago, Mr. Adams created a morning routine in which he could manifest his best, most creative work in the early morning hours. Now, he is the first to admit that he isn’t always creative during this time. He structures his morning schedule in such a way, though, to allow himself to get into a creative state if possible. Adams says, “Creativity is not something you can summon on command. The best you can do is set an attractive trap and wait. My mornings are the trap. I wait for the ideas to arrive at their leisure, like a hunter in a duck blind. And in order for the trap to work, I exercise tight control over my physical environment.”

Scott wakes up early each day, anywhere between 3:30 and 5:00 a.m. His first twenty minutes of the day are always the same. He makes it to his home office desk within ten minutes of waking up. He then sits down, eats a protein bar, and drinks a cup of coffee to be energized for the morning.

After eating, he then “primes the creative pump” with positive news. His favorite news source is Business Insider. He claims they have a good mix of business and technology, which is the perfect fit for the “Dilbert” comic strip.

He says that four hours of creative time each morning flies by. He hardly notices the clock, and by 10:00 a.m. he states that he has written “two ‘Dilbert’ comics, a blog post, a few experimental comics posted on Twitter, four clever tweets, a ‘Dilbert’ movie scene, and an email about a new idea for my startup team at CalendarTree.com.

By late morning, Adams finds he has spent his creative energies. As he approaches lunchtime, he prepares to go workout at the gym. He will repeat the same routine the next day.

Photo by Dennis Amith

Photo by Dennis Amith

Do The “Big Rocks” First!

In Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey gives us the well-known illustration of the glass jar. In this example, you take a large clear container and attempt to fit water, sand, pebbles, rocks, and then several large rocks. In this visual illustration, Covey demonstrates that in order for everything to fit in the jar, it must be put in the jar in descending order: large rocks first, followed by smaller rocks, then pebbles, sand, and water. This illustration is a visual representation of our daily schedules. In order to accomplish the “big rocks” in life (in Covey terminology, the important but not urgent), important items must be scheduled first before all the smaller stuff crowds them out.

In the life of Scott Adams, we see the “big rocks” principle at work. Adams knows exactly what he needs to do in his creative work life to be successful and generate the income he needs to accomplish his goals. He has engineered his entire morning routine to complete all those important tasks before anything else gets done in his day.

Life Circumstances Created My Own Morning Habits

A few years ago, I went through a process of establishing a regular morning routine. My routine came about as a result of going through one of the absolute worst experiences in my entire life.

Professional counselors have ranked divorce as the second most stressful life event. According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory it carries a stress level of 73 out of 100. I can testify from personal experience that this statistic is true.

During this challenging time in my life, I dove deep into an early morning routine just to keep my sanity! I would usually wake up around 5:00 am and spend some time reading through my Bible. Then, I would spend time on my knees in prayer, asking God to bring healing to an impossible situation. After that, I would spend time writing a couple of pages in a journal about my problems and personal journey. I would wrap up my morning routine with writing blog posts on my first Christian personal finance blog.

My own experience with establishing a solid morning routine for the last seven years has been nothing but positive. I am more productive and focused in every area of my life, including the spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and financial. By setting aside time in the early morning hours, I am also working on my major life goals with intentionality and consistency.

I believe practicing these morning habits on a consistent, daily basis over time will produce amazing results in all areas of life. I can testify that these routines are just as critical to financial success as a well-diversified retirement portfolio.

Having a solid, purposeful morning routine will propel a person on a path to successful living that translates to every area of life.

[The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

5 Ways to Achieve Critical Mass Momentum Like The Kansas City Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Momentum.

It’s one of those aspects of life that is very difficult to quantify.

When an individual or an organization achieves momentum, how in the world are they able to accomplish that?

At the time of my writing this article, my hometown baseball team the 2014 Kansas City Royals have been able to achieve somewhat of a miracle for their franchise. For the first time in 29 years, the Royals have finally been able to make postseason play. The last time they made the playoffs was the year they won the championship in 1985.

The Royals were off to a great start at the beginning of this season but lost their way in June and July when they fell 8 games behind the Detroit Tigers. But since July 22, the Royals have been on a 41-23 tear that landed them a spot in the American League Wildcard game with the Oakland A’s. And now, the rest is history, at least up to the point of my writing this on October 8. The Royals have won their last four postseason games in a row.

So how has a wildcard team, a come from behind team such as the Royals, been able to accomplish great things over the last few months? Simply put, they are riding a tremendous wave of momentum.

But how did this momentum happen? How have the Royals been able to manufacture momentum while other perhaps “better” teams have not been equally successful?

Here are my thoughts on how some teams are able to achieve momentum while others are not.

5 Ways The Royals Have Achieved Momentum

  1. They posses team unity. A few days ago, I was watching the ALDS series with the Royals and Angels, and one of the commentators mentioned that what made the Royals unique was the fact that this ball club is not a collection of superstar players like other teams. The Royals seem to be able to check their egos at the door and do whatever they need to do for their team to win. Sometimes superstar players have a way of making decisions that benefit themselves and not necessarily the team. If you want momentum, focus on the team and less on yourself.
  2. They are focused on their strengths: speed, defense, pitching, and bullpen. These are the core strengths of the KC Royals. They are not big home run hitters. Most of their games have low scores because they are not the best offensive players. But, they also understand if they excel in their strengths, they don’t necessarily need a lot of runs to win ball games.
  3. They are working hard. Left fielder Alex Gordon is somewhat of a legend for his passion, desire, and work ethic. It is well-known that Gordon often arrives to the ballpark before even the coaching staff gets there. He has “heart and hustle” and helps the team every way he possibly can.
  4. They benefited from excellent timing. Many times, momentum builds completely on the “luck” of good timing as has happened with the Royals. But who knows. Perhaps the timing has been right because the team has put in the hard work and focused on their strengths? Maybe it’s more than just “luck.”
  5. They are having fun! You can tell the Royals are really enjoying this season. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain recently said, “We’re going to enjoy it, going to have a blast, and hopefully we can just celebrate like this. This is awesome.”

Questions: Have you ever been part of a team that experienced a tremendous surge of momentum? What would you attribute that surge to? Are you a Royals fan? Am I missing any other big reasons why the Royals have done well this season?

Feel free to leave a blog comment for me and join the conversation.

3 Career Course Corrections To Propel You Farther, Faster In The Information Age

Photo by Don Urban

Photo by Don Urban

Turning Back The Clock

If you had a time machine, what would you do with it?

Would you go back to see historical events in real-time? Would you go back to see what your parents or grandparents were like as children? Would you rush ahead to the future to see what life is like in 25 years?

For some unknown reason, I was contemplating this question the other day. I believe I know exactly what I would do with a time machine.

I would attempt to go back to when I was 18 years old and explain to my younger self what the world is like in the future. I would also give myself a better, faster, more elegant path to achieve career success.

I would be my own best mentor. I would give myself the following advice.

The information age is dominated by people who have a specific skill set and connections. To me, these are the folks who seem to be the most successful in their careers. They dare to do the things that other people dislike to do.

I’m talking about people such as Michael Hyatt, Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn, Dave Ramsey, and the late Steve Jobs.

And, what do all these people have in common? They are creative. They are excellent communicators. They are skilled at writing blog posts and influential books. They are podcasters (or traditional radio personalities). They produce popular YouTube videos. They are dynamic public speakers. They have developed important mentor and industry relationships that have propelled them farther, faster.

These leaders have embraced the key aspects of being successful in the information age and have been highly rewarded for it.

A Change In College Focus

Now that I’m in mid-life looking back at my college experience and present calling, if I could back up and do it all over again, I believe I would take a different path that would have perhaps gotten me where I now want to go, faster.

You see, when I originally attended college in the late 80s and early to mid-90s, I went a very specialized route – music performance and education.

With this specialized knowledge and experience, I believe I have been relatively successful and enjoy what I have the opportunity to do each week. I’m grateful for God’s blessing in my life in this area. I know other musicians and creative-types who have gone the music school route and have struggled to make a living at what they do.

Observing our current culture and the direction it’s heading, though, I would make the following course corrections if I could go back in time. If I were to mentor a younger person now, these are the areas I would encourage them to pursue for (potentially) greater and faster career success.

3 Course Corrections For Future Career Growth

  1. Personal Relationships: This is a key area of life I wish I was better in. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would definitely be way more proactive in seeking out mentoring relationships with people who are successful in these critical career areas.
  2. Writing Skills: I would spend more time studying the skill of writing and spend more of my available free time developing this critical skill. I would start a personal blog as early as possible. I would attempt writing books at an earlier age as well.
  3. Presentation Skills: I would have joined a Toastmasters Club at an earlier age, maybe take acting classes, worked on video presentations, and read more books on the craft of public speaking.

Why These Areas?

So, why would I even want to go back and tackle these specific areas?

Partly due to the fact that these are the areas people claim they hate and are frightened to pursue.

I always hear statements from various people like, “well, Larry, I’m not really a writer and don’t enjoy it at all.” I also hear statements such as “I always get so nervous standing before a group and giving presentations. I hate public speaking.”

All I can say from personal experience is that I have had similar thoughts to these as well. But, I have found that the more I attempt to do these uncomfortable skills, the more I seek out information and training on how to do a better job, the better and the more comfortable I get.

Isn’t it amazing how that works?

The big picture, though, is once you are able to get comfortable in these areas, the more of a connection you are able to make with people, and the greater the contribution you are able to have in people’s lives. This should be the ultimate payoff for us, anyway – connection and contribution.

Questions: What do you think of these three specific areas for greater, faster career success? Agree or disagree? Have you found yourself backing up and working on these areas to move forward in your career like I have?

A New Concept In Successful Living

Photo by TheTaxHaven

Photo by TheTaxHaven

A Doctor Reveals The Secret

Turn your head and cough.

Yeah, it was that magical time, once again, with my doctor. A few years ago, I had just turned 40, and I needed to go in for a physical evaluation, just to make sure everything in my body was still up to factory specs.

As he and I were sitting in the examination room going through my medical history, he told me I was a boring patient.

I was like, “Geez, thanks a lot, doc.”

Fortunately, he meant it as a compliment.

He told me that in the medical profession he loves boring patients – individuals who are proactively taking care of themselves physically and not engaging in risky behaviors.

I said, “Yup, that’s me. I’m about as vanilla as they come.”

Boring Means Successful

The more I have thought about my doctor’s statement, though, the more I have considered the importance of this as a life philosophy.

I also started thinking about successful people and their daily routines and rituals.

The successful people I know are extremely disciplined, proactive, routine-driven, and not given over to “cray cray.”

Yeah, there are a few exceptions to the rule such as successful, business people types who “party like it’s 1999” and can (sort of) keep their life stuff together, but that’s pretty rare.

The Success Habits Of The Boring

The successful boring people out there have several boring habits.

Maybe that’s a big part of why they are successful.

They wake up early. They engage in personal quiet time, prayer, or meditation. They journal. They write down and review their goals on a regular basis. They focus on two or three important tasks a day that only they can accomplish that will move their career or business forward. They work on the hardest projects, first. They fight hard against procrastination.

They delegate additional activities to others in order to stay focused on their vital few. They eat right. They exercise. They stay on top of their personal finances. They and their spouses are on the same page when it comes to business, finances, and their family. They enjoy spending time with their spouses and children.

They invest all of their time and energy into activities and processes that make a difference.

Now, how corny and square are all these activities? The majority of people on planet earth probably laugh at these type of people and call them “nerds.”

To the successful, though, these activities aren’t boring. They’re actually exciting.

So, if boring works so amazingly well, why aren’t more of us this boring?

Questions: Are you boring and successful in life? If so, what boring activities do you engage in that you would give credit for your success?

Featured Guest Post At XPastor.org: 7 Suggestions For Better Meetings

XPastor.orgI’m pleased to announce that I had a new guest post go live this week over at XPastor.org.

Post Title: Meetings Are Lame: 7 Suggestions On Making Them Better

Summary: In this post, I discuss the impact of poorly organized and executed meetings on any organization. I give 7 suggestions for making them better, such as:

  • Consider holding only afternoon meetings.
  • Create an agenda for each meeting.
  • Appoint a leader in charge of the meeting.
  • Announce a distraction free zone.
  • Start and end on time.
  • Create an action items list.
  • Delegate tasks within the meeting.

Read this and more over on my guest post at XPastor.org.

Thank you to Dr. David Fletcher and his team for utilizing my post!






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Who Else Wants More Out Of Life?

Photo by gfpeck

Photo by gfpeck

Put In. Get Out.

“You get out of it, what you put into it.”

Have you ever heard this little phrase before? A friend reminded me of this saying several weeks ago.

This quote is so true, AND, it’s a truth that applies to just about anything and everything in your life.

The problem I see is that most people want to coast through most things in their life. They want to put in as little as possible. They want everything handed to them on a gold platter because they deserve it, but they aren’t willing to work hard and go after it.

Now, I’m all for achieving maximum results with minimal effort. Working smarter not necessarily harder is my mantra. But there are going to be areas of our life that we’re just going to need to put the time and energy into in order to get anything meaningful in return.

The amazing thing that happens, though, is putting yourself out there doesn’t necessarily mean that all your energy is zapped out of you. Putting yourself out there can actually be an energizing experience.

Instead of thinking yourself as a battery being drained of power, think of yourself more in terms of an alternator or generator. Energy is put in and energy is released. It’s a win/win all around.

Areas To Put In

Do you want to have a deep walk with the Lord? You’re going to need to spend a lot of time in Bible reading and prayer. You need to be actively involved in your local church. You need to have a missions mindset.

Do you want to have a great relationship with your spouse and children? You’re going to need to put a lot of time and energy into those relationships. You need to get home in time to have family dinner around the table. You need to schedule date nights with your spouse. You need to love and nurture your kids.

Do you want to be a superstar employee in your workplace? You’re going to have to put in a little extra time and energy into your position. You need to grow in your leadership skills. You need to take on some projects that will take you and your organization to the next level.

You get out of anything in life, what you put into it.

I’ve Decided To Put More In

I can confidently proclaim this truth, because I’m learning it through firsthand experience in another organization outside of the four walls of my current church position. You see, almost a year ago, I joined a volunteer group in my community to learn and grow in the areas of leadership and communication. Yes, I’m putting quite a bit of time and energy into this group, but I’m also getting a TON out of it, too. I was even voted on (probably more like drafted!) to become an officer in the group. Being a part of this organization has been a real blessing in my life. Has it been easy? No, not really. Has it been worth it? Most definitely!

So, what do you want out of life? Do you want to just coast along and go with the flow? Or, do you want to really dig in and grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and musically? For me, personally, I pick growth, every time.

You get out of life what you put into it.

Question: What are you willing to put into your life in 2014?






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3 Areas I’m Fighting Back Against Clutter In The New Year

Photo by Basial

Photo by Basial

The Expansion of Clutter

Clutter. Similar to the shark in the movie Jaws, you know it’s always lurking around in your home. You may not see it immediately, but you know that it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with sooner than later.

Over time, clutter just builds up and expands. The more people living in the home, especially families with small children, the more stuff is accumulated. And, of course, the holiday season is the worst time of year for accumulating a whole new pile of additional stuff through Christmas gifts.

Worst case scenario of clutter: you end up on an TV episode of Hoarders.

I came back from my own Christmas holiday break this year on a mission: declutter my life. It’s time to get rid of junk and reorganizing my physical spaces (home and office) as well as digital world (computer files, email, etc.). I kind of go through this manic problem once or twice a year.

So What?

So, who really cares about clutter anyway? What’s the big deal if we have stuff piling up around us on a continual basis?

Here are a few great quotes that synthesize the unique problem of clutter and the ultimate benefits of a clutter-less lifestyle:

“I hate belongings. I hate clutter. It really bothers me because I can’t think properly. If you’ve got distractions in front of you, your mind goes nuts.” – Simon Cowell

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.” – Eleanor Brownn

“The wonderful, beautiful thing that happens when you rid yourself of the things that don’t see your worth? You make space in your life for all the glorious things you deserve.” – Mandy Hale

We can’t think properly because it is a distraction. It does not support your better self. Losing the clutter makes room for better, more glorious things in our life.

3 Areas In The Battle Against Clutter

Here are my three areas I’m currently waging war in my battle against the enemy of clutter:

  1. Clearing Out Drawers and Closets. We can all get a little lazy when it comes to keeping our homes clean and organized. We randomly toss clothes, shoes, and accessories into drawers and closets during busy, hectic days. Pretty soon, we have a disorganized mess on our hands. We also accumulate clothing items that we don’t and won’t wear any more. Time to clear out and bag up those items and give them away to your favorite local charity.
  2. Tackling The Dreaded Inbox. In our modern society, digital clutter – emails and other files – are a new form of hoarding that takes place in our lives. Well, hoarding may be an extreme word to use, but our digital world has added a whole other layer to our lives that needs to be cleared out and organized on a regular basis. Right now, I’m trying to attack my email problems at the source by unsubscribing from email lists that I no longer find useful in my life. Also, if we attempt to only “handle” and immediately deal with each email once and then delete it, that should help reduce clutter as well. Also, consider going through hard drives and cloud drives to delete unneeded files; reorganize needed files into a clear structure of various folders.
  3. Fighting Back Against Junk Mail. At one time in my life, a few years back, I thought I had a handle on my junk mail issues, and then over the last two years, I feel like my junk mail has returned with a vengeance. In the 2008, 2010 version of Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey gives proactive advice on how to decrease unauthorized direct mail marketing. If you own this particular workbook, check out p. 89 or click-through now to this web page. I just re-registered myself on these opt out websites in order to cut down on my daily mail clutter!

Question: Do you have any helpful tips in dealing with physical and digital clutter? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave me a comment.

Focus On The Line Of Your Life, Not The Dots

Photo by robinparmar

Photo by robinparmar

Inspired Musical Performance

As a musician, it’s easy for me and other music-types to get hung-up on technique. We try really hard to play the right notes at the right time at the right pitch. We think we have achieved success if we can nail that musical trifecta and then stick the landing!

While technique is vitally important to achieving a successful music performance, we’re definitely missing the boat as musicians if that’s our only concern. The purpose of performing any piece of music is to communicate the intended interpretation of the composer. We need to consider the overall line, shape, musical structure, and phrasing. We need to be more interested in communicating the message of the music rather than playing a technically perfect rendition of the song.

The greatest musicians of all time have been able to detach themselves from their performance technique and communicate the message of the music. They have inspired us with beautiful performances that have transcended the written notes on the page. These musicians passionately touch our lives in amazing ways.

Your Greatest Performance: Living Life

I believe several analogies can be drawn between musical performance and our own life performance.

As with too much focus on musical technique, so too can we get hung up on the proper technique of living our lives. We get focused on the individual points of our lives, instead of connecting these dots into an incredible life line that communicates an amazing message to those around us.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.

When I speak of the “individual points” of our lives, I’m mostly talking about those BIG life events that we think about being able to accomplish: graduating high school, graduating college, establishing your career, getting married, having 2.5 children, getting those children raised, socking enough money in IRA’s to retire, retiring, traveling the world, crawling into the casket, and passing away.

What happens, though, when we get focused on the technique, the main points of our lives?

A number of things can happen. We can lose sight of the big picture of our lives. We can get bogged down in one area (such as finishing college – I know I did!). We can desire the act of marriage so much that we lose sight of our life line and marry the wrong person. We can get so worked up about putting enough money away for retirement that we’re working too hard in a job in which we feel unhappy and unfulfilled.

So, what if we flipped this whole life process around? What if we started living out the line of our lives instead of getting hung up on these individual parts of our lives?

Focus On The Line

The best way to overcome this point-by-point, event-by-event living is to stay focused on the line – your unique path to your ultimate, desired destination.

Stephen Covey called this type of thinking, “Beginning with the end in mind.” This is visionary, possibility thinking.

Have you ever sat down and figured out your life destination, where you intentionally want to end up? In your mind, you may have a general idea, but have you purposely crafted a statement of life intention? Have you created an extraordinary vision that you are running toward each and every day?

Perhaps you desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren! How amazing would that be?

So, how are you going to get to there? How would you live if this was your desired destination?

I can just about guarantee you won’t get there if you’re out partying each weekend, you and your spouse fight constantly, and your family is an absolute train wreck. In this situation, your daily actions don’t line up with your intended life destination. So you’re going to need to stop and spend a little time on your life technique so your life can play out to its intended conclusion.

Fix Your Technique

Let’s go back to my example above and think through the technique on how to possibly accomplish the following life statement:

“I desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren!”

  • Part 1: “I desire to live to age 100.” [Personal note: I recognize that our time here on earth is totally in the hands of Almighty God (James 4:14). This is still a vision that we can live toward]. So, does your lifestyle currently support your being able to live a mostly healthy life to age 100? If not, what needs to change today in order for you to live into the possibility of age 100? Do you need to change your diet, start exercising, and get yearly physicals?
  • Part 2: ” … and be the reigning patriarch …” Are you a strong leader in your family? How do treat your spouse and children? Are you a servant leader to your family? What do you need to do, who do you need to become in order to be the respected leader within your immediate and extended family?
  • Part 3: ” … of a an amazingly large, Christian family …” Are you strong in your own walk with Christ? Does your walk match your talk? Are you in the Word and in prayer on a consistent basis? Is weekly church attendance a priority? Can you look your family members in the eyes and say with the confidence of the Apostle Paul, “follow me as I follow the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Work on your life technique just like a musician would, but also don’t forget to play the song of your life with everything you’ve got! Have a vision and live toward that vision each day.

Questions: How is your “life song” playing out, today? Are you hung up on performing the right life techniques or are you focused on your life line and ultimate destination? Have you ever crafted a vision of intention for the ultimate destination of your life here on earth?

As we begin a new year, now is a great time to work on the line, the ultimate destination of what you desire to achieve in this life.

The Lost Art Of Pruning: How Cutting Out Dead, Unnecessary Stuff Can Lead To A Better Life

Photo by Pictoscribe

Photo by Pictoscribe

Taking Care Of The Fruit Trees

When I was a kid growing up, my family had a bunch of fruit trees in our yard. We had a few different types including apple, cherry, and even a pear tree. I remember my dad having this old, green tank sprayer which he attached to the back of his riding lawn mower. Then, he would drag that sprayer around and spray the fruit trees a couple of times a year in order to control the various insects that liked these fruit trees.

He not only sprayed the trees, but he also took time to prune the trees back. He owned this really long, telescoping pruning rod with a little saw and limb slicer. I believe he normally did this at least once a year, probably in late fall after the growing season was over.

Why Pruning?

The goal of pruning is to produce strong, healthy, attractive plants. There are a number of reasons to prune your trees:

  • Pruning for safety. An example of this would be pruning back low hanging branches that may injure someone.
  • Pruning for health. An example of this would be pruning out all the dead, deformed, and diseased branches in a tree.
  • Pruning for aesthetics. Sometimes trees grow into strange, uneven shapes. You can use various pruning techniques to make trees more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The pruning practices for tree growth can just as easily apply to our own lives as well.

Pruning Principles For Life Growth

As time moves forward each day, month, and year, we grow in our personal lives. Stuff gets added into our home schedules. Work responsibilities increase. We may even add more children to our families. Our kids add-on more extra-curricular activities. Our churches add more ministries and associated events.

For some reason, our society seems to think that more is better. So, more and more stuff gets loaded on our plates, or we just plain get handed more plates to spin.

We start looking like gnarly, unhealthy, odd-shaped trees!

The safety, health, and aesthetics of our lives are now in jeopardy. We are life accidents waiting to happen. These increasingly busier lives are completely unsustainable. Something has to and will give at some point.

We get sick so that we’re forced to rest. A project at work that normally would be a slam dunk falls apart, and our job is now in question. We receive a bad report from the doctor so that we’re forced to slow down and examine our lives. Our children begin rebelling because we never get to spend quality and quantity time with them because everyone has way too much going on.

So, then what happens? Everything comes to a complete standstill – our lives, families, work, and church engagement – as we deal with the crisis.

We stop. We fix the problem (or, so we believe, anyway). We resume all the activity all over again. Nothing really changes, though.

An emergency crisis takes place next year, and we begin the cycle all over again.

Something has to change. We need to take out our pruning shears and saws and cut out the dead and unnecessary stuff in our lives. For our own health, safety, and maybe even aesthetics, we sometimes need to cut back to the bare essentials to have a life that works. The end result is a life that has been properly maintained and prepared for stronger growth in the future.

Assuming you have some downtime this holiday season, I would encourage you to take some time to examine and prune your life for a better year in 2014. We have the potential to grow stronger, faster as a result of the trimming back.

Questions: Is your life out of control? Are you spinning way too many full plates right now? Have you taken the time to fully assess where you are? What needs to be pruned out of our life? What are the core essentials that need to stay in place?