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.

When You Visualize Success, You Can Achieve Success

Photo by Fortune Live Media

Photo by Fortune Live Media

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

Sara Blakley and Spanx

Sara Blakely may not be a familiar name in the average American home. Some of the products she has created for women, though, would be recognized through her company called Spanx. As a young woman, Sara pursued several different business opportunities that were not working out for her. Before starting her own company, she was selling fax machines door to door. Sara recalls that this time in her career was a great learning experience for her. She learned how to handle rejection through hearing lots of “no’s.” She also learned how to get to a “yes” as well. The art of the sale was a valuable lesson she learned as she finally launched her own company. She also learned another valuable lesson—visualizing becoming successful.

Photo by Mike Mozart

Photo by Mike Mozart

Blakey says she could see her business succeeding from the beginning. She visualized herself being the successful owner of Spanx. Blakely says, “I believe you can take mental snapshots of your future and what success looks like to you. If you mentally see yourself in a scenario, you’ll start to make decisions in your life that get you there.”

Sara Blakely thinks differently than most people. As a result, Forbes Magazine has recognized her as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.

Wealthy People Think Differently

Wealthy people think differently at many different levels. I’m not talking about the NBA basketball player who has the $10 million crib with ten expensive cars parked out front, either. One could make the argument that many professional sports athletes handle their money like poor people who have won the lottery. But, I digress.

Photo by Emma Lopez

Photo by Emma Lopez

When I mention wealthy people, I’m talking about people who have learned to generate income through the purchase of assets and not liabilities. This is the classic Robert Kiyosaki definition that he outlines in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The world has too many people running around today who appear wealthy. If one dug down into their finances, though, they would find they are actually quite poor. They have too many liabilities and not enough assets that generate income for their families.

Wealthy People Ask Questions

Rich thinking doesn’t mean driving a hoopty and living in a double-wide trailer while being the rental house king in our respective city with thousands of dollars in savings and investments. But before signing up for a book of payments on a $40,000 SUV or buying a $750,000 mortgage for the most expensive house in a great neighborhood, many questions should be asked. Wealthy people ask themselves money questions, such as:

  • Am I buying assets or liabilities?
  • Is this the best use of my money right now?
  • Is there a better place or better opportunity to leverage my money?
  • Do I need this particular item right now?
  • Is this a true need or a want?
  • What is the wisest thing I could do with this money, today?

For the Christian who is attempting to live according to these principles, this adds another layer of spiritual thinking. Additional questions could include:

  • Would God be pleased with this purchase? Why or why not?
  • Will this purchase impact my level of giving in the future?
  • Have I prayed about this purchase, or am I engaged in a worldly mindset?
  • Is this the absolute best use of God’s money?
  • If I make this purchase, would God be able to say to me, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”? Why or why not?

There are several key differences between the rich and poor concerning financial thinking. Wealthy people process money information, ask themselves a lot of questions, and seek the wise counsel of others they trust. Poor people follow the poor money habits of the majority of people around them. The poor make emotional purchases based on popular opinion and feelings instead of an overriding financial plan.

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

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.]

How To Deal With An Inescapible Role That You Don’t Really Want To Fill

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Funeral Minister For A Day

He’s dead?

There’s no way that could have happened. He’s still relatively young!

These are the thoughts I had a few weeks ago when I learned that one of my former church orchestra members had past away in his sleep.

My friend had moved out-of-state a few years ago for a new job position, so I hadn’t seen him in quite some time. As the news sunk in and became reality for me, I thought about my friend and our relationship. I reflected back on my memories with him.

I was under the assumption that his funeral would be out-of-state where he currently lived, but then, the phone call came. His wife asked me to officiate his funeral here in town. They were shipping his body back in order to do a local funeral for all the family members. She told me that he would want me to officiate his service.

Deep down, I knew she was right.

[Gulp]

What do you say to a request such as that? A request way outside of your comfort zone.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of attending funerals, let alone officiating one for someone I know.

I’m Not Qualified

I have officiated several weddings, but only one funeral. That one funeral was relatively “easy” to officiate because I didn’t personally know the person who had passed away. I had no emotional connection.

But, with my friend, I did have an emotional connection. I knew this was going to be difficult for me to do.

So, how do you deal with a challenging, uncomfortable role such as this that you really don’t feel capable of fulfilling?

6 Thoughts On Filling A Role You Really Don’t Want To Fill

Here was my approach to filling this role that I was asked to do:

  1. Acknowledge the need. The family needed an officiant for the funeral. It would need to be me or another minister. Deep down, I knew my friend’s wife was right. I couldn’t argue with her. I knew that my friend would want me to officiate his service. I had to accept this role, even though it was going to be extremely uncomfortable and emotional for me.
  2. Be confident in whatever experience you do have to help you. The biggest argument I had against doing this service was lack of experience. I had only preached one other funeral several years ago. But how do you gain experience preaching funerals? There’s only one way, by preaching funerals. Yes, I do have public speaking experience. Yes, I have script writing experience. Putting together a funeral script and preaching that script may be challenging for me, but I know that I have enough experience to do this. Be confident in the abilities God has given you.
  3. Seek advice. As soon as I knew I was going to need to prepare this funeral service, I started emailing a couple of other pastors I know for advice. They gave me some great ideas, and I was off and running in getting the funeral script and service put together.
  4. Prepare heavily. I spent quite a bit of time writing and re-writing the funeral script. Then, I spent additional time reading through and practicing the script. I visualized myself standing before the family and his friends as I delivered the various elements of the service.
  5. Pray for strength. When I was in the car driving to the funeral that morning, I spent quite a bit of time praying to the Lord for supernatural strength. He provided exactly what I needed, when I needed it!
  6. Be Authentic. I’m an emotional guy. I’ve been this way since I was a small boy. I probably could have done a better job fighting back the tears as I preached my friend’s funeral, but I allowed myself to feel the emotions of losing him. I was really in tune with the words that were coming out of my mouth. I wept occasionally as I spoke. I was overcome with emotions. In many ways, I felt like a failure as a funeral minister, but I had several friends and family members approach me after the funeral saying what a wonderful job I did. People appreciate authenticity over “having your act together.” Isn’t it strange how that works?

Questions: Have you ever had to assume a role that you really didn’t want to do? Do you agree or disagree with my approach? What was your approach?

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?

Do You Have A Messed Up Life? How To Influence People’s Lives By Sharing Yours

Photo by Alan Levine

Photo by Alan Levine

I Was One Messed Up Trumpet Player

In the late 1980s, I was an undergraduate trumpet student at a prestigious music conservatory. My trumpet teacher at this school is a well-known principal trumpet of a major symphony orchestra. He is a very natural, incredible musician. In his trumpet career, he has never really encountered any personal playing problems.

I, however, have always struggled with a couple of different playing technique-related issues. My teacher at the music conservatory had no idea how to help me. At the time, he just didn’t have enough teaching experience to help me correct my trumpet playing problems. We struggled through two semesters in my sophomore year and nothing was helping. As a matter of fact, I was actually getting worse with each passing lesson.

After two difficult years in music school, I ended up dropping out defeated and discouraged. I ended up moving back home with my parents, applied at a local university, and changed my major to electrical engineering. I was done with music, altogether.

But then, I connected with a couple of different trumpet teachers who understood my playing problems and were able to help me tremendously. Because of their own personal playing problems, they brought a wealth of experience and knowledge into my trumpet lessons. As a result, I was able to move forward and be successful in my music career. To this day, I owe them a debt of gratitude and appreciation for their help in getting me back on track as a musician. I seriously doubt I would have enjoyed the life of an electrical engineer!

The more problems you have experienced and the more mistakes you have learned from actually makes you WAY MORE qualified to help others.

Experience Is Pure Gold

Interestingly enough, those of us in our 40s who have experienced some pretty horrific failures have the tendency to think we may have disqualified ourselves from being able to help others. We have this messed up view that we have to be “perfect” in order to dispense advice to others.

Believe it or not, the opposite is true.

The lessons learned from your own personal experience make you uniquely qualified to share and help others going through similar circumstances.

Sharing Is Caring

When you care, you share.

And, if you’re over 40, then chances are you have built up a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience.

By this stage in life, you have probably had several failures and a few successes. You generally have a firmer grasp on life than those who are younger than you. For the most part, you have entered life’s “sweet spot.” You have learned from your mistakes and are typically making better choices in your mid-life journey.

There are many younger people in the generations directly behind you who could learn a lot from your experience.

Why not grab some of the younger people in your sphere of influence, especially the ones who are really struggling right now, and take them out to lunch. Listen to their stories and share yours.

Maybe, just maybe, you can help someone in a generation behind you that nobody else can reach.

Question: What life experiences do you carry around inside of you that could possibly benefit others?






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How To Enjoy Life And Make A Greater Contribution In The Lives Of Others

Photo by John Catbagan

Photo by John Catbagan

The Starfish Story

This story has been around for some time. Perhaps you’ve heard it before? In any case, I believe this story sets up this post well.

Strolling along the edge of the sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm out in an arc. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish, and she is throwing them one by one into the sea. He lightly mocks her: “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?” Smiling, she bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water, saying serenely, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”

The Impact Of A Book

Have you ever read a book, seen a TV interview, or perhaps watched an online video that causes you to have one of those “AHA” moments? You know, when a light bulb goes off in your mind and you feel like a major shift in your thinking has taken place?

This happened for me about 7-8 months ago, when I watched a Youtube video of an orchestra conductor named Ben Zander and then read his book “The Art of Possibility.” You can read my book review on “The Art of Possibility” here.

In several chapters of his book, Ben discusses some of his challenges of being a conductor of a volunteer orchestra. As I continued to read through the book, I kept having these “Aha” moments of realization and learning.

For a large portion of his life, Ben Zander struggled with the drive to be to be successful as well as a fear of failure. He claims that this struggle caused both himself and those around him considerable suffering. The greater his success as an orchestra conductor, the worse this tension became in his life.

The tipping point for Ben came when his second wife walked away from their marriage. He began re-thinking how he was “doing life.”

He came away with the realization that he was living a life of selfishness. He was more inward focused on his own success. When being inward focused, he had more of an attitude that there was always another orchestra – aside from the one he was currently conducting – that he suspected would bring him more success, and so he was never fully present when he was on the conductor’s podium.

When he began playing the game of contribution, on the other hand, he found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one he was with; in fact, there was no “better.” In the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you can be a contribution to the lives of others.

A Shift Takes Place In My Thinking

This personally hit home with me about my own relationships within my family, as well as the volunteer orchestra I direct each week. I started asking myself questions about whether I was more interested in achieving success in my family or ministry, or am I truly more interested in living a life of contribution. This subtle but important shift in my mindset has (I believe) created a more enjoyable experience for those that I love and lead.

For example with the orchestra at church, in the past, I would get frustrated or upset with various problems such as excessive absenteeism for orchestra rehearsals on Wednesday nights as well as worship services on Sundays. My mindset before was too focused on having a successful orchestra and the roadblocks (in my mind) that my volunteer members were causing me to be a successful director.

Once I made this shift in my thinking, though, I started focusing on the orchestra members who decided to be present for a particular Wednesday rehearsal or Sunday worship service. I began realizing I could and should be a contribution in their lives spiritually, musically, and personally.

And you know what has happened? I’m enjoying my life and ministry a whole lot more by living a life focused on contribution rather than success versus failure. And, I hope those around me are enjoying life at a deeper level as well.

The Generous Life

Playing the game of contribution should really be of no surprise to those of us who are believers in Christ. The Bible has much to say about living a life of generosity versus selfishness.

In Proverbs 11:24-25 (MSG) we read these words:

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.

Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. Just like our starfish story at the beginning, don’t get overwhelmed and give up because you can’t help everyone. Focus on being a contribution to the few that you can be.

Questions: Are you living a tension-filled life based on a drive for success and a fear of failure? Is your life enjoyable or full misery? Do you need to consider a shift in mindset from success versus failure over to contribution?






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Learning To Speak The Language In The Land Of Personal Finance

Photo by Jes

Photo by Jes

Language Barriers

I felt like a fish out of water.

A few years ago, I traveled to the nation of Israel on a missions trip.

Yes, there were signs in English. And, yes, there were English-speaking people in Israel. But still, there was enough Hebrew, Arabic, and other European languages being spoken there that I was grasping at what I was hearing, trying to figure out important details about my journey.

The tour hosts and guides gave us some basic Hebrew words and their meanings, but that only took our little missions team so far. We were going to be there for two weeks and then fly home, so probably not very many of us took the Hebrew language very seriously.

We struggled through those language barriers as best we could and then flew back to the States. We were safely back in our English-speaking comfort zone.

What if I made a permanent move to Israel, though? What then? I don’t think faking it through the Hebrew language would do me any good. I would struggle for a very long time. I would be reliant others to translate important information.

The best step I could take would be to learn the language so that there would be no barriers between me and the Israeli people. A wise decision on my part would be to take language classes, listen to audio recording lessons, use computer software, and hire a tutor. Then, I would be completely immersed in that culture. I would not only survive, but I would thrive through knowing the language.

Financial Barriers

Just like a foreign language, personal finance has a “language” all its own.

Many people feel there are way too many barriers to this particular language, so they resort to faking it through their financial journey. They want to stick their fingers in their ears and shout “La, la, la … I can’t hear you” so they don’t have to deal with the foreign land of personal finance.

But, the land of personal finance is not a speedy, two-week trip. Whether we like it or not, our financial lives are the journey of a lifetime. We can choose to win or lose. All it takes is making the choice to win, setting goals, getting help, and learning this language called personal finance.

But, in the end, the majority of us don’t follow this path. We won’t win with our finances.

Lifetime Language Learning

Instead of fighting the language of personal finances, we need to spend a little time and money to learn this language. We need to get in a Crown Financial Bible Study. We need to buy an FPU kit and go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We need to read books such as The Wealthy Barber, The Automatic Millionaire, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and The Millionaire Mind.

We should know and understand software such as Quicken, and Excel. We should utilize online banking. We should take advantage of websites such as Mint.com. We should automate our finances as much as possible. We should seek out the advice and knowledge of financial professionals.

This is not a “one and done” kind of process, either. Learning the language of personal finance especially in today’s high-tech world needs to become a lifelong learning process. The tips and tricks of finance are constantly evolving. Yes, there are some basic, foundational principles that will never change, but there will be some other important high finance approaches that will change given shifts in the economy.

We all need to embrace the language of personal finance and make the choice to win with money.

Questions: Are you afraid to learn the language of personal finance? Why or why not? What steps are you taking now to stay current in your financial journey?






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7 Ways To Solve Problems At Work, In Ministry, And In Life

Photo by Donna Grayson

Photo by Donna Grayson

Quit Your Whining And Moaning

I used to whine and moan too much about problems at work.

I can look back over my last several years at work with a sense of guilt or shame about my complaining.

And, I’m not talking about problems that were outside of my sphere of influence or control. I’m talking about my day-to-day problems that any good leader encounters.

I would think to myself, “why can’t all these issues just resolve themselves or not even materialize in the first place. I’ve got better things to do with my time than deal with these petty problems.”

The reality is, though, that if you were hired into any kind of leadership role, you were hired to handle problems. You were hired to find creative solutions to your problems. You were hired to push through your problems and take your organization to the next level in spite of these problems.

Can you be proactive in mitigating these problems? Most definitely.

Wise leaders put systems in place to help prevent or at least soften the impact of certain levels of problems. Many problems, though, just come with the territory in your area of expertise.

3 Types of Problems

In my quest to deal with problems, I have found it helpful to mentally categorize these into three distinct types:

  1. Problems within your control. These are the types of problems where you feel like you have enough time, people, and resources to handle them.
  2. Problems that seem outside your control. These are the next level of problems that seem just beyond your comfort zone. Perhaps, you don’t feel like you have enough time, people, or resources to handle these challenges adequately. This is where you need to get creative in your problem-solving abilities. In my own personal leadership, this is where I believe I have grown the most in the last few years.
  3. Problems that are definitely out of your control. There will always be a few problems that will occur that are beyond your ability to fix. You just need to move forward and go on. If you feel like you have adequately planned, prepared, and done your best, then that’s all you can do.

How I Deal With Problems, Today

When I finally made that connection in my mind a few years ago that a big chunk of my leadership role is dealing with regular, ongoing problems, I could actually sort of calm down and relax about it all.

Do I enjoy having the problems? No, not really, but at least I now have a better understanding that when you’re dealing with volunteers and limited resources, you will have problems.

Stuff happens. You’ve gotta deal with it. So, this is how I have learned to deal with it.

  1. Lead from a position of strength. I can deal with most problems a lot better when I’m exercising daily, eating well, and getting adequate rest. My physical body is able to handle the stress better. Also, when my personal life is in order, such as with my relationships and my finances, I am in a healthy mental and emotional state to deal with work issues on a whole better level.
  2. Set expectations upfront. You can probably avoid a lot of problems on the front end by clearly stating your expectations with your team on the front end. Attempt to take a pre-emptive strike approach before the problems even begin.
  3. Relax. Take a deep breath. It will all work out somehow, some way. Many leaders tend to blow problems way out of proportion, at least I know that I struggle with this from time to time.
  4. Formulate a few solutions to your problems. List these solutions from best to worst.
  5. Work your list from best choice to last choice.
  6. Throw money at the problem. This is my “ace in the hole.” If I can’t get any traction with my list of solutions, then spending money will be my last option if necessary.
  7. Be vulnerable and open to suggestions from others. Occasionally, I will discuss my larger challenges with others. When I do this, I am amazed when they see solutions that I hadn’t even thought of! Graciously thank them for the idea and go see if you can make it work!

Question: How do you deal with problems in the workplace, in ministry, and in life?






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