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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Who Else Wants To Raise Children, Successfully?

Photo by Jose Roco

Photo by Jose Roco

My Daughter’s Essay Was An Important Reminder

“Well, Daddy, I wrote about you.”

My oldest daughter and I were having a quick phone conversation right after school about how her day went. I asked her my usual questions, “How was your day? Anything special happen at school?”

She probably told me that not much exciting happened. Then, I probably asked her a few more questions about some specific subjects. These questions led us into a conversation about an essay she had to write in one of her classes. The assignment was to write about a person you know who has set goals and accomplished them.

She chose to write about me!

Actually, I was somewhat taken back when she said this. A tear showed up in the corner of one eye. We’ve never had any kind of “official” conversation about goals or goal-setting that I can recall. I’ve never shared with her any of my life goals.

I have been a goal-setter pretty much my entire life, though. Somehow, my daughter picked this up from me without words. Over the last 13 years, she’s been observing my actions.

She then went on to tell me my list of goals that I had accomplished from her viewpoint as my daughter. I was totally blown away.

At the same time, I was also reminded that what we do in front of our children has a bigger impact than we truly realize.

Actions Speak Louder

We’ve probably heard this statement a million times, “actions speak louder than words” or “more is caught than taught.” I am still amazed, though, at the number of parents who don’t seem to understand that what they do in front of their kids each day makes a HUGE impression on them, way more than words do.

Your words either support your actions, or they contradict them. Unfortunately, I suspect that many parents have words and actions that are complete polar opposites.

Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit. They listen to what we say, but more importantly, they watch everything we do.

Get Into Alignment

If you struggle in this area of right words but wrong actions in front of your children, then there is no better time to change this aspect of your parenting than today.

The best time to make any kind of parenting change is now; not tomorrow, or when the sun, moon, and stars line up.

Start with a change in just one area. Begin by making just one single positive action in front of your children. Then when that takes hold as a habit over a few weeks, then add another positive action and follow the pattern.

Small changes over time have a greater success rate than trying to change everything about your parenting all at once.

Be sure your actions support the words you speak to your kids. Actions really do speak louder than words.

Questions: Do you struggle in this area of alignment between your words and actions with your children? If so, what small change could you begin with today that would make a huge impact on their development over time?






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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.

7 Components For A Solid Financial Foundation

Photo by jonathanpercy

Photo by jonathanpercy

Big Buildings Require Massive Foundations

One World Trade Center, the primary building that is replacing the twin towers that were destroyed in the attacks on 9/11, has been under construction since 2004. The architectural planning started well before that.

This new 104-story super-tall skyscraper is now the tallest building in the United States and Western Hemisphere as well as the fourth-tallest skyscraper in the world by pinnacle height. Its spire reaches a symbolic height of 1,776 feet as tribute to the year of the United States Declaration of Independence. This is one massive skyscraper.

Get this, though. The foundation for this huge building took several years to complete.

The foundation for One World Trade Center is some 70 feet below street level and required dynamite blasting down into solid bedrock.

The symbolic cornerstone of One World Trade Center was laid down in a ceremony on July 4, 2004, but further construction of the tower was stalled until 2006. Then, on November 18, 2006, 400 cubic yards of concrete were poured onto the foundation of the One World Trade Center, carried by as many as 40 trucks. The first steel beam was welded on to the building’s base on December 19, 2006.

On January 9, 2007, a second set of beams was welded to the top of the first set. Later in that year, the construction company completed a row of steel columns at the perimeter of the construction site. Two tower crane bases were erected, and by the end of 2007, the tower’s footings and foundations were nearly complete [Source: Wikipedia].

Before the beautiful steel and glass structure could rise high in the New York City skyline, a solid foundation for this large of building had to be created to support it. It took a lot of time, energy, resources, and money to build it. This was a carefully executed piece of the building plan. In no way did it happen on accident.

The foundation is the most critical component for building anything of importance, including a financial plan for your family. Get this part right, and a magnificent financial legacy can be created to give financial life to your family for generations into the future.

7 Components For A Solid Financial Foundation

  1. Commit to a plan that you will build something amazing! When the City and State of New York, the developer, and the architect decided to build a new skyscraper, they just didn’t start digging a hole in the ground, lay some concrete and steel beams, and put a building up. No, they spent years creating various architectural designs, drawings, and models. They created the plan, first, before anything else took place. Then, they committed the time, energy, and resources necessary to execute an amazing plan. The same is true for a financial plan. You and your family need to spend time and energy creating a vision of what you ultimately desire before anything else takes place.
  2. Resolve that you will do rich people stuff. Assuming you desire to create an awesome financial legacy that will last several years into the future, then you need to plan the way wealthy people do. You need to do rich people stuff. Rich people make several wise financial decisions. They have cash reserves on hand for emergencies. They avoid debt. They do monthly budget planning. They ask questions like “how much?” not “how much per month?” and so on.
  3. Put your estate planning in place. None of us know when we will pass away, and it would be foolish to set this piece of planning off to the side until we have the rest of our financial plan is in place. This layer of the foundation is critical and needs to be one of the first parts completed. For the sake of your family, please, please, please, don’t delay doing this part. Hire an attorney and get a state specific will completed, signed, and notarized as soon as possible.
  4. Give strategically. Giving is a part of any healthy financial plan. As a Christian, I believe that God should automatically receive my first 10% that goes to my local church. After you have laid a solid foundation for your financial plan, then you and your family can discuss giving beyond the tithe and where that additional giving should go.
  5. Build up an emergency cash reserve. An emergency fund of 3-6 months of expense cash is your “insurance policy” of sorts that will help you through life’s financial up and downs, such as illness, accidents, unanticipated large repairs, and job layoffs.
  6. Pay off your debt ASAP. The majority of wealthy people do not do debt, especially revolving lines of credit. Commit to getting out of debt as soon as possible in order to give your family an amazing financial legacy.
  7. Invest in your retirement savings. The sooner you can begin investing in your 401(k) and Roth IRA’s, the longer these accounts will have to grow through the magic of compound interest. Get moving!

Questions: How’s you financial foundation? Are you being strategic in laying a great one? Have you even given it that much thought? Is your current foundation strong enough to create and support an amazing financial structure in the near future?

3 Ways We Leave A Legacy, So Make It A Great One!

Photo from City of Boston Archives

Photo from City of Boston Archives

Legacy Building

What do all second term U.S. Presidents and failed, former Presidents have in common? They are all on a quest to build a unique legacy for which they will be remembered in the history books after they have passed away.

The reason I know this? At the time of this writing, we still have alive with us the longest surviving/retired former President and perhaps greatest example of legacy rebuilding: Jimmy Carter. Since leaving office in January 1981, Mr. Carter has been working extremely hard on rebuilding a failed Presidential, personal legacy. He has been busy doing amazing charity work with Habitat For Humanity. He also founded The Carter Center whose mission is “guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering; it seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.”

But, who can blame former President Carter for working so hard on building a better personal legacy post 1981? President Carter has been branded as one of the worst presidents, especially in recent history. Here’s how Wikipedia records his presidential legacy:

The Independent writes, “Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president.” While he began his term with a 66 percent approval rating, his had dropped to 34 percent approval by the time he left office, with 55 percent disapproving …

… His administration suffered from his inexperience in politics. Carter paid too much attention to detail. He frequently backed down from confrontation and was quick to retreat when attacked by political rivals. He appeared to be indecisive and ineffective, and did not define his priorities clearly. He seemed to be distrustful and uninterested in working with other groups, or even with Congress when controlled by his own party, which he denounced for being controlled by special interest groups. Though he made efforts to address many of these issues in 1978, the approval he won from his reforms did not last long.

In the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan projected an easy self-confidence, in contrast to Carter’s serious and introspective temperament. Carter’s personal attention to detail, his pessimistic attitude, his seeming indecisiveness and weakness with people were accentuated in contrast to Reagan’s charismatic charm and delegation of tasks to subordinates. Reagan used the economic problems, Iran hostage crisis, and lack of Washington cooperation to portray Carter as a weak and ineffectual leader. Carter was the first elected president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid.

Ouch! When Wikipedia writers write that about your Presidency, you would be busy rebuilding your legacy, too!

Good And Bad, We’re All Leaving A Legacy

Will President Carter really be able to ditch the legacy of his failed presidency? Unfortunately for him, no, he won’t. But, we will all be able to look back and see that he has done some amazing work after leaving office. He didn’t just roll over, give up, and go on vacation for the last 32+ years. He wanted to make a difference after leaving office, and he certainly has accomplished his mission.

All of us are leaving a legacy each day. Some days, I’m sure our legacy looks amazing. On other days, probably not so much. But, we all have a daily opportunity to leave a legacy to those around us through what we say, through what we do, and through what we give.

3 Ways To Leave An Amazing Legacy, Today

We leave a legacy by what we:

  1. SAY. Our words have an impact on those around us. Proverbs 15:1-2, 4 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” We have to be so careful with the words that come out of our mouths! Just remember that people will remember those words and attitudes behind your words. Maintain a positive, loving attitude with the words you choose! Also, related to this area, we live in an amazing time in history where we can leave our very own personal words to succeeding generations through written digital documents, as well as audio and video recordings. I don’t know about you, but I know little to nothing about my grandfathers and great-grandparents. I think it would be a really amazing to hear their voices and see them on a video recording. I would love it if they had compiled some Jones history in their personal journals. In today’s digital world, you have an amazing opportunity to leave a part of yourself to the next generation!
  2. DO. Our actions really do speak louder than our words. 1 John 3:17-18 tells us, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” It’s easy to tell people that we love them and that we’re praying for them. It’s hard, though, to take the time out of our busy schedules and help others. When we do, though, this is what people ultimately remember about us. Be proactive and take time today by loving others through your actions.
  3. GIVE. We will be remembered for what we gave while here on this earth: our time, our talents, and our treasure. Proverbs 13:22 states, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” If we claim to be a follower of Christ, then our lives should look like His. Our Lord was the ultimate giver; He gave His very life for us! Give of your time and energy to your spouse, kids, and friends. They will definitely recall the time you spent with them after you have gone on to be with the Lord. Give financially to your church and those in need. Also, be proactive in setting up your estate planning to give financially to both your earthly and spiritual families when you pass from this life to the next.

Questions: So, how’s your legacy building going? Like former President Jimmy Carter, have you been diligent in creating a better legacy?

The best legacy building happens proactively, on purpose. Don’t forget to both say AND do, today! Write stuff down regarding your family history. Compile all your writing journals, audio and video recordings and keep them in a secure location. Keep your legacy legal documents up to date. Leave an amazing legacy of love to those you leave behind.

5 Action Steps For Planning Ahead And Leaving Well

Photo by jimmedia

Photo by jimmedia

The Certainty of Death

One day, you are going to die. Ponder that statement for a moment.

None of us really like to think about or even talk about this subject. One day, though, all of us will pass away.

I recently read the statistic that over 70% of Americans don’t have any kind of written plan for their death. But, as I mentioned above, there is a 100% certainty that we are all going to die. That seems kind of rude, doesn’t it? In our modern society, it would seem that most people aren’t willing to admit that they are going to die and plan for it, even for the sake of their families.

How you live today and prepare for tomorrow has a tremendous impact on your legacy. Right now, you have an incredible opportunity to leave a powerful legacy that can last for generations to come. But, you can’t drag your feet. You can’t wait any longer. The time to do something about it is right now.

A funeral home here in my hometown is currently using a powerful new slogan in their advertising campaigns, “Plan Ahead. Leave Well.” This is great advice that we should all take to heart.

Action Steps For Preparing Your Legacy of Love

  1. Have a written plan. There are numerous legal documents that need to be completed: wills, living wills, trusts, power of attorney, and health care directives. My suggestion would be to get with an attorney, pay a few hundred dollars, and get it all taken care of correctly for your own peace of mind. In your paper work, don’t forget to establish an executor of the will as well as someone to take care of your minor children in the event that both you and your spouse were to pass away at the same time.
  2. Provide for your family’s financial needs. If you were to die today and you don’t have enough money in your estate to take care of your funeral expenses, as well as take care of a surviving spouse, minor children, and any other additional financial obligations, then you need life insurance. A typical rule of thumb is 10 times your annual salary. So, if you were to make $50,000 a year, then you need to have at least $500,000 in quality, term life insurance. Get this immediately. Do not delay. The best legacy you can leave your family is that you took care of them, financially.
  3. Organize all your important paperwork. You need to have all your legal paperwork from action step #1, plus your lists of life insurance policies, important contact information, funeral wishes, and a listing of any material assets that you want to pass on to other people. All of this should be clearly put together in one place.
  4. Place all of your paperwork in a secure location. You might consider a fire-proof safe in your home. A quality safe will run you $150-200. Or, you may want to go the route of a safe deposit box in your bank.
  5. Tell somebody. This means you’re going to need to have “the talk” that no one wants to have. You need to tell your family members all of these details. You need to get with the executor of your estate, give them copies of all your paperwork, and discuss the details of your plan.

Parting Words of Encouragement

Don’t be part of the 70% who have no plan. If you currently do not have an updated estate plan in place, then cross over and become part of a unique club of the 30% who have prepared their future legacy.

None of us have a guaranteed lock on a long life. Be sure to plan ahead and leave well.

Questions: Are you prepared to leave well? For those who are prepared to leave well, do you have anything to add to these five steps? Are there any action steps that I left out?

Why You Should Become A Writer

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Writers Make Their Mark

Great minds read books. Great minds also write books. If you think back across history, many of our most memorable historical figures were writers.

From Biblical history, I think of Moses, King David, King Solomon, and the Apostle Paul. These men were some of the greatest minds of their respective eras and wrote the majority of the canonical Bible.

Outside of Biblical history, I’m reminded of the respective geniuses of people such as Plato, Homer, Plutarch, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tolstoy, and Mark Twain.

Why Are Writers So Great?

Writers are, for the most part, highly analytical thinkers. They think about the era in which they live. They consider their place in history in a big, multi-cultural world. They bring a unique perspective to life in their time and place in this world through the lens of culture, family, religion, upbringing, and political leanings.

Writers are typically very disciplined. Some of the greatest writers carve time out of their schedules each day to write. They understand that they need to just show up everyday and write something. One day it may only be 100 words. Another day it may be 1,000. The key though is to keep plugging away at this writing thing. There will be times of great productivity and other times of drought. Great writers discipline themselves to show up each day and pray for inspiration to produce an amazing product.

Because writers tend to be so analytical and disciplined, we can get a view of their world at the time of their writing. We are in essence looking at a snapshot of the mind and the times of the writer in their era.

Clear writing is also evidence of clear thinking. Great writers know what to omit. They understand that they need to edit and re-write to bring clarity to their writing. Of course, not all writing is this way (for example, journals), but the majority of final product writing has been written, edited, and re-written several times.

Why Write?

There are a number of great reasons to be a writer.

One, writing helps clarify your thinking. I know that when I tend to struggle with problems, I find myself journaling and perhaps even writing blog posts on subjects I’m wrestling with. Writing is a great way get all your thoughts out of your head and investigate possible solutions.

Two, writing can instill self-discipline. Setting up a time each day to write can bring discipline to other areas of your life. I know this has been true in my own life. It takes effort to wake up early in the morning and tackle a project such as writing first thing. But, I love it. I enjoy the discipline and process of writing. I look forward to my alarm going off at 4:30am so I can start writing.

Three, writing can leave a legacy to those you care about it. Whenever the Lord decides to take me home to be with Him, my immediate as well as extended family will have a lot of “me” to sift through. I’ve written 2-3 blogs worth of material. I’ve written several journals. I’ve written one e-book to date. If my children want to know the “real Larry Jones,” then all they need to do is read my writing. I can’t think of a greater gift to give your children and grandchildren: a peek into your mind through your own personal writing.

Four, writing could lead to a different career path. I believe there’s a growing trend to hire good writers for any number of positions. In the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, we read the following:

“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off” (p. 222).

Questions: So, are you a writer? Have you ever considered becoming a writer? If you are a writer, how long have you been a writer? What tangible benefits have you discovered by being a writer?

Rework


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