3 Ways My Parents Taught Me To Love God And His Church

FBR t-shirtLoving His Church

In the month of September, my church has been celebrating our love for our church. We’ve been wearing special “I love my church” T-shirts on Saturdays all around the Metro Kansas City area. We’ve been taking “selfies” of ourselves wearing these T-shirts around town. We’ve been writing social media posts about why we love our church. We’ve even been hashtagging our love on social media with the hashtag #loveFBR on these posts and pictures.

As we have celebrated our love for our church over the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting back on my childhood and how I learned to love any church I’ve ever been a member.

The reason I love God and His church is primarily due to the example of my parents. As a boy growing up in my parents’ home, I learned to love my church through watching my parents love their church in 3 ways.

3 Ways My Parents Loved Their Church

  1. They gave of their time. They viewed church attendance as a priority, so anytime the church doors were open, we were there. On Wednesday nights, we were there for Awana ministry. On Sunday mornings, we were there for Sunday School and worship service. We would go back for Sunday night services. We also would also attend special missions conferences and revivals (remember those?). And now, as an adult, I’m at church almost every day, because I work for a mega church!
  2. They gave of their talents and abilities. My dad is an artist – he paints and sculpts, and he used those talents to help the church on various projects. He also served as a club leader in the Awana program. I can still remember him wearing his uniform and us kids having to wear those bright red neckerchiefs and the little plastic slides that held them in place. My dad also drove a bus for bus ministry, picking up kids and bringing them to church. My mom is a singer, and she sang solos as well as sang in the choir. She gave me a love and passion for using my musical abilities to serve God and His church in worship.
  3. They gave of their financial resources. My parents taught me how to give at the level of 10% of my income and beyond. Every week, my parents would write their check, place it in a giving envelope, and take their envelope with them to church and drop it in the offering plate. Now, as an adult in an age of electronic giving, my tithes and offerings are automatically given online each week.

In Romans 12:6-8 (NIV), we read these words:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We demonstrate our love for God and His church through giving of our time, talents, and finances.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Do you demonstrate your love for God and His church on a consistent basis? Are you giving faithfully of your time, talents, and finances? What talents and abilities has God given you that you could invest back into His Kingdom?

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?

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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17 Strategies To Be Successful In A Continuing Bad Economy

Reality Sinks In

Photo by Newbirth35

Photo by Newbirth35

I believe reality is finally sinking in for many of us that we are looking at several more difficult years of the “New Economy.” With the re-election of Mr. Obama, we will have at least at four more years of bad federal fiscal policy for any real economic growth.

We will continue to have rising gas prices and, in turn, a rising cost of goods and services. High unemployment will continue to drag on. The national debt will soar higher and higher. And, of course, we will have additional higher taxes in every area imaginable – income, estate, fuel, utilities, and healthcare. This will impact all of us, not just the super rich.

I don’t want to be Mr. Doom and Gloom here, but if you’re just hoping things are going to turn around financially and we’re going to be back in the “good old days” (financially speaking) of Reagan, Clinton, and the Bushes, then keep on dreaming.

If you want financial change, then you’re going to need to become the change you desire. You’re going to need to be way more proactive about money than you probably want to be. You’re going to need to work harder and smarter than ever to provide for your family. The sad reality is that the folks in Washington appear to want a bunch of mediocre wage earners. They have no real desire for you to become high achievers. Excellence and success are definitely not words in their vocabulary. In fact, they are punishing achievers more than helping them.

17 Strategies For A Bad Economy

As I wrestle with the reality of the New Economy in regard to my own family finances, here are some thoughts on becoming successful in spite of the insanity:

  1. Take personal responsibility. Resist the urge to just give up and jump on the dole. The unfortunate goal of a bunch of politicians today is for you to take advantage of every available free money handout from the government. They want you hooked for life, and then they want you to vote for them because of their benevolence. I say, dare to be different and take personal responsibility. Avoid the handouts. In the end, you’ll be better off for it. It’s about character building, not easy street.
  2. Get out of debt ASAP. Definitely do not emulate the federal government in regard to debt! Start working your debt snowball, immediately. Unloading the burden of debt will free up your resources. You will be able to focus all your available resources on what truly matters as we continue in the new economy.
  3. Build up your emergency fund. In the new economy, this will be more critical than ever. Once you get of debt, be sure to build up an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months worth of living expense money. Having this stash available will help your family through any unexpected job loss or downturns.
  4. Grow in your generosity. Even in difficult economic times, we need to maintain lifestyles of giving. This will enable an attitude of gratitude. I’ve seen it in so many people. A generous life unleashes greatness and, of course, God’s hand of blessing.
  5. Brand yourself. No, I’m not talking about making marks on your body with a hot piece of metal. In the job market of the new economy, you have to stand out. You must be unique. So, what will make your name rise to the top of a stack of resumes? What qualities or characteristics do you possess that people want and need in their workplace? What niche do you cover better than anyone else? Once you figure out what makes you unique from everyone else, then you have to sell that uniqueness in anything that has your name attached to it.
  6. Create a platform. Related to #5, once you have figured out your personal brand, then you need to release your brand out to the world. You accomplish that through some type of platform. This could be a personally branded website (such as larrywjones.com), a blog, a book, podcast, or series of YouTube videos. The best book about creating a platform is Michael Hyatt‘s Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World.
  7. Create multiple streams of income. In the new economy, you must think multiple streams of income, so that if one dries up in these challenging economic times, you will have other sources of cashflow to get you through. Long gone are the days of one solitary income sustaining an entire family. Consider ways you can create residual income streams on the side in addition to the income from your day job. Check out this awesome resource from Pat Flynn: smartpassiveincome.com.
  8. Find a mentor. The fastest way to get where you want to go is to find someone else that has already been there. If you want to be debt free, then find a debt free family and pick their brain about how they accomplished that. If you want to brand yourself through a personal platform, then find someone who has done this and emulate what they are doing.
  9. Network. In today’s world, we have various ways to maintain and even expand our network. We can go out to lunch with friends and acquaintances. We can attend networking events, such as our local chamber of commerce. We can network through the various social media channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. The overall goal, of course, is to maintain a group of social connections that will help you long-term with business and job opportunities.
  10. Become a life-longer learner. In today’s ever-expanding Information Age, it’s critical to always be reading and learning. Paper books, ebooks, white papers, blogs, and more. Be well-rounded and think “generalist.” Know a little something about everything. This can make you a more valuable employee over the long haul. The best leaders are actually generalists surrounded by specialists.
  11. Short and long-term financial planning. More than ever, you need some type of monthly cashflow plan during these turbulent times. You also need to be thinking out ahead for the next several years. Got goals? Do your current plans line up with those goals?
  12. Hire financial experts with the heart of a teacher. Related to #11, an excellent financial expert can help you navigate both short-term and long-term money issues. Also, there is much confusion with all the new laws coming out of Washington, especially with the massive changes in healthcare taking place, today. It’s better to get help from people who understand these new laws than to figure it all out on your own!
  13. Embrace simplicity. The simple life is way underrated. Get rid of all the extra junk in your life. Have a massive garage sale. Give away all the leftovers to your favorite charity. Keep your life and your stuff as simplistic, clean, and organized as possible.
  14. Bargain hunting. Paying full price for stuff anymore is not very bright. Learn how to find great deals at great prices. Learn how to negotiate. Be a cheap skate, but always consider the quality of the product before purchasing.
  15. Discover ways to save in the areas of fuel costs. Due to current political policies, these costs are only going to continue to rise. Does that mean go out and buy a hybrid vehicle? Probably not, because the cost of a brand new hybrid vehicle still outweighs the cost of fuel long-term. In regard to gasoline, consider less driving. Make as few driving trips as you possibly can. In regard to home utility expenses, do an energy audit and see where you can make some reasonable home improvements in order to save on those bills long-term.
  16. Pursue a healthier lifestyle. With the Affordable Care Act going into full force over the next few years, here’s another area that will continue to grow financially out of control. If you aren’t healthy, you will end up paying higher costs, fees, and taxes in order to get healthy. Pay the price on the front end with a better diet, exercise, and clean living. If you don’t do it on the front end, you’ll end up paying through the nose on the back-end.
  17. Pray. Although I have listed this last, it really should be at the top of this list! As a believer in Christ, I believe in God’s protection and provision. I know that He owns all things. I know that He is crazy in love with me. He can and will provide for me during difficult times.

Question: So, has it sunk into your brain that our current economic climate is going to persist for a while? What long-term strategies are you employing in order to survive and thrive going forward? Do you have additional suggestions to this list of 17 strategies?

5 Ways To Live A More Elegant Life

Photo by Qrodo Photos

Photo by Qrodo Photos

What Is Elegance?

The clean dismount of a gymnast from the balance beam. The smooth playing motions of a professional cellist. The foil handling of a fencing expert. The passionate speech of a CEO. The fluid hand motions of a symphony orchestra conductor. The graceful walk of a model down the runway.

When I consider elegance, I think of these types of activities.

The classic definition of elegance is as follows (from Dictionary.com):

elegance or elegancy (ˈɛlɪɡəns)

  • dignified grace in appearance, movement, or behaviour
  • good taste in design, style, arrangement, etc
  • something elegant; a refinement

The origin of the actual word is French (élégance) from. c.1500 and means tasteful, correct, harmonious, choice, of speech or prose.

In days gone by, people of means and “refinement” went to finishing or charm schools (mostly girls) to learning the fine art of the social graces.

While many of these types of schools are no longer functioning today, I believe something can be said of the importance of living a life of elegance. There are so many crude and rude people in today’s society. This makes no sense to me, especially living in the modern age of the 21st century. I would like to think that we as a society have grown beyond crude and rude, right?

In this post, I’d like for us to consider living a life filled with more elegance, more grace, and more refinement.

5 Ways to Live With More Elegance

  1. Dress up more. Today’s society has gone too far over into the casual appearance. If you really want to make an impact with those around you, consider “suiting up” on a regular basis like Barney Stinson. Also, wear quality clothes that fit you well. If yours currently don’t fit very well, then get them professionally tailored or budget for more that do. Be classy and dignified in your appearance.
  2. Watch your table manners. Using your hands to eat, licking your fingers, and wiping your dirty hands on your shirt will probably earn you a bad rap, especially in a professional setting. Consider using the “old school” table manners with your napkin and left hand down in your lap. Use the proper silverware to bring the food to your mouth. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t speak with food in your mouth, and so on.
  3. Float across the room. Do you walk like a trucker? Do you slouch? Do you hang your head and look down at the floor? Watch how today’s “power people” walk into a room. They walk with confident grace and ease.
  4. Speak with dignity. Have you ever recorded yourself speaking? Does your speech sound stilted, or do you have a pleasing tone and flow to your speaking? You might consider working with a vocal coach or joining Toastmasters International.
  5. Listen to more elegant music. I think some of the most elegant, intelligent music ever written comes from the Renaissance and Baroque time periods. Dial these two stations up on Pandora occasionally for a great “ear break” from today’s pop music noise. I’m listening to these two stations as I write this post.

Are You Living A Life Of Elegance?

How elegant is your life? Do you dress for success? Do you watch your manners at power lunches? Do you walk into a conference room with grace and ease? Do you have a pleasant speaking voice? Do you listen to quality music?

I would contend that living with more elegance in these five areas can dramatically improve your professional as well as personal life.

How about you? Do you have additional areas that you strive for elegance in your life? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.






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How Do You Define Excellence For Yourself Or Organization?

Photo by Chandra Marsono

Photo by Chandra Marsono

Excellence Is Subjective

Excellence is a moving target. Depending on the time of day, our physical health, how rested we are, as well as a number of different factors, we will perform at varying levels of excellence.

Also, depending on how well we have prepared ourselves as well as the people around us, this will determine how excellent we can perform in a given task or project.

Typically, though, we end up measuring our excellence through the prism of a model or mentor. Let me give you two examples from my world.

Models And Mentors

For many years now, I have conducted volunteer church orchestras. Whenever my musicians need to learn a new piece of music, I normally play them a very clean, solid demo recording of this new music. This gives them a “standard” from which to learn the song. My orchestra now has a “benchmark” for which to strive for to play the song with excellence.

Now, will my volunteer orchestra ever hit the demo recording level of musical excellence? No, probably not, but at least they understand how a particular song should sound. They get the sound of it in their musical ear, and they will do what they need to do to try to reach that same level of excellence. Even though they probably won’t reach the same level of excellence as the model, they are at least inspired to a higher level as a result of having a model to compare their playing ability to.

Let me give you another example.

Photo by apgroner

Photo by apgroner

As an orchestra conductor, I have had a number of excellent teachers, mentors, and role models. I have learned a tremendous amount about conducting from all of them. I have practiced really hard to become at least as good of a conducting musician as they are. They have served as a benchmark of excellence for me. They have pushed me to at least their level and beyond.

A really cool thing happens though, when you start moving beyond demos, models, mentors, and benchmarks. You and your organization start blazing a new trail of excellence in whatever you do. You become the standard everyone else is trying to reach!

Best In The World (or pretty darn close)

The ultimate goal for you as an individual or as an organization should be to become the best in the world. Why settle for third or fourth place? If you believe that you have the capacity to become the best in your area of expertise, why not go for it?

As you strive to become best in the world, be on the lookout for those who have already established themselves as best in the world. Hold them up as your standard of excellence.

Then, see if you can meet and surpass their level of excellence. Look for unique ways you can differentiate your level of excellence from theirs. Take your personal or organizational excellence up to the next level so that you can stand out from the crowd. Move into the arena of best in the world and watch others follow your leadership.

It’s a cool place to be. Go for it and see what happens!