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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Do You Know The Secret Formula For A Better Life?

Photo by  Coschda

Photo by Coschda

A Personal Discovery

I was pleasantly surprised.

I had discovered a secret formula for an amazing life. The more I engaged in this activity, the better I felt.

You see, a few years ago, I started developing some specific, personal habits in my life that were making look and feel better.

What exactly is this secret formula for a better life?

Exercise.

I know, I know. I’m sure you’re not overly surprised with this secret formula. It’s really not much of a “secret.”

We all have a head knowledge that exercise is supposed to be really, really good for us. The problem is that very few people take this knowledge and actually apply it. From my own personal experience, I have found that once you do apply this knowledge, though, the benefits of daily exercise are truly amazing. I can no longer imagine a life without regular exercise.

I made a complete paradigm shift on exercise after receiving five amazing benefits.

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

I believe the majority of people exercise to lose weight. That’s great. Keep on losing those pounds! But, I have also found that there are several other major benefits to daily exercise. These reasons keep me hooked and coming back for more.

  1. Increased energy level. This was the biggest benefit I have found once I got into the “groove” of daily exercise. I have a lot more energy to get stuff done. I have more energy from early morning all the way into the evening. This is the number one reason that keeps me going back to the gym every day. I want more energy to accomplish my dreams and goals.
  2. Enhanced mood. If you struggle with anxiety, irritability, stress, or depression, then regular exercise is a great prescription to boost your mood! I have found my life to be lived on a more “even keel” with exercise. Get off your emotional roller coaster with a little bit of exercise.
  3. Expanded mental focus. It is a well established fact that our mental capacity increases with exercise. We become more alert and focused on the tasks before us. In an age of digital distraction, we can all use a little more mental focus.
  4. Extended waking hours. The “weird” part of daily exercise is that you end up needing to sleep less. Why would this be? It almost seems like an oxymoron. You would think you would need to sleep more to allow your body to recover from all your exercise. But, once you are in a healthier state due to exercise, your bodily systems run more efficiently. They don’t need to work as hard, thus the need for a little less sleep. Then, if you need less sleep, you can accomplish even more!
  5. Renewed love life. Yeah, I don’t think I need to go into a lot of detail here, but daily exercise (for us married couples, of course) does help your love life. Try it, and see what I’m talking about!

Questions: How about you? Do you exercise? Why or why not? If you do exercise regularly, do you agree with my five benefits listed here? Am I missing any additional benefits that you have discovered?






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Book Review | The Art of Possibility by Ben and Rosamund Zander

The Art of Possibility BookDiscovering A Book Through A TED Talk

The information within books has the potential power to completely and radically transform your life.

Over the last few years, I can count a handful of books that made a deep impression that has changed my thinking and ultimately my life in amazing, powerful ways.

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander (note: this is a husband and wife duo) is my latest addition to this list of life-changing books.

I actually discovered Benjamin Zander through his amazing TED video (you have to watch this), visited his personal website, and then ordered his book through the Kindle store on Amazon. Money wisely spent!

Benjamin Zander’s biography reads:

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a guest conductor around the world. With London’s famed Philharmonia Orchestra, he is recording the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies for Telarc, recordings which have been received with extraordinary critical acclaim and several awards. Their latest recording of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony was nominated for a 2010 Grammy, and has received critical acclaim both for the performance and Zander’s now famous full-length disc explaining the music for the lay listener. They recorded their next release, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, in January 2012 and it is scheduled for release later this year.

In 1967, Mr. Zander joined the faculty at New England Conservatory, where he taught an interpretation class, conducted the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted the conservatory orchestras. For the past 28 years, he was the Artistic Director of the joint program between New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School and The Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts in Natick, Massachusetts.

Mr. Zander is one of the most sought after speakers in the world. He gave the opening Keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where on another occasion he was awarded the Crystal award for “outstanding contributions in the Arts and international relations. In 2002 he was awarded the “Caring Citizen of the Humanities” Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations. In honor of his 70th birthday, and 44 years of teaching, he was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the New England Conservatory.

His partner Rosamund Zander and he have collaborated on a best-selling book, “The Art of Possibility” which has been translated into fifteen languages.

Yes, this book has a lot to do with music, orchestras, and conducting.

But, it goes way beyond that. I view this book more as a roadmap to be a successful leader and to live out a life of transformation. Whether you’re a musician or not, you need to read this book. It will turn your life upside down, inside out. The ideas that Ben and Rosamund present here will cause you to rethink your approach to life and relationships.

[PLEASE NOTE: this is not a “Christian,” sanitized book. There is some adult language and themes here and there (especially under Chapter 6: Rule Number 6 and Chapter 7: The Way Things Are). I don’t support or condone the language or subject matter, but I do agree with the primary principles presented here. If you choose to read this book, you will need to keep this mind. You have been warned.]

My 6 Takeaways From The Book The Art Of Possibility

After reading The Art of Possibility, I came away with six actionable concepts that I have already started applying to my life. I’m seeing amazing things happen in my life as a result.

  1. It’s all invented (p. 12). The interpretations of the world vary from person to person, depending on our culture, environment, and upbringing. We all tend to become rigidly attached to certain ways of thinking and specific ways of viewing the world. The Zanders have concluded that “It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”
  2. Orient your life toward abundance (p. 21). It is very easy for any of us to slip into a poverty or scarcity mindset, thinking that we don’t have enough money or resources to accomplish what we would like. The Zanders encourage us with these words, “you are more likely to extend your business and have a fulfilled life if you have the attitude that there are always new customers out there waiting to be enrolled rather than that money, customers, and ideas are in short supply … resources are more likely to come to you in greater abundance when you are generous and inclusive and engage people in your passion for life. There aren’t any guarantees, of course. When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and take more risks.”
  3. Radiate possibility to everyone around you (p. 65). When the people you lead are not everything you envision them to be, who do you blame? Do you blame them, or do you blame yourself? Ben Zander puts forth the question for all of us who are leading others, “Who am I being that they are not shining?” (p. 74). The only person we can truly blame is ourself. We are the leader who is radiating possibility to others. So how do we effectively radiate this universe of possibility? The Zanders believe that “Purpose, commitment, and vision are distinctions that radiate possibility” (p. 179).
  4. Give people an “A” (p. 26, 39). Too many times, we judge people with very little information. If we feel like they have done us wrong one too many times, we put these people on our “naughty” list. The Zanders challenge us to give the grade of an “A” to “anyone in any walk of life – to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team … When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves … This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.”
  5. Lead from the second chair (p. 41). There is a disease that infects many music ensembles. This problem is sometimes called “second fiddle-itis.” The problem occurs when people perceive their role in a group to be of little significance (second violins for example), mostly due to the fact that many people are duplicating the same part. This is not true of other key positions within an orchestra, such as the primary brass and woodwind roles. They act more as soloists. But, this in no way diminishes the role and importance of the “second part.” Ben Zander tells us the story of Robert Koff, the founding second violinst of the Julliard String Quartet: “I came away convinced that the real leader of the string quartet is the second violin. Not because Koff dominated the rest of us, but because in his part he had all the inner rhythms and harmonies, and he gave them such clarity and authority that we were all tremendously influenced by his playing. He was leading us from the ‘seconds.’”
  6. Rule Number 6: don’t take yourself so seriously! (p. 79-80). The practice of Rule Number 6 is to lighten up, which may lighten up those around us. We can utilize the power of humor to defuse tense and awkward situations. All of us take ourselves way too seriously at certain times and under specific circumstances. When you find yourself getting way too serious and stressed out, just remember Rule Number 6 and observe what happens!

Questions: Have you ever read The Art of Possibility? If so, what were your own takeaways from this amazing book?






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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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Who Else Wants More Out Of Life?

Photo by gfpeck

Photo by gfpeck

Put In. Get Out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Areas To Put In

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

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

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

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

I’ve Decided To Put More In

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

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

You get out of life what you put into it.

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






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Focus On The Line Of Your Life, Not The Dots

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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.

My Top 10 Blog Posts In 2013 According To Pageview Traffic

Photo by sam_churchill

Photo by sam_churchill

Preface

In a blog post earlier in the week, I took a look at My Top 10 Favorite Personal Blog Posts in 2013. In this post, I will list the top 10 blog posts in 2013 on my personal blog, larrywjones.com, according to pageview traffic analytics. Let me qualify this list by saying that some of these posts were written prior to 2013, but they still received a lot of pageviews in this year.

In order to read each post listed below in its entirety, just click on the embedded links. So, without further delay, here are the top ten posts in 2013 according to pageview traffic [drum roll, please]:

Top 10 Blog Posts in 2013 According to Pageview Traffic

10. Are You Simply A Volunteer Or Are You Called To Ministry? In this post, I look at the differences between those church members who only volunteer their time and talents, versus those who sense a deep calling to use their time and talents to advance the Kingdom of God. There is a major attitude and investment difference that’s worth noting.

9. Moving From Broken To Superhuman: Your 5-Step Action Plan. Several years ago, I went through a period of brokeness in my life. While many people would have probably just given up, thrown in the towel, and chucked the “Christian life” thing, I drew closer to the Lord and grew in my faith. I moved to a new, better place in my life. In this post, I share additional details on how the Lord truly took me from broken to superhuman.

8. 8 Characteristics Of An All-Star LinkedIn Profile. The truly, engaged professional has a killer LinkedIn profile. The best profiles are similar to online resumes, but on digital steroids! Over the last two years, I’ve become a huge fan of the various tools and features that LinkedIn has to offer professional business people. In this post, I outline the eight characteristics of the very best profiles out there, today.

7. What Should You Do When You’re Waiting On God For Your Next Move? I have received a favorable response from several people telling me how much the post personally spoke to them. I believe this post spoke to others because it reflects some of my one personal frustrations as I circle about in my own circumstantial holding patterns. I can speak from the knowledge of my own personal experience.

6. 7 Tips To Successfully Motivate Volunteers In Your Organization. Whether or not your volunteers feel a sense of calling or simply a spirit of volunteerism, there are practical techniques you as a leader can use to successfully motivate your followers. In this post, I give seven tips that have worked well for me over the last 16 years.

5. How To Organize Your LinkedIn Connections On A Free Account. A free account on LinkedIn doesn’t mean that you have to go without practical tools to organize your professional connections. In this post, I use screenshots to walk you through a systematic approach to organize your hundreds of connections.

4. 5 Awesome Books That Have Radically Changed My Life And Made Me More Productive. This is another one of my posts in which I still receive a very positive response. Here, I list five books I have read in the last few years that continue to have a positive impact on my personal life. I highly recommend them for your library.

3. 5 Ways To Live A More Elegant Life. The elegant life is not praised or promoted in our modern era. Why is this? I’m not entirely certain, but society in general continues to degrade into a more crude and rude state. How we dress, talk, eat, and walk does make an impact on those we come in contact with. “Suit up” and check out this post!

2. 14 Practical Leadership Lessons I Have Learned From Being An Orchestra Director. I’ve been directing volunteer orchestras now for almost 20 years. During this time, through much trial and error, I’ve picked up several important leadership lessons. In this post, I share what I’ve discovered about leadership along the way. Interestingly enough, this post really “caught fire” in my digital circle of influence, and this post was also featured over on the XPastor.org website: A Recent Post Featured Today Over At XPastor.org | 14 Leadership Lessons.

1. 6 Characteristics Of A Renaissance Man. This post was one of my first, early entries on the blog when I had a slightly different emphasis on Renaissance living. Interestingly enough, due to numerous Google searches on renaissance men, this page receives a ton of traffic. It’s far and away (like 30x more pageviews than the next popular post) my most visited blog post. Even though I shifted my blog emphasis to whole life stewardship, this is still a great blog post, in my humble opinion.

My Top 10 Favorite Personal Blog Posts In 2013

Photo by iabusa

Photo by iabusa

Preface

During this holiday week, I thought I would share some of my favorite blog posts that I have written over the last year here on my personal blog, larrywjones.com. I believe these posts demonstrate some of my best writing and most thought-provoking information that I have shared with my readers. Please note, this list includes my personal favorites, but they do not necessarily reflect the most popular posts according to pageview traffic. I’m saving those for a post next week.

In order to read each post listed below in its entirety, just click on the embedded links. So, without further delay, here are my top ten favorite posts [drum roll, please]:

Larry’s Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts In 2013

10. Stop Blaming Others And Take Ownership Of Every Aspect Of Your Life. I wrote this post after discovering and reading through the book QBQ! The Question Behind The Question. I was so impacted by the philosophy expressed in the writing of John Miller, that I was compelled to write a post about it. Check out the post and get these QBQ! books. They’re excellent!

9. What Should You Do When You’re Waiting On God For Your Next Move? I decided to include this post in the list, because I received a favorable response from several people saying how much the post personally spoke to them. I believe this post spoke to others because it reflects some of my one personal frustrations as I circle about in my own circumstantial holding patterns. I can speak from the knowledge of my own personal experience.

8. Drawing A Line And Taking A Stand On Debt. If you’re ever going to get serious about your financial future as well as achieving financial freedom, you have to address the debt issue in your life. You have to draw the line. You have to declare your debt dependence as completely over and you’re getting out as soon as possible! In this post, I successfully address the “debt thing” head on, and even use a Bible verse to thump people on the head!

7. 8 Characteristics Of An All-Star LinkedIn Profile. The true, engaged professional has a killer LinkedIn profile. The best profiles are similar to online resumes, but on digital steriods! Over the last two years, I’ve become a huge fan of the various tools and features that LinkedIn has to offer professional business people. In this post, I outline the eight characteristics of the very best profiles out there, today.

6. 17 Strategies To Be Successful In A Continuing Bad Economy. No one really likes the bad economy that has set in over the last 5-6 years here in the United States. But, it’s time to stop whining and complaining about it, and actually get busy doing something about the problem. In this post, I offer up 17 strategies to be successful, even though the economy is still sluggish.

5. 5 Great Leadership Lessons from the Movie Star Trek Into Darkness. I placed this post in the mix of my Top 10 favorites because I love the topic of leadership and I enjoy the Star Trek franchise. I put two great personal tastes together, kind of like peanut butter and chocolate. Doesn’t get much better than that!

4. A Financial Vision For America. Using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech as a model, I crafted this blog post in an inspiring speech-styled format. Here, I attempt to give a compelling vision of better financial solutions than we are currently pursuing in the United States.

3. What’s Your “Why,” And Why Haven’t You Discovered It Yet. A couple of years ago, I ran across Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk on YouTube called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action?” This is one of those TEDx talks where all the light bulbs go off in your head, but the reality is that Simon is just reminding us of the importance of our “Why” or our purpose in anything we do.

2. 5 Spiritual Lessons On Stuff Management From A Busted iPod. Last year, my daughter dropped her iPod and cracked her glass screen, exactly two weeks after I purchased it for her. Needless to say, I wasn’t too impressed or happy about it, either. So, my solution was for her to earn money to be able to have it repaired. Along the way, I believe we both learned some important spiritiual lessons.

1. 14 Practical Leadership Lessons I Have Learned From Being An Orchestra Director. I’ve been directing volunteer orchestras now for almost 20 years. During this time, through much trial and error, I’ve picked up several important leadership lessons. In this post, I share what I’ve discovered about leadership along the way. Interestingly enough, this post really “caught fire” in my digital circle of influence, and this post was also featured over on the XPastor.org website: A Recent Post Featured Today Over At XPastor.org | 14 Leadership Lessons.

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

Photo by Pictoscribe

Photo by Pictoscribe

Taking Care Of The Fruit Trees

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

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

Why Pruning?

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

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

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

Pruning Principles For Life Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Secrets To Successfully Talk To Yourself

Photo by marsmet543

Photo by marsmet543

You Are A Mental Chatterbox

When you woke up this morning, what were you thinking about? Were you thinking about what you needed to do to get yourself ready to go into work? Were you thinking about your kids’ school activities? Were you planning out your to-do list for work?

If so, then you were talking to yourself. We all do it, and we do it constantly.

We are regularly asking ourselves various questions inside our minds. Some of us are really good at this process. We ask quality questions and seek out positive solutions to those quality questions.

Many of us, though, are challenged in this area. We ask horrible questions and receive even worse answers to our questions.

Top performers and high achievers understand this important principle, and certainly you can too with a little help!

3 Secrets To Better Self-Talk

  1. Ask Better Questions. The foundation for asking better questions of yourself is staying positive. As soon as we turn negative, we start asking all the wrong questions in a negative manner and we shoot ourselves in the foot. We can also end up asking ourselves bad questions that don’t even really have an answer. These type of questions put us in a negativity loop instead of positive solutions. Let me give you an example. “Why is this happening to me?” I used to ask this question a lot during difficult days and circumstances. While asking this question may reveal a deep-rooted problem that needs to be addressed, most of the time this question is not very constructive. Outside negative circumstances will impact our lives occasionally, and there’s really not much we can do about it. In this moment, we can attempt to redirect our subconscious mind to start asking better questions such as, “What I can be thankful for in spite of these circumstances?” Or, “What can I learn through this difficulty?” Or, “How can I use this situation to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually?” There’s always a better question to be asked of ourselves.
  2. Seek Better Answers. Let’s go back to my “Why is this happening to me?” example. As I just mentioned, from time to time, we will be impacted by negative, undesired circumstances. There won’t be much we can do about external forces outside of our control. So, we need to flip this around and start asking better questions, such as the examples I gave above. Then, we allow these questions to lead us to better answers. “I can use this difficulty to grow in my faith with Christ,” “I can use these challenging circumstances to get emotionally healthy,” and so on.
  3. Continuously Monitor and Change. This step is where it gets difficult. Most of the time, we are blissfully unaware of these mental conversations we are having with ourselves. We are running on autopilot. We have default conversations that are not constructive. We need to be proactive in monitoring these conversations as well as reprogramming our default modes. Knowing that these conversations are taking place in our minds is half the battle. Once you realize you’re asking negative questions and receiving negative answers, then you can attempt to move your mental discussion to a more positive level.

Questions: Have you ever considered the impact your mental conversations have on your personal performance? What do you need to do to move your personal self-talk to a more positive, high performance level.