Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A New Beginning

I love starting a new year!

We get a chance to reflect on the past, be thankful for the present, and look forward to a bright future. This year has special meaning for many of us and we are excited about the opportunities that are in store.

I was at a tough point in my life around twenty years ago. I had decided to leave a company that was failing, I was unemployed, broke, and all I had left was a big dream and hope for a better future.

Through a series of events, I found myself in an arena listening to several speakers one particular weekend. Of all the speakers I listened to that day, one stood out above the rest and truly changed my life.

As I was thinking about this man this morning, I pulled out those old notes and decided to post a few of my favorite quotes from him here. I think you will agree, they are at least as relevant today as they were for me back then.

"Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none."

"If you have that flame of a dream down inside of you somewhere, thank God for it, and do something about it. And don't let anyone else blow it out."

"The easiest thing to find on God's green earth is someone to tell you all the things you cannot do."

"The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible."

"It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle."

"The riches of life, the love and joy and exhilaration of life can be found only with an upward look. This is an exciting world. It's cram-packed with opportunity. Great moments wait around every corner."

Richard M. DeVos (1926 - )

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It's a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. This year has been eventful to say the least, so I am excited to get past Christmas and start setting goals for the upcoming year.

The tradition of the New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.

The New Year has not always begun on January 1, and it doesn't begin on that date everywhere today. It begins on that date only for cultures that use a 365-day solar calendar. January 1 became the beginning of the New Year in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed a calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had.

The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year's Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year's gifts.

In the Middle Ages, Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25, the birth of Jesus. Then they changed it to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation. In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar, and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1.

The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. Some cultures have lunar calendars, however. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese use a lunar calendar. Their new year begins at the time of the first full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius- sometime between January 19 and February 21. Although the date for New Year's Day is not the same in every culture, it is always a time for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming year.

Before writing down your New Year's resolution, If you haven't done so yet, take some time to develop your own personal mission statement. Chuck Goetschel did a fantastic job explaining this in Louisville and you can find his commentary here. There is also a link on his site that you can view here.

Once you identify your core values, you will want to take some time to write down your next years goals. To help you get the process started, I have included a list of the top 10 New Year's resolutions

1. Lose Weight and Get in Better Physical Shape
Physical activity builds physical vitality. With every year of your life, you have more to gain from being physically active; as your age-related risks of chronic disease increase, regular exercise generally slows or reverses that trend.
In fact, you're even more likely to notice the benefits of regular exercise if you already have a chronic condition.
Are you ever going to be fit again as long as you live? The answer is unless you make a resolution to get fit – you’re never going to be fit – ever. The choice is yours; it begins by opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, fruit in place of chocolate, and active rather than sedentary activities.

2. Stick to a Budget
It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. Developing and sticking to a realistic budget is a brilliant offensive move as it prevents overspending and ensures peace of mind.
Many people find it very difficult to stick to a budget. It does take hard work and a lot of self-discipline, at least in the beginning. The good news is that most people find the longer they can stick to a budget, the easier it becomes.

3. Debt Reduction
One of the first things you have to do before any debt can be eliminated is to stop using charge accounts. If you continue to use the accounts, you are only fueling the problem, and building on it, not solving it.
Make a resolution now to stop charging anything and to get financially stable. If you can't pay cash for it, you don't need it, make it just that simple and you will find yourself out of debt in no time at all.
Keep a diary of all money spent, whether it is by cash, check, credit card, etc. Once you know where your money is going, then, and only then, can you take the steps needed to prepare a good budget that you can live with and make huge strides to budgeting your debt away.

4. Enjoy More Quality Time with Family & Friends
More and more people are resolving to spend more quality time with family and friends this year. This means you must consciously decide to actively and purposely work on improving your family situation every day.
You may need to do such things as reschedule other activities to make time for your kids, help your children set and achieve worthwhile goals, and setting aside at least an hour a day for the family, every day.
Starting right now, you can begin to make choices and take day-to-day actions that will create nothing short of a phenomenal family. You can choose to have one if you just resolve to do it and know where to put your focus. Making our families stronger and healthier is important to our communities, our state and our world.

5. Find My Soul Mate
Romance is alive and well as more and more people are looking for that special someone, their soul mate who lights their fire, the ONE whom they love unequivocally and who shares their worldview.
Soul mate relationships are the sort of romantic relationships most of us dreamt of when we were young and innocent: committed and inspiring and best of all - lasting.
Soul mate relationships give both partners the fulfillment that deeply satisfies them and makes them feel that they have found the most wonderful person in the whole universe.

6. Quit Smoking
Becoming a non-smoker is probably one of the best decisions you can ever make, and is a life changing as well as a life saving decision.
The benefits to your health, relationships, finances, vitality, the environment and to your sense of self-esteem for having conquered a really hard-to-kick habit will make any and all of your efforts and determination more than worth while. The resolution to become a non-smoker will also help you to live longer and enjoy the finer things in life.
Once you’ve made the resolution to stop, acted upon it and succeeded, you'll feel great about what you have achieved. Resolving to give up is your decision, and will improve your life from that moment on. No one can make you quit, and no one can help you make the resolution. You have to do it yourself, you have to want to do it, and you need to do it now.

7. Find a Better Job/Business
New year provides a sense of getting a free do-over, so you can try again and get it right. Many people resolve to find better jobs or to take a new approach to the jobs they've already got.
It's corny, but true -- most of us get reflective at this time of year and if we are in jobs already, we begin thinking: Am I on the right path? Do I like where my position and my company are headed? Am I even in the right career?
So you've been hearing that voice again, the one that says you're not doing what you were born to do. That may be true, but how do you figure out what you should be doing?
To begin answering this question, examine whether your current career path matches your core interests, beliefs, values, needs and skills. If not, it may be time to move on to something new.

8. Learn Something New
People throughout the world are realizing that a strong resolve to lifelong learning is more than just education and training beyond formal schooling. A lifelong learning framework encompasses learning throughout the life cycle, from cradle to grave and in different learning environments, formal, non-formal and informal.
Perhaps you are considering a career change, want to learn a new language, or just want to become a better person? Whether you take a course, learn from Audios, or read it from books, you'll find education to be one of the easiest, most motivating and beneficial resolutions to keep. Challenge your mind in the coming year, break out of currents routines and challenge every comfort zone and watch your horizons expand.

9. Volunteer and Help Others
A popular, non-selfish New Year's resolution, volunteerism can take many forms such as spending time helping out at your childs school, mentoring a child, or building a house to name a few.
Volunteering has risen sharply in the years since we began collecting resolutions. This suggests the possible emergence of a new civic generation and a resolve to make a bigger and better difference with your life. Continually ask yourself, “What can I contribute that will significantly impact other people's lives?” By focusing on what we can contribute, we automatically become successful.

10. Get Organized
Resolve this year to plan your days, reduce interruptions, clean off your desk, say "No", and make detailed lists. The benefits of getting more organized include being able to save time, as you no longer look for the same things over and over again or need to replace things you can’t find at all.
You will reduce stress because when you know where everything is, there’s no last-minute rush to find what you need and get out the door on time for school, soccer practice, or that important business meeting.
You will also find yourself being much more productive, as all the time you once spent looking for things can now be used to do more important or more enjoyable tasks.
Most people define being organized as quickly and easily able to find what you need. While this is certainly true, organization is so much more. The ability to staying organized lets you focus on accomplishing your most important goals. That’s the true benefit of being organized.

Of course this list is just to get you started. I try to set goals in all areas of my life ( spiritually, menatally, etc ). So take some time and write them down, you can do this by yourself or as a family. I believe it's one of the best thing you can do to start 2008

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." -- Edith Lovejoy Pierce

May God bless us all as we set our goals and pursue Opportunities in the coming year.
I believe the future has never been brighter!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:1-20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

May God bless you and your family this holiday season, Jefe

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sometimes you have to change.

“Lets’ go fishing,” my dad said.

I had never gone fishing before, but at 8 years old, and a middle child from a large family, time with dad was pretty rare.

OK,” I replied, “That sounds like fun”.

There are over a dozen reservoirs within an hour of my hometown but in the mid 70’s, there was only one lake you wanted to fish. It was built in the early 60's by damning a local canyon. It took a few big storms and over three years to fill this huge impoundment. The depth, topography, and newly planted fish were a perfect combination for this new lake. Within five years it became a world class fishery and by its 7th year, it broke the state records for bass, catfish, and bluegill.

The night before our trip, I barely slept. I was so excited about spending the day fishing with my dad. We drove to the lake in the dark, then found our spot as the sunlight hit the horizon. Three hours, and ten fish later, I was hooked ( pun intended ). My experience with my dad that day created a passion that still lives within me today.

My "dream" over the next few years was to get a job, get married, have a few kids, then buy a house at the ”Lake”. Actually, back then, I would have skipped the marriage, kids, and job, and went straight for the lake.

By the early 90’s, my dream came true. I married an incrdible woman, had two wonderful children, achieved some financial success, and then purchased a house above the “Lake”. Many mornings, you could find me down at the lake on my boat casting at the stick-ups and tules. The morning mist in the coves, the song of a bird, the splash of a fish chasing bait, are all absolute heaven to me. The next eight years I caught and released thousands of bass. One spring morning in 1996 I caught a five fish limit that went 31 .3 lbs, late the next year I broke my personal record with a 10lb 2 oz largemouth. As I write this, I can see a reproduction of this trophy hanging on my wall. Yes, I have some incredible memories of my time on the lake.

In 2001 there was a complete change of leadership at our water authority. The focus of the new board shifted away from recreation and focused primarily on water storage and delivery. Sadly, I realized over the next few years that fishing wasn’t even on the list. A new aqueduct was built, the parks & rec. staff cut, and then restrictions were imposed on its recreational usage. While they had the authority to implement these programs, each had a devastating effect on the fishery. Over the next five years, fish counts dropped, the boating facilities went un-kept, and the fishermen started looking elsewhere. The time I spent on the lake was usually by myself and for the most part was unproductive. Out of habit, I would still spend time on the lake casting away, always recalling better days. Some days I would go without a bite for hours, others I would catch nothing at all.

It was frustrating to say the least, but I couldn’t give up, this was my dream…. It was “my lake”. Dozens of letters to the water authority, the lake management, and to the county all fell on deaf ears. It was sad to watch my beloved lake become little more than a muddy pond.

I remember the day that everything changed for me. My youngest daughter asked me If I would teach her to fish. (every fisherman longs for the day that their child asks to go with them) My excitement quickly faded when I realized that she wasn't going to enjoy fishing at my lake. There was a very good chance she would go all day with little or no success. One or two days like that and she may never want to go fishing again. I consider myself sentimental, but I knew something had to change.

It was that day I decided to find another lake. I had to. While I had great memories of my old lake, it was very clear to me that my children’s’ experience would have been much different than my own.

I still live in the same house and see the lake every day. I don’t fish there any more though. It will take a change in management, a restructuring of priorities, and many years for it to recover… if it can recover at all.

We are having a great time at our new lake.
Yes, it's a 45 minute drive, but it has a new launching ramp and dock, has a great management team, and is completely committed to become the top fishery in our state. I can even camp in my RV with my family at the waters’ edge.

I hated to leave the old lake but I am sure glad I did.
Today, my children all love to fish! I even think my six year old son may have a new "dream".....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Make the best of it!

A few years ago my wife and I purchased a motor home. We both love traveling and found this a great way to experience the outdoors while spending time with our kids. This last week we celebrated Thanksgiving with our family in the mountains near our home. I usually make the reservations, but since a few of my in-laws don’t have RV’s, we let them pick a campground that had several cabins.

The moment I arrived, I knew we were in trouble. The park was at least fifty years old and I quickly discovered the sites were too small for my 42’ coach, didn’t have enough power, there was no sewer, and no services. The only place I could park was at the bottom of a hill in the middle of five other campers. You should have seen the look on my teenagers faces when I told them they would have no cell service, no Internet, and no television for the next three days. It was classic. “It is no use complaining about it,” I told them, “there is nothing we can do about it now.” Once we realized we were “stuck”, we all relaxed and made the best of it. We hiked, read, and played games. It was actually a great trip.

Every day we find ourselves dealing with “Bad Situations.” It’s amazing to me to see how some people react to them. Here are a few that you might relate with.

Waiting in a long line. I was recently in line at a retail store and witnessed a lady huffin' and puffin' while complaining how long the line was to anyone who would listen. "Why can't they get more help?!" she exclaimed, along with saying, "This is ridiculous!" every 30 seconds or so. When she finally left the store, just about everyone left in line clapped. When you find yourself in a long line, begin by realizing that your impatience will not make the line go any faster. Then do something to keep yourself occupied: read a book, strike up a conversation with another person, send an encouraging text message to someone who might need it.

Being stuck in traffic. The next time you are stuck in traffic, look at the people in the other cars. Although the suffering of others is generally not a source of humor, it is quite humorous watching how people respond to traffic. While in my car, I recently looked over at a gentleman waving his arms in fury screaming at the traffic. He then looked at me, looking at him, and we both started laughing. Like waiting in line, your fury will not make the traffic go away. Take advantage of this time by listening to a cd.

Being threatened or sued by a person or company.

Here are some general things to remember when faced with a bad situation:

It is pointless and non-productive to be worried, angry, or upset. Although these are usually some of the initial reactions to adversity, we must learn to take control of our emotions and move to a more productive state of mind.

See the big picture. In most situations we refer to as "bad", they are really quite insignificant when looking at the big picture. If you are taking a week's vacation with your family, you miss your flight, and you are fortunate enough to get a flight that leaves 6 hours later, realize that only a small portion of your vacation is affected. Accept the situation and then make the best of it.

Look for good in a bad situation. Just about every bad situation has the seed of an equivalent or even greater good; you just need to know where to look. This is where a positive mental attitude really comes in handy. At the very least, bad situations can be written off as good experience. "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."

Maintain a good sense of humor. A good sense of humor can make light of just about any bad situation. Laughter really is the best medicine.

The next time you find yourself in a bad situation, remember attitude and action. At first, you may feel like you are fighting your true emotions, but remember that negative emotions will only make the situation worse while positive emotions can quickly spread and make the situation better for everyone involved. The ability to make the best of a bad situation is a sign of true leader. And lord knows, we are looking for “True Leaders”!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation 1863

Like many people across the country, I am heading out of town for the next few days to spend some time with my family. This year has been an amazing year. Looking back, I have so many things to be Thankful for. I came across this letter the other day and thought some of you might enjoy it.

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
(from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521).

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord."

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation October 3, 1863

Happy Thanksgiving!

God Bless,


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Who said what?

“Shelly said I was ugly,” my eleven year old daughter said when she came home from school. “Who did?” I asked. “A girl in my English class, do you remember her?" was her reply. "I don't, Why would she say that, and more importantly, do you think it’s true?” I asked. She thought for a minute , “Not really, but it wasnt very nice of her.”
I agreed, told her how pretty she is, and then we spoke for a few minutes trying to decipher the root of Shelly's criticism. (Shelly liked a boy, who liked my daughter, nothing more... )

“You want critics in your life,” I said to my daughter. “really?” she questioned. “ Yes, trust me on this one.”
Although it’s hard to comprehend for an eleven year old, everyone who has ever accomplished anything significant in life has a loyal following of critics. You can start with the president, then work backwards from there. Find any successful person or worthy cause, and I can point you at a person, a writer or a blog that despises them.

We know that the higher you climb the ladder in life, the more your rear end is exposed. On the Free the IBO blog, the author said “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
To put it differently, ” If no one is shooting at you, you're not doing enough.”

Critics are a part of life and are not necessarily a bad thing. We can listen to what is said, then sort through all the noise to see if any of the points are valid. If I were to internalize ALL the criticism I have received over the years, I would be in a homeless shelter somewhere, sucking my thumb, rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

Criticism can be very helpful if it’s coming from a good source with the right intentions. It can help by;
1. Identifying flat spots in your thinking.
2. Making you aware of others’ perspective.
3. Keeping you accountable for your words and actions.

I gave my daughter an outline I have used for years to cut through most of it.

“First, you need to weed out jealousy, bitter people, or those with a different philosophical or moral compass.” I said. “If an atheist criticizes me for being a Christian, personally, I take that as a compliment.”

“Next, you have to figure out the relevance. I have always based the weight of any criticism on three factors. My relationship with them, their knowledge of the events, and their personal track record. "

I add them up as follows;

Their relationship with me
None 1
Acquaintance 2
Friend 3
Relative/Good friend 4
Mentor 5

Their Knowledge of the events
None 1
very Little 2
Some 3
knowledgeable 4
Expert 5

Their Track record
None 1
Minimal 2
Average 3
Good 4
Successful 5

"Add up the three, and this is what you should do," I explained.

3 - 6 Flush it ( Not worth thinking about )
7 - 9 Acknowledge it ( Look at facts to verify )
10 - 12 Consider it ( Most likely some truth in it )
13 -15 Respect it ( Look again at your beliefs and validate them or change)

When a critic scores a 3, you are wasting your time even thinking about it.

Conversely, if one scores a 15, and you don’t listen, shame on you!

This is why the decisions being made up in Ada the last few months have been so baffling to many of us. Can you imagine having a group of critics show up at your door with the following score?

Relationship 5 (Good friends / Mentors to 1000's, combined total of 150+ years partnered with you)
Knowledge 5 (The best and brightest you have )
Track Record 5 ( Speaks for itself )