Back to the Basics…

In reading on the lives of millionaires, biographies of historical icons, and listening carefully to those who are far more wise than myself, there is one common message that rings true over and over again– ‘go back to the basics.’

Getting back to the basics may be translated differently in different environments. Terms like, keep your eye on the ball, watch the ball in, and soft touches are all terms that athletes hear day in and day out from coaches who understand the importance of ‘the basics.’

Off the pitch, the court, and the turf the terms are different. These are terms frequently overlooked and forgotten because they are hard to spot at times. At times these terms mean less revenue in the short term but render millions in the long term. They are tough to see right off because they are, when in their purest form, woven into our character. The fiber of our make up. Most who possess them and have honed them stand out from the crowd in one way or another.

In The Millionaire Mind, The author Thomas Stanley looks at hundreds, if not thousands of millionaires and successful business owners. The number one word that more successful people attribute to the backbone of their success is of the basic of basics: Integrity.

Webster’s defines the word as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values:  incorruptibility; an unimpaired condition:  soundness; and the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

Integrity does not know your family any different than it knows your business dealings. Integrity does not know about your job any different than it knows about your wife or your husband. Integrity fails to see anything different than itself; Firm, Incorruptible; Sound; Complete.

So how does your integrity stand up? Is it time to return to the basics? What would happen if you did? Would it be worth a potential short-term loss for a long-term gain? If the answer is Yes, to any of these, you are a welcomed traveller in a new journey that will yield its fruits in due time. Take courage, this road is hard, but you have what it takes, because you got back to the basics.

It Might Take Some Time

If you have ever wanted something now, rather than later, you are not alone. Most of us have and honestly, I cannot name anyone who has not. Delaying gratification is hard, not fun, and frankly something we’d rather not do most of the time.

This conversation is more than an encouragement to not eat the extra piece of cake or read the last chapter first in a best-seller, which both could be seen as superficial. Rather this conversation is one we all wrestle with over the long-haul; weeks, months, or even years.

I have developed a practice of reading (rather listening) through the bible each year. I simply start at the introduction and finish in the maps. This morning, while still in the Old Testament, something struck me. It seems that each leader, Abraham & Moses for example, appointed successors long before their deaths. This practice was even seen with King David when he was anointed King long before (years and years before) he ever took the thrown.

This is what would happen, the priest would stand with the passing leader (or on behalf of God) in what seems like a semi-private affair, pray a blessing over the successor, offer sacrifice and…. that was it. No party, no celebration, nothing… except a long silent wait to ascend to position.

Joshua would not lead the Hebrews for months or even a year; King David was a boy when anointed and he, after his anointing, simply returned to the fields as a shepherd for the next near- decade.

Such is the story sometimes in our own lives; we have a dream or goal or passion and then we start down this road only to find it longer than we thought… and darker …and bleaker …and fearful.

Something of note that should brighten your path, and something that brightened mine was this: Moses was in preparation some 40 years before ever seeing the burning bush; Joshua was being prepared for his greatness by being the admin’ assistant to Moses for decades; and David was killing lions and bears long before his encounter with Goliath.

That silence you hear, that emptiness you feel, that is insurmountably huge, might be the preparation you need before you step into your own greatness…your calling. These just might be your prep-years. It was for Moses, for King David, and it definitely was for Abraham, who waited about 100 years for his prep-years to come to an end.

While I hope we don’t have to wait 100 years to step into our calling, waiting until the prep-years are over is critical to your success once those years are over. You would never skip out on practice in order that you might win a game, so don’t do that here. Do not harbor hatred or resentment in these years of preparation. Run the extra-mile, do the extra push-ups, read the additional book, take the other class, …say the additional prayer.

Be encouraged, even the calling on the life of Jesus as a man was only three years, but 30 of those, in human terms, were in preparation for an eternity. Those 30 years of prep-time changed the world. Why cannot this also be you?

Your calling might be huge and freakishly unorthodox, but if your fellow man or woman were at stake would you dare to try to accomplish it? If your family was at stake would you do it? If your why is bigger than your hurdles, then Yes, you would do this. But take heart and stand strong; enjoy and endure the prep-years, your calling coming, but it just might take some time.

Successful Intelligence – Robert J. Sternberg

 “Successfully Intelligent people realize that the environment in which they find themselves may of may not enable them to make the most of their talents. They actively seek an environment where they cannot only do competent work but make a difference. They create their own opportunities rather than let their opportunities delimited by the circumstances in which they happen to find themselves.” (24)

Successful Intelligence – Robert J. Sternberg

  “Successfully Intelligent people are self-efficacious [self-efficacy as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations]. The have a Can-Do attitude. They realize that the limits to what they can accomplish are often in what they tell themselves they cannot do, rather than in  what they really cannot to.” (20)

Making the Commitment

Making the commitment is hard.

Committing to anything is an act of courage. There is always a struggle, a balance of good and evil, that pulls and challenges your commitment. Many times, it is an everyday battle. But how you deal with it determines everything.

Perhaps you, like our family, have a coin jar. This jar seems to fill up all by itself. Day after day, week after week, the loose change piles up and soon the wide-mouth Mason jar overflows its rim and then we know it’s time to the count dough! This is actually a fun event where we all guess how much is in the jar – the winner is lavishly rewarded. It’s fun and we make a really big deal of it. But we are always surprised to see how much builds up over time.

Investing in your family, your church, your synagogue, your community, yourself, your retirement account, is no different. It takes time and energy. Some days are fun and others are not. Some folks laugh at you and others support you. You fight throwing in the towel and wish you could give up.

But fortunately, that’s part of the deal!

In the book of James, the author implores the reader to consider it joy, whenever you face trials, because you know that the testing of your faith (or commitment for that matter) produces perseverance. He goes on to say, to let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I understand the feeling like you do not have the income to invest or the time to spend with friends. I really do. It’s hard. But when you Make the Commitment, the commitment the choice has been made. All internal arguments now have permission to stop their torment! And you, you have the freedom the do those little things that will yield the person you are trying to become.

A quick principle: Little things over time will produce a harvest.

Christian or not, the idea of not lacking because I stayed true to my commitments, even under fire from my friends and foes, sounds like a program worth trying.

So go ahead and Make the Commitment.

Take Courage, I’ve been this way before

Joshua was Moses’ right hand man just next to Aaron. He was with Moses when God spoke on the mountain, when Moses raised his arms over the embattled People of God when Moses was seemingly controlling the battle from afar. Joshua was there looking on when Moses broke the original tablets known as the Ten Commandments. Bottom line, Joshua was very much in mix from the beginning. So much so, that when Moses passed away, Joshua was assigned as the leader of the Hebrew Nation. That’s a big deal!

Joshua was a rightly freaked out. The book bearing his name opens with a story of God saying, ‘Take courage! Do not be afraid!’ The new leader only needed to hear this about three more times before he started to understand that he needed to take courage. But what Joshua really needed to know was that the God of his fathers was the real leader of this ragamuffin band called God’s Chosen People and that he was in the fight with him.

Unlike the flannel-graph depiction of Joshua talking to a blue-eyed, blond haired, massive angle on a hill who was delivering a message from ‘gawd,’ there is little doubt that Joshua had some legitimate fear and the God of the Hebrew nation was there to help him figure things out.

Massive amounts of books and articles have been written on fear. Several will speak of doing one thing and others will say do another thing. But in the beginning, the message was simple and clear: Be strong and courageous! [It’s worth to note that the message Joshua heard from the angle, it also carried with the message of WHY he was to be strong and courageous. There is always a WHY behind the reason of taking courage.]

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. (Joshua 1:5-7 ESV)

So why the Sunday-School lesson? Simple. Like Joshua, our fear seems very real and at times really spooky. It’s a legitimate emotion, validated by our shaky knees and sweaty palms and sleepless nights. It’s only when we take courage and join forces with someone else that the edge is taken off.

What fear do you have? Where do you need to take courage? Is it in that talk with your teenage daughter, your wife, or your boss? Or is your fear in your investments and you need courage to hold or sell that stock?

That “someone else” may be God, it may be your spouse, it may be a friend. But the the truth is, we all need to take courage because we all have a fear. We are not alone in this fight despite what we may feel and see.

So, Take Courage, the path you are on has been trodden before and will be trodden after. Be strong when you feel weak, run when you want to walk, laugh when crying is easier, dig deeper when others say, ‘enough.’

How true it is that this journey may not led you where you thought it might; things may be different on the other side of fear and the other side of courage.

But then, maybe weeks or many years later, you can stand with someone who is frightened and afraid and render the same advise- “Take Courage, I’ve been this way before.”

Our “One Word” in 2015

In 2012 a group of men, tired of the cycle of failed goal-setting, set out to write a book. It is a very short book but one that took many, many years to write. Dan Britton, Jimmy Page, & Jon Gordon tell the story of their proven method in One Word that will change your life.

I listened to the audio version (about 50 minutes long) nearly a year ago. Having just signed up for Micheal Hyatt’s course, 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever, I chose to stay-the-course and ear-marked One Word for a 2015 adventure. (A note on Micheal Hyatt’s course, though this is close for the 2015 season, it is well worth your time and energy to go through this event.)

The premise, and hardly a summer of the book, is to establish One Word to guide you through the year. By focusing on only one word, your actions will support your one word. Example, maybe you are a teacher and you chose the word, “Gift.” You would start, by cognitively choosing to view your actions, deeds, and words as “Gifts.” …and everyone loves a gift! At the end of year you look back and see your life as gift to those around you. Hey, I believe in the principle of sowing reaping and when you give of yourself, others will return the favor.

Solo adventures are seldom the best adventures. In fact, they don’t tell as great a story as an adventure shared; life is far too short for ‘solo.’ So, what is different this year? I included my family in my adventure. Novel, I know! …and they became willing participants in what is shaping-up to become a great year.

My youngest chose the word “Thoughtful;” Child two: “Focus;” Child one: “Change;” and my wife, “Zeal.” My ‘One Word,’ is “Mission.”

Each night we go around the table and tell one way they lived out their One Word that day. The question I ask is, “did you move the needle on your one word?”

Last night, the high-schooler said he was changing how he writes a report in class; while the youngest said she drew her teacher a picture. The middle child said she focused in math class (a really big deal that may be on-par with most any biblical miracles)!

Whatever this ends up being, one thing is certain, if we stay our course, we will not be the same entering 2016 as we were entering 2015. We will be better, more Missionally minded, Changed, Zealous, Focused, and Thoughtful… and that cannot be that bad!

Year in Review, Chicago, and Brother Ray

Between August 1973 – May 1980 the music group Chicago wrote the 1985 classic “Take Me Back to Chicago.” For a near a decade they wrote and kept some of the best tracks from being heard all inside a single album until 1985. I was kid in 1985 but loved this record. By my own recall, I was an odd kid who dreamed of playing the trumpet for Chicago or for the late, the great, Ray Charles.

I never understood why they waited so long to produce this album. keeping folks waiting to hear 10 years of “Bests” is agonizing. Having already established a history of peculiarity,I heard this title track and it triggered a new post.

I started 2014 with a goal of writing 52 blog posts. Well, I failed, and in no small way. But like Chicago, I had some great hits: The goal of reading a book a month was blown away with a read of 36 for the year… The goal of dating my wife and girls and leading my son…a major hit!  Financial and Intellectual goals were made and hit. Even establishing a ‘legacy box,’ (See Dave Ramsey’s site for this amazing program) was made. I hit just over 7 of my 10 goals. My overall ‘grade’ was 75%. But wait! That’s only a C; however, my 2013 grade was 0%.

In retrospect, the price paid for 75% was nowhere near the cost of 2013’s 0%. Meaning, the sacrifices made in 2014 paid huge dividends. Family is closer; Finances better; Health stronger; Intellect sharper; Career direction, more defined; Social connections, stronger; Spiritual growth, healthier. So I failed at blogging, so what, so I did not get a new career track moving, 2015 is a new year, I did not help in the community as I would have liked, there is still promise. But my gain in 2014 laid a great foundation for a great 2015!

So, be like the group Chicago, have a hit album called, Your Life, just don’t wait to get it out there. Start somewhere and make your life count. Let others reach out and pick your album over an unknown to listen to.

Successful Intelligence – Robert J. Sternberg

  “Successfully Intelligent people capitalize on their intellectual strengths and compensate for and correct their weaknesses. Parents, schools, and the workplace need to support the development of successful intelligence in whatever ways they can, and to view intellectual abilities as dynamic and flexible rather than as static and fixed.” (33)