Learning From Failure Is the Key to Succeeding

Success is less about how you think of succeeding, and more about how you view failure.

Maybe you made a terrible investment, messed up your work, sent out an email that was meant to be private but somehow cc’d your whole division including your boss, have a terrible relationship with so and so, etc., and all you want to do is ignore it. (I get it.) But don’t. Resist pushing your failure away.

Instead, gaze into it. Look through the rubble. Find ways you could have, should have, done better.

And, by doing that, you can’t help but improve.

See, to grow, change, learn, we mustn’t shy away from our failures, we must study them. They are one of our best teachers. When you sit at its feet you will gain new direction, better solutions, fresh ideas.

Failure isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

By studying your failures you will learn to succeed.


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Should We Defund the Police?

Defunding the police isn’t the right answer. It sounds good, but will work badly.

Before I proceed, know that I am for the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s right; it’s just. And I believe that law enforcement as a system and organization needs to be reformed, maybe even taken apart and restored piece by piece.

But I question the language that is being used now.

Defund the police” has been a battle cry in the protests. And I get it. Yes, police brutality is absolutely wrong and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

But to say we shouldn’t have police is something else entirely.

Complex problems can’t be solved with simple solutions. It’s easier to see problems than to solve them.

When I got married seeing that our marriage was screwed up was the easy part. It took years of work and conversations and working out my own junk and counseling and trust building to get our relationship to a healthier place.

If marriage is complex, race-based police brutality is even knottier. And if a broken marriage requires a multifaceted approach, what do you think this problem will require?

Or if you had some serious arteries blocked in your heart that’s a life threatening problem, but you would never tell a doctor to give you a heart transplant. That’s riskier than putting in stents, which is the typical procedure to save your life.

I could be wrong: But are we ripping out a heart by defunding our police? Is there a better way to incentivize officers to do the right thing and disincentivize racist unjust behavior? I think so.

For too long our justice system has protected officers, even the bad ones, killing blacks, using excess force.

But now the tide is changing. Justice is dawning.

Yet we still live in a world where break-ins happen. Murders happen. Carjackings, theft, assault, rape, stabbings, drug dealing, etc. do happen. What happens to those when the police get defunded?

Also, I wonder if we are equating police with slavery. Yes, does it perpetuate those power dynamics? Absolutely. That’s probably the reason the sentiment to abolish it has risen.

But as an institution, it is not inherently evil. It may be diseased, but it’s not lost. The intent of police, if it is to serve and protect everyone, is right. That means it needs to be corrected, or healed, not destroyed. It needs stents not a transplant. An amputation may even be necessary, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be killed.

There are no easy answers. I’m not saying we should not do anything radical. But we shouldn’t call for something radical without careful thought, a plan.

We want justice. We want someone to pay for the lives of all of these sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. And I pray that those who murdered George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others feel justice’s swift gavel.

But, must we sacrifice law enforcement in the process?

I’m not saying that I know what a stent looks like in the heart of policing. My point is that before we rush into weighty conclusions we need to pause and think about what the consequences will be.

Because justice should not mean lawlessness.


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Gain More Gratitude by Doing This

He asked for $50.

This week my friend told me a story that broke my heart. The man who mowed my friend’s lawn, came up after he finished his work and told him that he really needed money and asked if he could borrow some. He needed $50.

Could you imagine working up the courage, the shame inducing gumption, to ask for that? Not $100,000, $10,000, or $1,000, not even $100. It was 50.

My friend held out the money and said, “Take it, but, please, don’t worry about paying it back.”

I’m writing this not to make you feel bad. It’s just to raise the awareness of the utter pain, stress, and agony that is going on in the world (which I was barely aware of until I heard a few stories recently, including the one I just told).

If you have more than many, then you should give to those who have less.

That will not only change your mindset of thinking you don’t have enough; it will remind you of how much you really have.

Giving to others makes us grateful.


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What Is the Value of a Black Person’s Life?

What is the value of a human life? Or to be more precise what is it for a black person’s life?

Is it worth subordinating your agenda, your rights, your feelings, your privilege, your race?

Is it worth getting unfollowed, unliked, ghosted, canceled, hated, arrested, despised?

Is it worth protests, standing against police lines, facing your fears, being subjected to violence, losing property to looting?

If you’re a Christian, like me, you believe that all people—every tribe, tongue, nation, religion, race—has infinite value. Humans are created in the image of God. And to murder that bearer of God’s face is like murdering God.

That’s why ending a human’s life is so solemn, the heaviest of decisions.

But we know that.

The problem, I believe, isn’t that we’ve forgotten the value of human life.

The problem is this: We’ve never known the value of a black person’s life.

That. Must. Change.

It is time to see that black lives don’t just matter, they are valuable, just as valuable as our own, as our child’s, our mother’s, our friends’.

When we know that, the world will be transformed.

You will transform.

Peace Must Be Fought For

People in power don’t give up power willingly.

You don’t see them surrendering a seat of power unless it’s absolutely necessary. Kings must be beheaded, rebellions must be incited, and revolutions fought in order to unseat tyrants, despots, and dictators.

Isn’t that how America was born?

Now we live in a “free” country. It’s blessed, and rich—for some. But there are others who aren’t free enough.

Black people still feel fists, boots, knees, bullets violently thrusted at them, not by ordinary citizens, but by those mandated to uphold the law.

They use their authority to authorize unjust death sentences at a whim, in a moment of fury, rage, drenched in racism and tyrannical hate.

Will they relinquish their power easily? No. The murdering of blacks by those in power has been happening far too long.

The powerful must be held accountable, deposed from their offices, brought down by the strong hand of justice. That’s why people march, fight, protest.

Without it change would not occur.

Without it there would be no true peace.

To have peace, we must fight for it.

One of the Most Powerful Things You Can Do

Words are powerful, but this has even more power: Listening.

When you take the time to turn your ear, pay attention, and ask good questions to others, you build bridges, change history, and move mountains. You are connecting.

That will reverberate across time and space. You are making others feel loved by your act of quietude, which harmonizes with the chorus of the universe.

To listen to someone seems passive, but it’s one of the most active things you can do.

You’re catching that person’s mind, heart, and soul, like a seashell catches the ocean’s sound. And that act will echo throughout eternity with the sweet sounds of serenity and roaring adoration.

Compassion is eternal.

Listening to others creates the music of life, where relationships dance, marriages harmonize, and the arias of forgiveness bring tears to our eyes; children will find it easier to laugh and play, communities band together, and the melody of goodness rings in the air.

If you listen, you will have understanding, healthy connections, and wisdom.

But more importantly, life will swell into an overpowering crescendo that sings forth love.

This Is What Love Looks Like

I have an uncle that I admire. His name is Rick.

You probably don’t know him. But, if you did, you would sense that he’s different.

He’s one of the most loving guys I know. And we can all learn from him.

When he wants to talk to my wife or me, he will call and call until he gets a hold of us. If he can’t reach me, he’ll call my wife. If she doesn’t pick up, he will call me, then her, then me, then her again. And if he still can’t reach us, he will wait a few hours then call us again, even if we don’t call back.

When he finally reaches us, he will ask to see us. There’s no shame or guilt in his tone; he’s not upset that we didn’t pick up or call him back. He seems genuinely happy to talk to us. And while my wife and I are deliberating on when to see him, I will look at my wife and she will look at me, while Uncle Rick is still on the phone–waiting. He’s not pestering us. He’s not shrinking or embarrassed that we are taking our time. He quietly waits.

And then when we eventually say, “Yes, it would be great to see you!” he’s delighted. Even though he had to wait minutes for us to figure out the timing, he didn’t interpret it as us not wanting to see him. He gives us the benefit of the doubt.

When he shows up, he blesses us. He loves on us with his words, big smiles, and kind gestures. He brings gifts for our kids; he wishes us well.

And that whole series of events from calling to showing up hasn’t just happened once, it’s happened multiple times, in one form or another, since my wife and I married.

See, Rick’s a pitbull of love. He doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s not deterred by our indecision, upset by our uncertainty, troubled when we don’t call back. He just keeps coming.

He doesn’t think, “Oh, these people have disrespected me by not calling me back or not picking up or making me wait.” No. He just keeps on loving.

And I love him for it. I can’t help but respect him for it. I admire him and try to imitate him. He inspires me. I’m far from being like him, but I’m trying.

I hope he inspires you, too.

In a world that is broken relationally, we need that type of behavior. We need people who fight for each other, take the initiative, reach out, and give generously. We need more generosity. We need more Uncle Ricks.

What would this world look like if people were more resolute, resilient, resolved, tenacious, unwavering for others? What would we as a people be like if we loved each other through the awkwardness, the pauses, the silence? 

We should all be more like Uncle Rick.

Let’s try today.


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You Have Great Power

You are not powerless; you have a choice.

You can choose to avoid the news, build a routine, exercise, connect with a friend, read a great book—hope.

It’s not easy in this time, I get it.

Shifting your mind from focusing on the negative to healthier activities is your decision.

Decide to feed your mind stories that lift the spirit, move your body even if it’s just for a few minutes, take a walk outside, meditate, pray, get to sleep at a better hour, call someone and ask them how they’re doing, and turn off your notifications for the news.

Whatever you do, make decisions to further your health and, where you can, the health of others.

You have far more power than you may realize.

You are powerful enough to change the way you think and feel.

Lots of love,

John


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This Is How I See You

You are glorious.

You are lovely; you are loved. You are a child, a daughter, a son, family, a friend.

You are valuable regardless of your story, your brokenness, your failures.

You are beautiful. You are radiant. I see it in you; you can too.

Love yourself. See yourself.

Look into your face. Don’t note the “flaws.”

Instead gaze through my eyes as I turn to you and behold the face of God.

Lots of love,

John


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When You Savor Life, You Are Rich

An urgency to live well grows in us when we see our parents growing old.

Or at least that’s what happened to me yesterday. 

“It felt like a few days ago when we took these pictures,” my mom said to my son as she showed him an album of Polaroid pictures of me when I was a one year old. Disbelief marked his eyes as she flipped through the images of me with chubby cheeks captured on instant film framed on the iconic white borders over four decades ago. 

Disbelief struck me too. It’s cliche to say that time moves so quickly. But when you are standing with your child socially distanced from your seventy-something year old mother looking at baby pictures of you learning to walk, with her saying it felt like a few days ago, it’s not cliche at all. It’s real

It’s a reality that slaps you in your face and kicks in the heart, urging you to live. You feel rushed to cram as much as you can in the years, months, days, because you sense the ticking of time somewhere out there, somewhere in you, flitting away. 

But, for me, making the most of life isn’t so much about doing more or going to exotic destinations or achieving incredible milestones, as much as I do appreciate travel and creating big experiences.

It’s more about savoring the little moments. The bite-sized love packets of the seemingly ordinary, like I was having with my son and mom looking at pictures of me drooling on myself, or having a nice meal at home laughing with my wife and kids, or sharing ideas and stories with friends.

When you can drink those in, that’s when you can really start living. Those are the times of connection that flow with fresh meaning. And by drinking them in, you’ll taste the goodness of life anew, like tasting fine wine for the first time as the flavors dance on your palate like little fairies having a party.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget those “smaller” events when we’re trying to check off our bucket-list. But when we are, let’s not forget the “normal” instances that truly make up the stuff of life. It’s less about the thrill and more about feeling intimacy, closeness in those meaningful everyday interactions that hold monumental significance.

In life, less is often so much more.

Savoring the daily joys fills the cups of our hearts to the brim and makes them overflow. 

It’s an abundance and flourishing that anyone can have. 

It’s here. Take it—every day. Enjoy.

You’ll be rich.


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