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.

True happiness can’t be bought

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The best things in life don’t come with a receipt.

But all of our lives we’ve been told—no, sold—that if we buy this or that thing we will be sexy, better, satisfied, happy. But it’s not true. We’ve been duped.

I remember going into stores and buying this or that article of clothing for my wardrobe, adding another sweater, button-down shirt, jeans, knowing full well that I would only be adding to piles of clothes that I already had and barely touched. But that didn’t matter.

What did matter was that I felt good after I bought it, for a bit. There was a buzz, a shot of happiness. But after a day or two, the buzzing ceased. I was just me again, with another shirt in my closet.

Then I stopped buying because I realized this.

Consumerism is a lie.

The truth is nothing you buy can fulfill you, make you whole, or delight you like the greater things in life.

Instead of purchasing things you don’t need, spend time practicing healthy habits, connecting with loved ones, doing meaningful work, learning, living relationally and spiritually rich lives.

Hug a loved one. Kiss your child. Laugh with a friend. Do missionary work. Read. Pray. Worship. Love.

No one lying on their deathbed regrets spending time with their family or living a life serving a mission greater than themselves or playing tag with their kid or seeking spiritual fulfillment.

Those moments can’t be purchased, but they are invaluable.

And anyone can have them.

It’s your choice.

Dealing with the fear of Coronavirus

You’re thinking about it; I’m thinking about it. Let’s talk about it. What is it?

Coronavirus. 

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in this ramen shop waiting for my friend, when I heard it: Coughing. Two women seated next to me coughed with this dry wheezing kind of cough. Maybe you would have been fine with it. I wasn’t. I cringed. And I tried to scoot away, hoping they wouldn’t point their mouths in my direction and didn’t notice my slow methodical scooches. It was silly but real. 

The friend I was waiting for showed up. We caught up and the conversation floated to the topic du jour. As we slurped on noodles and broth, he reminded me that he was going to Hawaii this week for vacation (I know, hard life). His plan was to meet his in-laws, who live in Australia, to enjoy a couple of weeks in paradise together, basking under the warm pacific sun with leis around their necks, sipping on umbrella drinks while his kids played on the silky beach, surrounded by guys twirling torches, dancing. Ok, so some of that was exaggerated, but not by much. But now, COVID19 is causing his in-laws to second-guess going. 

I asked him if he was worried about traveling, adding that I would be worried. “Oh, we’ll just wash our hands,” he said straight-faced. He noted that there hadn’t been any confirmed cases there, and he goes by the data, not fear. 

As much as I admire my friend’s stance, I don’t agree with it. To be clear, I agree with data and find his courage stirring. But I would be more cautious.

But I will admit that my caution looks more like fear. It’s probably because it is.

And I hate the fear I’m feeling, the I-think-anyone-who-has-a-dry-cough-has-a-deadly-virus kind of fear. It’s an overarching dread I feel like there’s a zombie apocalypse coming and I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s awful. 

Maybe you’re feeling it, too. 

When I feel that way, I pray; I also, like my friend, wash my hands twenty times a day and make my wife and kids do the same. But when I’m not lathering up, I ask God to help me fear less. I pray for the people in China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, the world, my friend who’s traveling and all the other people I love. And I ask for protection, wisdom, and help. It helps. 

Watching a video of a World Health Organization doctor also helped. He reported on his findings from a trip to China he was just on, sharing that the Chinese government was able to curb the spread of the virus with success. Knowing this isn’t the zombie apocalypse also eases my fears. 

No one knows where this global story is going. Trying is futile. And I’m not saying I have all of the answers. I don’t. I’m just a guy writing this blog post in his underwear with huge headphones on.

But I do urge you to be cautious and take this seriously, without giving into your baser fears. I think the distinction is whether or not we are being reactionary and deeply emotional.

Fear makes the world the enemy and bases decisions on worst case scenarios. I’m not saying you shouldn’t draw out worst case scenarios. I am saying that you should not make decisions off of them, since very rarely do they happen. That’s a fear-based mindset.

Whereas caution is more mindful. It takes into account the potential dangers, even the worst, but it doesn’t overreact. It makes measured choices and plans. It protects without making everyone the enemy. It’s vigilant without being violent.

Believe me; I’m not pointing any fingers or judging anyone who’s living in fear because this guy (me) has been doing a lot of worst-case-scenario-ing these days.

This is serious. And I know that I’ve sprinkled humor in this post. But I did that to give you a little delight on a sour subject. Humor is also a coping mechanism for me. 

Laughter is medicine. 

I’d love to know how all of you are thinking about this and hear from you. Please reach out. 

In the meantime, I pray that this finds you well, safe, and healthy. 

You can choose

You have the power to choose.

Choose to love. Serve others. Adore yourself. Love the unlovable.

Choose to play. Like a child, enjoy your this moment, all of the moments, see the world with wonder, glee, delight. Playfully move through the world.

Choose to dance. Allow the music on the radio, in your mind, to move you, your body, your soul, feeling the rhythm flow through you.

Choose to live. A life without regret and unburdened by fear is what we all want. In each instance of your life, decide on living honorably, greatly, beautifully.

Today, I hope you choose well.

This mindset helps you live better

Life isn’t about perfection; it’s a practice.

Perfectionism makes you feel stuck, scared to fail— stay imperfect.

And you probably hate that. You want to change, but don’t know how to do it.

Well, stop trying to be perfect and start practicing.

What is practice?

It’s doing something regularly to continue to grow and learn.

That can be in fitness, work, creating, family, speech, play. But, for me, all of life is a practice.

Every day, I’m trying to learn how to develop in all areas of my life. I want to know what I could be doing better.

You can, too.

Getting better is one of the main purposes of life.

And at the core of practice is just that: improvement.

I can always be a better husband, father, business partner, businessman, entrepreneur, writer, thinker, person.

If I always tried to be perfect even in one of those areas, I would get so discouraged that I would want to quit.

And therein lies the problem, you see. Perfection doesn’t motivate. It forces us to see what we can’t reach.

But with practice, it’s incremental. It’s day-to-day.

By making small daily improvements that are almost imperceptable at the moment you’ll be transformed after months and years.

You see, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about progressing.

Perfection accentuates the fact that you aren’t perfect. But practice focuses on the act and improving.

So don’t worry about being perfect. That’s a waste of time, life.

Live in practice.

And live better.

Reflections from a funeral

Funerals aren’t just about death; they’re also about life. And this past week, while at my friend’s dad’s funeral, I could see that he lived richly, and he knew it.

I don’t mean that he drove a Maserati, had a big house, or had some huge title. He didn’t. He was normal, just a regular Joe. Yet, to me, he was extraordinary.

His family loved him. Not in a surface-y love kind of way, where they covered up all the warts and talked only about the beautiful stuff for show. They knew his weaknesses well and talked about them but loved him despite them. It was genuine.

When his kids eulogized him, they shared how much he loved to laugh and make others do the same, and if he hurt someone, he was quick to apologize. He was vulnerable. He didn’t hide his flaws. He opened himself up to his children and allowed them to see him, as he was, broken, yet glorious and true.

That, to me, is extraordinary. To have your children not just love you but honor you for who you actually were would be one of the greatest rewards in life. It says you put your priorities aright. You poured your life into your children. You spent time with them and nurtured them, telling them stories, sharing what it means to be a good person, love God, be a good neighbor, countryman, parent.

One of the most moving moments of the funeral for me was the burial service. He was in the Air Force, and joining had a profound impact on him. So he chose to be buried in Jefferson Barracks, a National cemetery. He wanted the ceremony, the guards of honor, the salutes, the unified rifle shots, the flag. After the flag was folded, with such pomp, it was presented with deep sincerity by a person in uniform to his wife, thanking her for her husband’s “honorable service.”

The family cried. I cried. Others cried.

And through all of this, I could not help but reflect on my own funeral. What will my children say about me? Will they love and honor me? But that burial service marked me.

I won’t get a gun salute since I’ve never been in the military. But the words “honorable service” still rang in my ears, my heart, my soul. I wondered if I will be distinguished as a person who served honorably. And as I pondered, my mind kept drawing me towards my family.

As I am fathering these days, I’m keenly aware of my deficiencies, lacks. And I lack much. I’m far from being a perfect father. But I do want my children to know, despite my deep flaws, my severe impatience, and general stupidity, that I love them, deeply.

And at the end of life, will I sweat the money that I made or didn’t make, that deal that would have changed my lifestyle, the business I wanted to start or build? I doubt it. I would wonder if I was a good husband, father, son, brother, friend. I’d want to know that I was faithful, true, dependable, loving, as my friend’s dad was.

One last story about him. He was asked to become an elder, which is basically the senior leadership or board, in an important church in his city. And at this church, they saw eldership as the pinnacle of importance. But, he turned it down. He would rather be a deacon, which was seen as the lesser office that served the poor and needy so that he could serve. He didn’t need elevation nor the title to make himself feel important. Instead, he wanted to do important work. He just wanted to provide honorable service. He knew that was worth far more than a title.

We all need to remember that we will have a funeral. It will be us resting in that casket someday, whether we like it or not. And what is talked about isn’t the death so much as your life.

My friend’s dad did have a rich life, legacy. He did because he made decisions like becoming a deacon (not that being an elder is wrong for the right reasons), living simply, loving vulnerably, prioritizing his time well; he invested in his children. And he reaped a great reward.

Now, the question is, How do you want people to remember you and are you living in such a way as to bring that about now, always?

Answer that question well, and, as you close your eyes for the last time, you can also know you had a rich life.

Live well

I’m not an NBA fan; I don’t watch any games, turn on ESPN, follow any players, but the news about Kobe Bryant and his daughter punched me in the heart.

Famous people dying is in the media all of the time. It’s sad, and we can feel some sadness. But often we move on.

The news about Kobe should have done the same for me.

But it didn’t.

It hit me. It lingered. I felt it kick me in the heart, like a full backswing and put-your-body-into-it kind of kick. It was like I lost someone I knew. I was surprised.

Minutes before I saw the news, I indulged myself at a ramen joint I wanted to try out. It didn’t disappoint. Day-long simmering broth, perfectly cooked noodles, and pork-belly sloshed around my belly as I wobbled out the door. It was bliss.

While commuting back home on subway, I opened Instagram and saw a post from Gary Vaynerchuck paying his respects to Kobe as if he died.

And I was like, “Wait, what the?!” It knocked some wind out of me and I found it hard to breathe. I was in disbelief that Kobe could be anywhere near dead. “Not Kobe, too!” I thought.

Quickly I snapped a browser open and started googling and saw the news: “Kobe and his daughter die in helicopter crash, no surviors.”

The happy buzz I had from that heavenly meal started to feel a touch hellish as my stomach churned when I continued to click and scroll, click and scroll, burying myself in the story.

And somehow there were more flashes of memories about this man that I never met, followed, or even cared much about. There I was on the 7 train heading back into Manhattan, moved, caring.

Why was I so emotional?

Maybe it was the tragedy of a great player who died at such a young age with his daughter in tow who had barely even begun living. Maybe it was those Nike ads that talked about his work habit, his mindset, his tenacity, his audaciousness. Maybe it was the fact that two of my friends’ parents died in the same week as Kobe.

There was just too much death swirling around me. One of my friends found out that her mom died abruptly, and my other friend’s father had a long slog with cancer.

And all of that made me think about my father’s death and the fact that we all die. It was overwhelming.

Then, Kobe happened.

I was overwhelmed.

I stopped and reflected on all of this and saw things more clearly.

Even if I wasn’t a fan of the sport, I was a fan of this sportsman.

I just respected him.

I respected the way he carried himself even when people hated him, even when he was getting punished by the media, even when he really screwed up. He had class. He was a winner, even when he lost.

And after losing basketball, he lived his life.

Living life—that’s what I’ve resolved to do. I was spending too much time worrying about death.

We should think about it though. Our mortality is a teacher as the ancients and sages teach.

My father’s death has taught me much: not to take life for granted, not to assume tomorrow is ours, humility (I’m always working on that one), every day is a gift.

Death also forces us to really look at how we live. It makes us want to do better, seek truth, not put up with too much BS, take chances, feel alive.

But worrying about death is dumb.

No one knows when their time will come. So it’s useless to fret about what we can’t do anything about.

What we can do is live as well as we can today. We can love those around us, hug them, encourage them. We can love ourselves.

We can mourn those who’ve passed, remember them, celebrate them, tell their stories.

We can be thankful for what we have, find true meaning, grow.

Sadly, death is inevitable.

But living well is a choice.


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You are rich

If you can’t enjoy what you have, you’ll never appreciate what you want.

If you learn to feel rich in every moment, getting what you hope for will only make you richer.

Gratitude gives you abundance even when you may have relatively little.

And if you have nothing, you can still be grateful for life.

Even with just that, you have much.

How to love your life

To love the life you have, you must live a life of love.

It’s easy to buy into the idea that the more we possess like money, homes, stuff, the happier we will be, but that’s not true.

Being rich doesn’t make you feel rich. There’s always someone richer to make you feel poorer.

And there’s nothing wrong with being wealthy; just don’t expect it to make you feel fulfilled. That doesn’t work.

What works is loving what should be loved.

By making people, family, friends, neighbors, strangers, ourselves, God the objects of our heart’s desire, caring for and serving them fills us with the joy we want, need.

Love begets love.

Live your life

Too many of us live as if we were dead, but we need to live while we’re alive.

This day is what you have. It’s a gift. You’re blessed. Take it and do the things you dream of, start it, try, begin.

Don’t live in fear. Live out of faith. You’re alive, so stop spending your time worrying about death. That’s a waste of your life.

Instead, start living.

Now.