Love your life

Life’s simplest joys are best: a hug from a loved one, a kind word, a smile, the aroma of coffee right as you take the first sip, friends sharing stories and laughter, children growing, life awakening, a new day.

That’s not seen simply. It takes work.

See, we’re taught at a very young age that more is better, and better is best.

But, the truth is bigger piles of money, nicer homes, grander titles can’t give you what you really want.

Because more is never enough.

In quiet moments we can hear the whisperings that a secret to living well isn’t about getting what we desire but desiring what we’ve got.

When you believe that, you begin to experience the evidences of fullness, bounty, and blessing in your everyday moments, everywhere; and you will realize they are some of the things that make your life truly good and abundant, filling you with abounding mirth and joy.

And you won’t want more.

Because what you have is more than enough.

One of the greatest blessings we often overlook

Time is a gift.

Each second is a boon for your life, it’s a harvest of blessings before you—a feast.

Drink deeply from it, savor each morsel, enjoy, laugh, love—live.

This very second has been given to you. It’s an opportunity and invitation to grow, learn, try.

That dream you’ve wanted to realize, the book you wanted to write, that relationship you wanted to form are all before you, and today affords you the chance to bring them about.

If you have time, you are blessed.

This moment is a blessing.

Enjoy!

Waiting well will transform your life

Waiting feels terrible. But when we wait well, magic happens.

Growing, improving, changing doesn’t happen quickly. We know that.

But for some reason, we still get impatient and disappointed when it doesn’t happen when we want it to, which often means yesterday.

And we know that we must wait. But what we often fail to understand is that we mustn’t just wait.

For how we wait is what really matters.

Waiting well is key.

“Waiting” usually means we get antsy, we fidget, we get impatient. Then we start to wonder if this is worth it, and we begin to stray. And wondering becomes wandering. Before you know it, we’re completely off the path.

Instead, waiting well gives us poise as we do our daily routines, form new habits, learn new lessons. It knows that transformation doesn’t occur in a moment, but rather moment by moment by moment. It’s gradual, incremental.

Waiting well means resisting looking at the results but revels in the process. You’re not looking to make quick gains but gain a life long practice.

And thinking like that will transform your life.

Waiting well plays the long game.

And if you do that, you will win.

You are more than worthy

You are worth infinitely more than you know. The stars, jewels, and gold cannot compare. You have the face of God.

You see, the world has duped you into believing that you are your salary or your “earning potential” or your net worth.

But that is not your real value.

You’re worthy of dignity, respect, decency, courtesy. You’re not lesser or smaller or beneath others.

It’s true: You may not have as much or be as big or do as well.

But we are all human, born from mothers, broken yet beautiful, children of God.

You are more than worthy.

You are invaluable.

The best thing about losing

Losing doesn’t just mean you’ve lost. For, when you lose, you gain.

Whenever a friend leaves, you move away, get fired, close a business, it’s awful.

We hate it. We should, because losing sucks. No one wants to have something taken from them.

But what I’ve noticed is no matter what (or who) was taken from me, I’ve always gained in place of the thing I lost.

When one girlfriend and I broke up, then another, then another, then another, time after time after time, I gained insight into who I was and who I wasn’t. I realized I was too picky, too arrogant, too something. And I saw what was really important to me and what was superfluous.

And when I moved across the country, literally, from NYC to San Diego, for a relationship that eventually broke, it made me feel like the greatest loser.

But that was right before I would meet the woman who would ultimately become my life partner, my love, my wife.

When you lose, you gain.

During one of the hardest times in my career when I got fired from the only job I was qualified for, pastoring a church, I lost big. I mean I went to graduate school for four years just to have the credentials to start this career path, this calling. So when I was terminated, I went into a depression and didn’t know if I would ever come out.

But through that, I also gained an understanding of myself and saw that God was with me and loved me even when I felt worthless. He made me worthy. And when it seemed like I was useless, He gave me a new job that eventually led me to start my own business; and I realized this was one the best things that could have ever happened to me.

When you lose, you gain.

After my father died when I was in elementary school, I raged. Life was black. Darkness swallowed me. I was lost. But now, as a middle-aged man reflecting back on those events and my learnings, what I see is this.

I don’t know who I would have become if my dad was still alive. Would I be as much of a fighter? Would I see life the way I see it—incredibly precious? Would I have been humbled so that I found faith? I doubt it.

I do know that I would have been different. And I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve grown to become because of the pain I’ve experienced.

Of course I’m not saying that I’m glad that my dad died. Death sucks. It always will.

But my meaning is that all pain, even losing the bedrock of your family, can strengthen you, grow you, and give you something you would have never gained without that horrible event.

When you lose, you gain.

The danger of losing is that you can get lost. It’s easy to lose ourselves to bitterness, anger, sorrow. And a dark season can become a life without light, where it’s always night, without a dawn.

But it needn’t be that way.

You can learn, grow, rise—gain.

There is work, though. Gaining doesn’t just come automatically. You need to be open to it. You need to look for it. As a miner who seeks for gold must dig, you too must sift through your mind and the world to find nuggets of knowledge, wisdom, insight after you lose.

For, in the rubble of losing, there are lessons to be learned about yourself, humanity, God, life. If you look for them, you will uncover them.

It needs to be sifted away from the debris of living and pain and bitterness. And there you will see it shining before you eyes, glorious and pure—golden and true.

The way you do that is by reflecting.

Reflection is the act of looking back on particular events, thoughts, feelings, and ideas that have occurred and searching for right understanding and learnings from them.

Sometimes this takes months even years to find the goodness. The death of my father and losing my career path took a long time to play out, and I couldn’t grasp any clear gains. But, eventually, I did.

Journaling, talking to friends, counseling, mediation, and sitting there and letting your mind wander helps.

That space and time help your mind open up to make new discoveries. And what you will discover is a new day, shining brilliantly before you, and more than that.

There will be a new you.

Create better work by doing this

Sometimes doing nothing is the best way to create something great: The creative process isn’t just about work; it’s about rest.

Your mind needs time to recuperate, recover, be restored. It does that through sleep and daydreaming—doing nothing.

That means staring off into space, looking out the window, letting your mind wander, dozing off to sleep, not thinking.

That’s when your mind is connecting the dots, forming new ideas, dreaming dreams. It’s when your thoughts go beyond thinking, and you’re unconsciously creating magic, in your subconscious, seeing concepts you could never see while fully conscious.

That’s the mystery of creating.

We are better able to see when our eyes aren’t focused. When our minds are cloudy clarity strikes. For, when we rest, our brains rework our work.

Winston Churchill understood that. He was one of the most prolific creators ever, and he took an hour every afternoon to sit somewhere and doze off with a cigar pinched in his lips.

Yes, take your vacations and play, explore, and see. And, of course, sleep well, getting at least eight hours a night. But that’s not the rest I’m talking about here.

You need to take short breaks.

Like Churchill (but maybe without the cigar), allow yourself a little regular break to unplug during the day to let your eyes glaze over and your mind roam. Don’t think about what you’re working on, deadlines, anything. Think about nothing.

And you will find your energy returning, creativity bursting, and ideas flowing.

Magic will happen.

 

 

 

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.

How you can be a good friend when life sucks

Being a good friend isn’t easy, but it’s simple: Just show up.

Last week I went to a funeral for my good friend’s dad. And I’ll be honest there was a part of me that wanted to run, shy away, draw back.

I’m an introvert (maybe you can relate).

Then, there are no guidelines, clear protocols, understandings of how to conduct yourself when you go to a funeral for a friend’s parent.

So I endeavored to do what I could. The moment my plane landed, I texted my friend announcing my arrival. He asked if I wanted to come over to his mom’s. I said yes, of course.

When I got there, I greeted his sister, mom, kids, wife, and of course, him. Some conversation was made. But mostly I sat, and was just there.

Then he and I went out to eat with a couple of his kids, and we talked about all kinds of things: friends, him, me, us, family. And we inevitably talked about death and his dad. It wasn’t scripted. It wasn’t perfect. But it was rich.

After we dropped off his kids, we went out to get a cup of coffee and talk and spend some more time together. We reminisced and shared stories.

I told one about how I almost peed my pants while filming a video for a client in the middle of some random neighborhood in East St. Louis while the client was there, and how I was looking for a bush to go in and then had a brilliant idea to go to a complete stranger’s house and knock on their door to ask if I could use their bathroom. To make matters worse, it was around 630am. And somehow I talked my way into that complete stranger’s house in East St. Louis and used their bathroom, and I thanked God that I didn’t pee my pants in front of our client. He laughed; I laughed; we laughed. Then he shared his own stories, and I almost peed my pants (metaphorically) again. At one point we were crying from laughing so hard at some of our stories, mostly his, my belly hurt. It was magical.

It’s weird how much you need to laugh when there’s so much pain surrounding you, in you. Laughing heals.

Eventually, we made it back to his mom’s place, and I went back in even though I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to intrude or be a nuisance, but I also wanted to be near and supportive.

They were just moving around as they normally would, and I said that if they needed me to leave that I would. They said, “No, no, you’re fine,” but my insecurities made me feel unfine. After spending some time with all of them, I decided to leave.

The visitation was in a couple of hours, and I still needed to change clothes since I doubted my hoodie, albeit black, would be appropriate garb for the occasion.

After changing, I went to the visitation, said hello, hugged folks, made some conversation, paid my respects, reflected on the deceased, life, my life, death, my death, and moved on. I didn’t leave though. I sat in a wing backed chair, waited, watched, pondered, and prayed. An hour passed and I saw that I wasn’t needed, so I left.

And I thought about what I was feeling and what it meant to be a good friend in a time like this and how awkward I felt and sounded. But I kept on thinking about a conversation I had with my son when he asked me why I was leaving to go out of town again.

I explained to him that friendship is mostly just about “showing up, just being there, that’s often all that matters.” When I said it, I don’t think I knew how true it was.

To be honest, I felt like a dolt much of the time. But I resolved to be present. I didn’t need to talk, say the right thing, in fact, I probably said something stupid; but I was there. And it was all driven by love.

“Love covers over a multitude of sins,” the Bible says. That was very true for me.

No matter how doltish I felt or acted, I still seemed to get the feeling across that all I wanted to do was love. And it was received and welcomed.

When I was younger, another one of my best friend’s dad died, and I didn’t go to his funeral. It was one of the great regrets of my life.

I don’t exactly know why I didn’t. At the time, I would have said something about it being out of town and that I was just there a couple of weeks ago. But that’s lame. I was lame.

I think I was just afraid. I didn’t want to feel unwanted or like an idiot or be doltish. Instead, I acted like a fool and failed as a friend.

This time I wouldn’t.

You see, friendship isn’t about being perfect. It’s more often than not about being present, “just being there, showing up.” It’s about telling embarrassing stories about yourself so your friend can laugh. It’s about being willing to make yourself uncomfortable and just love.

Even if you’re an introvert, insecure, unsure, a dolt (like me), just show up. And magic will happen.

Anyone can be a great friend.

You can, too.

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.