Do more by managing this resource: energy

When it comes to productivity most of us think about time. It is important, but there is, I believe, another resource that is even more so. It’s this.

Energy.

I don’t mean that we are battery-operated, like a Tesla, no. But it’s not too far from that, in some sense. I mean, you can feel it, right? It’s that draggy feeling you get through the day, or, if you’ve been working really hard and hardly sleeping, you might start feeling burned out. That’s you mismanaging your energy.

Or, on the opposite side, it’s those days, when you’ve been eating well or exercising and sleeping better, that you sense your energy levels are at full capacity. You’ve got a bounce in your step and feel like you can take on the world.

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s energy.

And many of us believe that to do more, we need to work harder. But that’s not true. It’s a recipe for hating your work or burning out. I know. I’ve been there. And doing that makes you incredibly unproductive.

Energy is critical. It’s what helps you do your job, learn, create, parent—you know, live. It’s the fuel you have within you that powers your ability to be productive in your life.

And, the truth is, too many of us are terrible at managing our energy. We don’t really think about it, let alone talk about it. But we should. It’s not easily quantifiable, but, as I said, you can feel it.

You see, highly productive people have learned to dial in their energy. They aren’t just thinking about time. They find times to play, rest, relax. Jeff Bezos talks about getting eight hours of sleep. Winston Churchill took regular breaks just to doze off or stare out over his pond and daydream. Me? I like to watch Netflix or read.

I’m not saying I’m a master at this. I’m not. My point is to make you aware of this dynamic within all of us. Awareness is key. Take stock of how much energy you do or do not have. Look at your life patterns, your routine, and consider changing things to improve your management of this.

When you are running low, learn to rest, sleep more, say no to requests. Find the things that give you energy and incorporate the into your life. Maybe it’s reading poetry, or watching a feel-good movie, even really cheesy romantic comedies, or spending time with your loved ones. Whatever it is, do it regularly. Doing that will help you have the oomph to accomplish the things that really matter.

And you’ll produce more than you thought you could, even more than when you were working longer hours.


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How to overcome your fear of pain

Life isn’t about avoiding pain. It’s about knowing what’s worth living for despite the pain.

To find that purpose that makes the pain irrelevant or less relevant is key to really living.

Many of us get carried along in our lives without really knowing what we want in life. And, when that’s the case, we take the path of least resistance. We’ll choose comfort. We’ll coast.

But, when you live purposefully or have a goal, you approach life differently, better.

You won’t see pain as something to avoid, no. It becomes an obstacle that you must overcome to get to your goal. Pain becomes a challenge, not a deterrent. You see, good goals eclipse the pain.

So take the time to clarify what you want in life. If you do, you’ll be able to go through anything to achieve your purpose.

You won’t just be alive. You’ll really live.


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A secret to winning

We all want to win in our relationships, investments, love. But winning is often counterintuitive. And we can sum it up like this.

To win, you must be willing to lose.

You see, in relationships, we want to be right or argue our point or make people see our way, our hurts, our pain, our truths. But if you’ve been around the block and have some experience, you know that doesn’t work. In fact, it only poisons relationships. Making people see what you see isn’t a way to create intimacy. To go deeper with people, you have to lose that need to be known first and, instead, try to understand others before being understood, empathize with them, feel their pain. When you do that, you will likely deepen your relationships. Of course, you want to find people where this “losing” is mutual. They are willing to “lose” for you and you for them. But sometimes, it takes someone to initiate it. And if you do, you will not find yourself without friends and loved ones.

Who doesn’t want more money? Of course, we all do. I’m just keeping it real here. But, what we aren’t real about is how to win in this area. In investing, winning is also about losing. Maybe you’ve lost money trying to invest, and you don’t want to touch the stock market. But I think there’s a reason for that. It’s the fact that you’re trying too hard to win. I know that sounds confusing. But let me explain. When I lost money in the market, often it happened because I was too afraid to lose money: anytime my stock or investment started losing money, I would sell. Then that investment would recover and appreciate, and I would feel terrible because I felt like I was missing out. So then I would buy back into that stock when the price was higher. Then it would go down again, and I would sell again because I was losing money. And that cycle kept happening. In short, I would try so hard to win that, at any moment when I was losing, I would try to save myself by getting out of the market out of fear of losing more money. Maybe you can relate. After reading books and reflecting on my countless mistakes, I realized that I needed to just buy and hold. But to do that, I had to get my head right. I had to be willing to lose my money, all of it if necessary, if I had a high conviction about a company. That’s when I started making money. To make money, you have to be willing to lose it.

Love is complex. And I don’t want to say that to make romantic relationships work, you just have to lose, because that’s not necessarily true. But it does help. I’ve seen it in my marriage. When I’m willing to die to myself for my wife, our relationship goes better. And, when I say “die to myself,” what I mean is that I’m willing to set my agenda, preferences, desires, etc. aside and let hers be higher, more important. That’s losing. And if you do that, you will win. Your love will grow. Now, I don’t mean for you to get abused. No, marriage or romantic relationship is a two-way street. So you need to tell the other person to treat you better if they are treating you like crap. But often, to engender love, love will feel like a one-way street. And you might be the roadkill sometimes. But your relationship will likely flourish.

And, in general, too many of us care too much. We live like we have something to lose. We strive to upgrade our cars, houses, jobs. And we are terrified of getting them taken away from us. But what we don’t see is that this race robs us of joy. When we care so much about our stuff and titles and money, keeping up with the Jones, we just end up living poorer lives. We lose.

It’s when we stop caring so much that we begin to live more richly. When we stop trying to make another buck, sacrificing time with loved ones, and start making sure they feel loved, we are richer. I mean, have you ever seen someone who seems to live so effortlessly, who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world? I don’t mean that they are careless. They just are not that burdened. They may not be the wealthiest person, but they have something money can’t buy. They are free. I’m not saying we should all become homeless people. But we all burden ourselves with things that just don’t matter that much. If that’s you, stop worrying about winning. In fact, be more willing to lose.

If you do, you’ll become a real winner.


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Silence: hearing the sounds of the soul

Silence. It’s one of the best things for us. Even so, for many, it’s scary.

So we surround ourselves with noise, TV going in the background or music streaming, podcasts playing, zoom meetings zooming. These days we have more noises than ever before. There are videos, shows, audiobooks, and on and on chattering in our ears all of the time. And that’s not mentioning the real people you may have on the phone or in the room with you. We live in a noisy world. It’s loud.

And that’s not the real issue. It’s this: the fact that we don’t allow for silence in our lives.

You see, silence lets us hear what’s important. It cuts through the noise. Without it, we can’t hear what we really need to hear: our inner voices. I’m not talking about the voices of a mentally ill person. No, these are the ones that make us better. They show us the way. They tell us who we are, who we can become.

Silence is about giving yourself the ability to hear your inner voice speak. In the quiet, we can hear the negative voices and correct them. We can understand what our conscience is actually saying to us. We can hear our souls sing. And, for those of you who believe in Jesus, like me, it’s in the silence where you often hear God.

I’m not saying you need to become a monk. You don’t need to go on a silent retreat where you have thirty-six hours of straight silence, without talking, walking in the woods barefoot in a robe. That would be nice but unnecessary.

What I’m saying is that you need to have some quietude programmed into your life. Whether it’s an hour or two once a week or some minutes a day, you should have some regularity where you seek and find quiet so that you can commune with those quieter voices that need to be heard.

And I’m not saying that this will solve all of your problems. It won’t. But it will make your life better. It will make you more self-aware. It will help you grow as a human.

It will help you hear the signal through the noise.


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Time is more than money

Time isn’t money. It’s more than that.

Yes, I know that some people like lawyers and consultants bill hourly. But just because an industry works like that doesn’t mean we should live life the same way. We shouldn’t.

“Time is money” is a phrase that is pervasive in our American culture. Not everyone says it, but, nonetheless, too many of us feel it. It’s the pressure to do more so we can get richer, make an extra buck, and become more valuable. But it doesn’t work.

You see, as soon as we make time the same as money, it kills our health, relationships—life. Putting earning money as the end all be all and tying each minute you spend into a monetary value in all of life is not living. In fact, it’s dying.

Not only does the idea that “time is money” stress us out, but it also isolates us from others and makes us into human doings instead of human beings. It kills us from the inside out.

Instead, we should see time as a resource that we get to choose how to use, and making money is only one of many options. We need to see our time differently, not only with a monetary lens; rather, we must view it through one that is multifaceted and rich.

Time isn’t just money; it’s family, friends, rest, fun, games, hobbies—life.

And if you have time, no matter what your net worth, you are, in my book, one of the richest persons alive.

So don’t just spend your time wisely.

Enjoy it.


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When I made one of the biggest bets in my life

Sometimes you need to abandon plan b and go all in.

I recently read this 2013 article on Steve Job’s presentation of a lifetime. It was for the first iPhone. It was monumental, legendary, historic. Yet the article outlines all of the things that could have gone wrong (how the multitouch, making a call and surfing the web, messaging, etc. wasn’t working well). They had to get specialized cell service just for the presentation. It really shouldn’t have succeeded. It should have failed.

And usually, Jobs had a plan b for these types of presentations, having an out for himself. But not for this one. No. There was only plan a.

I think life is a lot like that, especially when it comes to decision making. Life is a bet. I don’t mean you’re going to the horse tracks and making wagers all of the time. What I mean is that we are all deciding on various opportunities and decisions. And each one is a wager. You can try to get a new job or make a change in your life, and each decision has risks and rewards, and they’re on a spectrum. And often, one option seems safer than the other. And choosing one over the other is betting. That is especially true when it comes to the big decisions in life. So, we are all making bets, more often than we may realize.

And, even playing it safe is a bet. If you don’t take risks and play everything in life safely is still betting. You’re playing the conservative hand, sure. But you’re also losing out on the possibilities or opportunities that only higher risks afford. There are possibly fewer bumps or losses or failures, yes. But, the safe bet is still a bet.

Now, I don’t think we should be making bets just to make one. No, that’s stupid. Risk in and of itself isn’t the point. That’s like dancing on the edge of a cliff just for the fun of it. Risk without respecting the risks, and not caring for the reward is just being dangerous. I don’t think you or anyone should do that.

Instead, there must be a goal and aim for the risks you take. You need to know the purpose of the bet and the risk involved. They need to be worth it. If you gamble something important, it must be for something better, greater, worth the ante. And if you’re betting, you might not have a plan b, but you should at least have a plan a.

For Jobs, he was, in a way, betting the future of his company. Apple hadn’t delivered anything new in an extended period, and people had been calling for a phone after the iPod’s iconic launch. Jobs was also announcing the launch of the AppleTV, but he believed he needed more. He needed the iPhone, which he was determined to deliver. And he did.

Over thirteen years later, Apple’s flagship product is still the iPhone, netting billions and billions of dollars and is arguably the most successful product ever. Yet, it started with a handful of partially working, glitchy prototypes in the hands of a man with a dream of making one of the greatest bets in his life. He went all in.

I think the biggest bet in my life was getting married. I was in my early thirties, and my future in-laws weren’t exactly my biggest fans during our engagement, and my fiancé was having doubts. We had even broken up during our engagement for a few days. I was terrified to tell you the truth. I had already experienced a broken engagement with another girl in my early twenties, and coming back from that took me about five years. And I wasn’t sure if I had the emotional resilience to recover from this engagement breaking. The likelihood of things working out between us at the time was uncertain. But after some prayer, I continued to feel the conviction to be with her. In fact, it grew. So I went all in. I wooed her with a romantic trip to Chicago and, afterwards, convinced her to meet with a therapist together. She was my plan a. And we made it to the altar.

Now, over ten years and two kids later, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been. We won.

What about you? What’s your plan a? If you don’t have one, form one. Dream a dream that you think is a stretch, might even consider silly, foolish. If the goal is about happiness, a healthy family, lifestyle, financial success, whatever, why not go for it? Why not abandon plan b? Make that bet. And who knows? You might win. Of course it’s not guaranteed.

But, if anything, you won’t just be alive.

You’ll have lived.


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Resolutions are good, legacies better

Don’t just make resolutions; leave a legacy.

Over the break, I, like many of you, reflected on the past year and casted hopes for the next. It was a mixture of memories and dreams, sadness and joy, grief and gratitude. There wasn’t much clarity that came from that exercise for me. But there was one question that rang clearly.

And it was this: What legacy will you leave?

When I say “legacy,” I don’t just mean an inheritance of money or property or things that you leave behind to your inheritors. I certainly don’t mean getting your name on a big building with Roman columns, no.

I mean less conspicuous things that leave a greater impact, like shaping your children to make them more loving, unselfish, and honorable human beings. I mean giving the hopeless hope and beauty and truth. I mean the immaterial things that make the world materially better. A legacy is more than the items we leave behind; they are the impressions, even imprints, we make on a person’s soul and the world’s spirit.

Isn’t this a question that we should all ask ourselves? So, What legacy will you leave?

For me, as I let that question slap me across the face, and I feel the reverberations of its meaning pulse through me, I think of my children. I am far from a perfect parent. In fact, often, I think, “I’m a terrible father.” But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to improve. I do. But I fail often. And when I do, I ask for forgiveness, from God, from my wife—from my children.

The question also compels me to write more, better. I don’t just want to write on this blog, although I do love it. I want to create art by writing a novel. I want to tell stories that shape not only this generation but generations to come. I don’t know if I can or will. But I must try.

Maybe you don’t want to have children, or you’re not a writer, or whatever. That’s fine. There are other ways to leave a legacy. You can create something else. You affect your neighbors, coworkers, friends, etc. We all have an impact on the people around us. And it’s not just about what you do, but how you do it. Do you respect others even when you disagree with them? Do you treat people who have less than you with more dignity? Do you love people as you want to be loved? Those are legacy leaving questions.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not perfect at this. I’m awful at it, really. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continue fighting to carve out a better world. If anything, if my family and friends can say that I never gave up and continued to fight for good, that would be enough, I think.

So, in this season of making resolutions, setting goals, trying to be a better you, do that, but do more than that. Those changes are good. But let’s all find ways to create more lasting change, something that will live longer than ourselves. Let’s leave a legacy that will bear fruit beyond 2021, or the years to come, that will echo past the grave.

And, the fact is, we are all leaving a legacy whether we like it or not. The question is, What kind will it be?

That’s a question only you can answer.

It’s a choice.

So, what will you choose? It’s one you get to make every day, every moment.

Right now.


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A stronger you is often born from weakeness

Weakness often begets our greatest strength.

Most of us hate the idea of being weak. It conjures up images of being needy, helpless, desperate.

But that is one of the best ways of unleashing our greatest strengths. It’s often when we’ve hit a place where we feel the most vulnerable, exposed that something is catalyzed to take us to a place we never imaged going, somewhere better than we ever dreamed.

It happened to me.

I was fired from the only job I was qualified for in my mid-twenties. It devastated me. I lied in bed for months wallowing in depression from the loss of a dream and career and years of training. I didn’t have any idea of what I was going to do for a career moving forward; I had no idea how I was supposed to pay for rent. I was lost; I was weak.

But, at that time, what I didn’t know was that that season not only formed my character and solidified a faith in me that would help me weather future storms; it set me on a new trajectory that served me better in so many different ways.

After I got fired, I started an entry level job at a huge bank that helped me understand business and finance. That helped me land a job at a small design company that gave me a view into entrepreneurship. Marrying those experiences, I started my own company. And later, I used the cumulative learnings to begin investing.

Getting fired ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Being terminated initiated the trailheads for new successes and directions that I would have never imagined for myself all those years back. And with each step forward, I couldn’t have known where it would lead me. But, over time, when I looked back, I started to understand the beauty of how things worked out for my benefit.

And I’d be remiss to say that I wasn’t aided by incredible Divine Grace. I was. I was the object of God’s mercy and love. But that’s not my point. Nor am I saying that there aren’t deeply tragic events that happen to us that can collapse all of our hopes and darken even the brightest of days. There are.

My point is that there is almost always a way out when the terrible strikes. And if we are open to the possibilities, things tend to work out better than they were before, even when you feel like you’re at your weakest—often especially when you’re there.

See, even this pandemic that’s ravaging our world is a case study for this dynamic. The virus has brought us to our knees and halted travel, commerce, holidays—life. But, even now, in this pit of weakness, we can see the sprouts of new strength growing in our world. It’s visible in the historic innovations in science with the vaccine developments, bolstering our supply chains, and improving our healthcare protocols. It’s evident in how we appreciate our health and families and how we’re all washing our hands a thousand times a day.

Christmas also gives credence to this. Jesus, the Son of God, was born as a baby. He came into the world vulnerable, flesh and blood, killable. And he didn’t arrive with pomp or in a court or with a scepter or divine fire. No, he came swaddled and weak, suckling and shivering, lying in a manger.

So, if you are feeling weak, remember; you likely won’t remain that way. And more than that, it’s often the beginning of a path to a strength you may never have believed you could possess.

It’s the begetting of a new you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2021.

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Gratitude is good, but contentment is better

Gratitude. It’s something we hear a lot about, especially this week. But, there is something that has a greater impact on our lives, like gratitude, but more richly. What is it?

It’s contentment.

You see, gratitude is something you do, an action. But contentment is a state of being. It’s not just an act; it’s who you become. What I mean is that we don’t say “practice contentment,” like you would say with “gratitude.” Rather, we say to “be content.” We do say “be grateful,” but that often means for something or a particular time, like “you should be grateful for this present, or this food, etc.” Whereas, “contentment” is what you are. And therein lies the magic.

With gratitude, we’re told to give thanks for this and that, and we have our gratitude practices, journals and yoga poses (I don’t know if the last one exists or if I just made it up). But after we’re done practicing, journaling, yoga-ing. It’s easy for us to fall right back into complaining, wanting, pining.

“But John, I practice my gratitude sessions every day,” you might be thinking, “and I hear people talking about gratitude all of the time.”

I applaud you and am sure that you are practicing it, but I think we talk too much about gratitude; and not enough about contentment.

Because, even though you have that practice, you still live with dissatisfaction and envy and a grass-is-always-greener syndrome. Deep down inside, you probably think that if you get that upgraded car, or prettier spouse, or more money, or that new job, or better home, or whatever, then you’ll be happier. And you might be for a bit. But you won’t stay that way. That happiness will fade because practicing gratitude is a start, not the fulfillment.

Just because we practice gratitude doesn’t make us live gratefully. When we are content, that’s the fulfillment of gratefulness.

A sign that someone is content is if they look at their life and sincerely say, “This is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, and I’m glad” even with all of the crap going on, the pain, the difficulties, mixed with the joys and blessings and goodness.

“Contentment” means you’re satisfied with who you are, what you have, where you are, etc. When you look around at your life and at yourself, you’re filled with satisfaction.

It’s not that gratitude or the practice thereof is bad—far from it. Gratitude is a part of contentment. To be content, we must have a gratitude practice and that can include our spirituality.

For Christians, like me, contentment should be particularly applicable to us. God is called our “portion” in the Scriptures, and that means he is everything we could ever need or want. And if we believe in him and that he is truly God, then we should grow in our contentment. We can know that this world does not have what we really want. For what truly feeds us and gives us joy isn’t here. It’s him, the Eternal Being.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I struggle with contentment, too. Very much so. Even when I’m doing my warrior one gratitude poses on my fancy yoga mat, getting my grateful namaste on, telling myself that I’m glad to be here right now, I can still feel a twinge of envy for this or that thing I want but don’t have.

But, I am improving. If I can, so can you.

So in this great season of Thanksgiving, let’s not just give thanks. Let’s learn to be content.

For, today is a gift.


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Patience: the secret to growth

Growth is a winding, circuitous, and weird path. It’s rarely a straight line. It doesn’t go the way we expect nor want it to go. Sometimes it even means going backward before we begin moving forward. 

And that’s not necessarily the problem. It’s this. The problem is we often expect our growth to progress linearly, and when it doesn’t, we get disappointed, frustrated, upset.

That can lead us to slow down our growth no matter where it is, or, sadly, some of us even give up. That’s why we need to see growth differently.   

What I mean by “growth” is any activity in life like learning, gaining physical capabilities or skill or fitness or spiritual development, etc. I mean any area of life where a human can progress and get better. That bettering is growth. It’s you getting better. 

And, yes, it requires hard work. We need to challenge ourselves and try to do it. We all know that. But what we may not know is that it’s more than that. 

Sometimes we must realize that even after working hard, things don’t always work. Sometimes you will have setbacks that will cause depressions. Sometimes you will feel like an utter and complete failure. But you’re not. 

You see, your growth isn’t linear. You’re on the winding path of growing. And as long as you are still trying and working and learning, you are still on that path, no matter how you feel in the moment. Even if you’re failing, you’re not a failure; you’re just on the circuitous route toward success. 

And, this is when we need patience. It’s the secret weapon for growth. Stop looking at your progress in terms of days or, worse, hours. No, look at it in terms of years, and decades. That’s what it often takes to make real leaps of progress. When you have that mindset, you’ll be able to overcome the hiccups of the day, or the week, or the month, or even years. The mistakes you made or the shortcomings or the face-plants will be blips in the grand scheme of things.

If you’re patient, you’ll give yourself space and time to grow. 

And, before you know it, you’ll see a better you. 

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