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August 27, 2010

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My life is a puzzle box

August 5, 2010

This week I met with a former pastor who gave me this description of his current situation:  “My life is a puzzle box – all the pieces are there but the picture on the front has been torn off.  I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.”

His income has gone up dramatically in the last couple of years allowing him to tithe more than his entire income seven years ago.

But financial success does not remove the questions about proper direction.  Faster, bigger and more are sometimes just that – faster, bigger and more.  Ultimately we want to see that picture of our life – a completed whole.

If I try to do something noble, humanitarian or Godly that has nothing to do with who I really am, I may look good to others and to myself for a period of time.  But the fact that I am not being authentic will eventually have consequences.  I may end up doing more damage than if I had not attempted this particular area of “success.”  Trappist monk Thomas Merton addressed this when he said, “There is in all visible things….a hidden wholeness.”

We’re all looking for that completed picture on the front of our puzzle box – our “hidden wholeness.”  Don’t be content until yours comes into view.

Pizza Man – Fear Controls my Life

August 2, 2010

Recently we had a Coaching with Excellence event here in Franklin, TN.  On the closing night it seemed no one wanted to leave – so we ordered pizza to be delivered.

When the order arrived I slipped out to the kitchen to thank the delivery man.  He tentatively asked, “Isn’t this the Sanctuary?”  He proceeded to tell me that he’s been a reader of my 48Days materials for years, knows all about the Sanctuary, but then added, “Fear controls my life.”

Sometimes it appears that fear of success is stronger than fear of failure.   The unknown is a scary place – staying with a familiar mediocrity may be less intimidating than trying something new.  With no clear goals and no cheering from those around you, boring but predictable careers are born and maintained.

Delivering pizzas is a worthy occupation.  But I really expect that most 46-yr-old-men see it as a stepping stone to something else.  Don’t let fear keep you in a red shirt.

Is your desire for your dream stronger than your fear?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Want to be “intelligent” and average or “creative” and successful?

August 1, 2010

Studies over the last 50 years show children increasing in IQ.  But since 1990, scores of creativity have gone down.  Our children, and adults, are becoming less creative.

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful.  Too much TV, video games and time indoors can be blamed.  But standardized tests and the push to accumulate facts have added to the decline.

As adults, creativity will open opportunities more than intelligence.  The average GPA of decamillionaires in America is 2.7.  A 4.0 GPA can lead to very common jobs and careers.  A lower IQ may allow for a more authentic and successful career path.

Here are some things we can do as adults to kill or increase our creativity.

Ways to kill creativity and idea generation:

  1. Wallowing in self-pity
  2. Blaming others
  3. Giving up on dreams
  4. Overreacting to criticism
  5. Underestimating your opportunities

Ways to increase creativity:

  1. Laugh out loud every day
  2. Break familiar routines
  3. Say to yourself, “I can do this”
  4. Set aside 15 minutes daily for “thinking”
  5. Read one non-fiction book a month

“A lot of what we think of as neurosis in this country is simply people who are unhappy because they’re not using their creative resources.”  Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way)

Do you have any “bad” ideas?

July 31, 2010

I just got a question from a podcast listener.  Brad from California asks:  “Dan, I hear you share about all your good ideas.  Do you ever have a bad idea?”

I had to pick myself up off the floor after laughing so hard.  Do I ever have a bad idea – oh yeah.  About 10 times a day.  And you know why?  I don’t know of any way to get to the good ideas without going through a whole lot of bad ones.  If you are waiting to share or experiment with an idea until you have a perfect one, chances are strong that 10 years from now you’ll still be waiting.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein

Most people are afraid of good or bad ideas.  Good ideas require change and that’s intimidating.  Bad ideas make us look foolish or stupid, or waste time and money.

But take a look around you.  Anyone who is doing something great had a lot of bad ideas to get to where they are today.  I don’t know of any exceptions.   If you haven’t “failed” recently or had a bad idea, success will likely elude you as well.

Yes, I have bad ideas – lots of them.  I’ve failed with writing ideas, seminar ideas, product ideas, and employee ideas.   Perhaps I should track them for a time period.  I suspect my ratio is about 15 bad ideas for every 1 that has real potential.

My advice:  Welcome your “bad” ideas.  They are your friends.  Treat them with the love and respect they deserve.

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” – Emile Chartier


Just ask the horse

July 26, 2010

I heard a story about a man riding a horse at breakneck speed.  It appears he’s going someplace very important.  A man standing along the roadside shouts, “Where are you going?”  To which the rider yells back, “I don’t know.   Ask the horse.”

This seems to be essentially the story I’m hearing from lots of people today.  They’re riding the horse of circumstances, their habits or other people’s expectations.  If that describes you, it’s time to grab the reins and move your life in the direction of where you really want to go.

One of the defining moments of my life occurred when I was about 13 years old.  The direction of my life was pretty clear.  My dad was a farmer – and expected me to help him and to eventually take over the family farm.  I acknowledged that because of my circumstances and the family I was born into, farming would in fact be my future.

Then I somehow got a copy of the little 33.3 rpm recording of Earl Nightingale called The Strangest Secret.  The central message was this – We become what we think about.  That opened a door to a whole new world of possibilities for me that has never been closed.

What are you thinking about?  If your mind is controlled by the bad economy, the recession, the unemployment, the unfairness of the company, the hurt of a past relationship, or the limitations of your formal education, your “horse” will be taking you toward scarcity, misery, and unhappiness.

Honestly, I still enjoy many things about farm life, and love the pleasures of living in the country on our little farm today.  But what I saw as limitations are gone.  And yes, that’s really my tractor – a 1937 Allis Chalmers B.

Where is your thinking taking you?  Is some wild horse of circumstances misdirecting you, or are you moving exactly in the direction of your dreams?

Click here to watch a 3 minute video of The Strangest Secret.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…..and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4: 8-9 KJV)

Homeless yes – stupid no

July 23, 2010

I’ve been chuckling about this story for a couple of days now.   Still not sure quite how to frame it.

Last weekend a 29-yr-old homeless guy in Penryn, CA broke into a bar that had gone out of business.  He bought a six-pack of beer across the street, got into the vacant bar, put up an “Open” sign and began serving customers.  With that initial six-pack income being reinvested he was open for four days before the police got wind of what was happening. But at that point he had over $1300 in cash and merchandise.

Placer County sheriffs arrested Travis Lloyd Kevie on charges of burglary and selling alcohol without a license.  He had been serving about 30 customers a day the Sheriff’s Department said. 

There has been global attention on this story.  The small town residents say there has been so much publicity the bar could reopen successfully now.  The owner is more amazed than upset.

I think I see a movie and a book deal in the wings.   Check out the video linked above.

So what do you think?  Should this homeless dude be locked up for being a criminal?  Or would you give him an opportunity because of his ingenuity and boldness?  What could he have done to engage his creativity without doing something illegal?  What do you think he’ll be doing in the near future?

Angry Thursdays?

July 23, 2010

A new study that tracked key words in tweets indicates that people are angriest on Thursdays. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard ran tweets from the last three years against a word list to plot the country’s happiness and angriest times throughout the week.

So why would people be angry on Thursdays?  Here are some of my guesses.  On Mondays people are still feeling okay because of just having the weekend off.  By Wednesday they realize the week is already half gone.  On Friday they know they are almost home free.  But on Thursday they are just ticked off to have to be at work.

Okay – the underlying premise is that people don’t like the idea of working at all.  Who are these people who are still trudging off to work each day that they hate?  Why haven’t they joined the ranks of those of us who have found – or created – work that is meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful and profitable?

Oh and apparently I should have called my last book No More Thursdays.

So what are you doing to make Thursdays a great day?

Ready to Die? Just Retire

July 20, 2010

Our culture has tried to convince us we deserve to be able to retire – to remove ourselves from this thing called work.  But is that a privilege or a curse?  Research continues to mount showing those who retire at age 55 have double the risk of dying before reaching 65 as compared to those who work beyond age 60.

In The Prophet, poet and philosopher Kahil Gibran says this about work:  “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.  For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.”

Don’t become a stranger unto the seasons.  Don’t step off the platform of meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling work.  Gibran continues:  “And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret…..Work is love made visible.”

I know you don’t want to stop expressing love to those around you.

I’m planning for my retirement party and my funeral to be on the same day.

“Not-only-for-profit”

July 18, 2010

Not all businesspeople are greedy.  We’ve heard the Bernie Madoff investment stories, heard about banks that lend to unqualified candidates, and have seen the get-rich-quick promises on late night TV.  It’s easy to quickly classify all businesspeople or for-profit companies as greedy.  And I agree, greed is typically a short-sighted model for taking advantage of others.

But on the other side of greed is the fear of money. Too many people shun the idea of making money as evil and believe good can only be done by non-profits.  These individuals then spend 80% of their precious time begging for money in lieu of working on the cause about which they are passionate.  Don’t get caught in the delusion that being destitute is a necessary situation for helping the world.  In fact, it will cripple your ability to do so.  Money is like fire – it can burn you and leave you disfigured, or it can keep you warm and safe.

Since Adam Smith, economists have understood that “self-love” leads to quality products and social benefits.  If a baker makes wonderful bread, he/she brings nutrition and pleasure to the community as well as financial rewards for himself and his family.  It is not his “benevolence” but self-interest that provides the most benefits for everyone involved.  And there can be true authentic “benevolence” as well.

Good intentions and a pure and giving heart are not enough.  Economic accountability is a good thing.  If an organization’s efforts are secured by God, the government or the heartstrings of generous individuals, it can be run inefficiently with little measurement of accomplishment.  The businessman has no such cushion.  Either something of value and fair exchange is produced and delivered or the business will not survive.  In that sense, the business model requires more honesty and transparency than the non-profit.

I love running a business.  I love not being handcuffed by a publicly traded board of directors or by the required board for a non-profit organization.  We can make decisions quickly about giving and blessing – and about sound financial opportunities.  I am deeply grateful and feel privileged to be able to have a “not-only-for-profit” company.

How would you categorize your work or business?


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