Archive for the ‘Personal Development’ Category

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.

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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)

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?

Confused and Stunned – awesome!

July 2, 2010

Is now a time to try something new – perhaps something you’ve never done before?  Or should you sit out the “recession” and wait until “things get better.”

“The times when everyone is confused and stunned can present an enormous opportunity because no one’s really doing anything,” says Dell Computer founder Michael Dell.  “I think this is the time when the seeds of really successful new businesses will be created.”

Designer Kenneth Cole says, “When things are going well, people want to do what’s working and more of it.  It’s only in difficult times that people are open to creative alternatives.”

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, points out that some of the greatest businesses were built in recessionary times.  “Money is easy to find in boom times, which leads to far too many businesses getting out of the gate that don’t deserve to be started.  When money is scarce, better ideas face less competition and better execution can lead to greater success.”

Whether it’s changing career paths or starting your own business, there’s never been a more opportune time than today.  July 1st marks the beginning of the second half of 2010.  And what better time to claim your “independence” than on July 4th.  Recognize you are in the driver’s seat, break ties with the mother country if necessary and begin your personal revolution. And remember, “things” get better when you get better.

Poverty or Simplicity?

June 28, 2010

The current “recession” or economic downturn has prompted many people to enjoy a healthier, greener, ecologically responsible, and simpler lifestyle.  So what is the difference between poverty and simplicity?

If I’m angry that I can’t afford a new Ferrari I may feel that I’ve been doomed to poverty.  However, if I enjoy the classic lines and character of a 20-year old sports car that I can easily afford, then it appears I have chosen simplicity.  If I “can’t afford” to eat at Ruth’s Chris I may begrudge the government’s tax and economic policies.  If Joanne and I invite some friends over for a potluck dinner where our contribution comes from our neighbor’s left-over cucumbers and tomatoes, our peace of mind may originate from our choice for simplicity.

John Robbins turned down his family’s Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune in order to “live a far more simple and earth-friendly life.” He and his wife built a tiny one-room log cabin on an island off the coast of British Columbia, where they grow most of their own food.  John says, “This isn’t about deprivation.  It’s about choice and self-determination.”

The dictionary defines “poverty” as – “The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.”  The definition of simplicity is – “the absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.”

Could it be that whether we live in “poverty” or “simplicity” is primarily a choice of how we view our situation?  Simplicity has many rewards that go beyond saving money.    Among those may be the experience of living well.

One of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau once said: “For my greatest skill has been to want but little.” In Walden he expands on his choice to live simply:  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”

If you’re in challenging financial times, don’t miss the opportunity to suck out all the marrow of life.  When good times return you are likely to find that your giving goes to 20 or 30% while your simplicity remains the same.

Write a book – you’ve got to be kidding

June 24, 2010

I love writing in all its forms: blogs, articles, books, etc.  However, the statistics for choosing this as a career are dismal.  One in four Americans does not read one book per year.  Over 200,000 new books were published last year.  Average book sales for a Christian book put out by a major publisher are about 4,000 copies.  AuthorSolutions reports that sales of their self-published titles average about 150 copies each.  The average sales overall for a book published in America is about 500.  Yes, sales of eBooks is growing.  But if you think that technology is eliminating “real” books you’ll be interested to know that eBooks comprised about 4% of the overall dollars ($23.9 billion) in book sales in 2009.

Garrison Keillor recently commented on the sustainability of the publishing industry, in the Chicago Tribune:  “I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.  We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (UR2 1derful)…The future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives.  Average annual earnings:  $1.75.”

If you care about statistics and averages, the information above is enough to discourage and redirect anyone.  But what if writing is your passion?  Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol hit the #1 spot last year at 5,543,643 copies sold.   Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue sold 2,674,684 copies.  Obviously, there are still some amazing opportunities in writing books.  Have you identified why your book should be written?

I currently have six book projects in the works.  I can’t imagine doing anything else that I would enjoy as much – or that could bring me more success.  The bad news doesn’t discourage me but it does remind me that I must write with excellence – as success in any area requires.

Go ahead — Astonish me

June 22, 2010

Astonish is not a word we hear much.  But what is it you do that is brilliant, amazing, excellent, remarkable, essential, extraordinary, outstanding, noteworthy, incredible or astonishing?

What is it that displays your personal best – your personal brilliance?

The story is told that one day the great artist, Picasso, was walking in the market.  A woman approached him, handed him a pencil and piece of paper, and asked, “Can you do a little drawing for me.”   Picasso replied, “Absolutely.”  He did a quick little drawing and handed it back to the lady.  She looked at it and said – “That’s amazing.” After thanking him she started to walk away.  Picasso stopped her and said “Excuse me, that’ll be $1 million.”  She said, “One million dollars – that took you 30 seconds.”  To which Picasso replied, “My dear lady, it took me 30 years to do that.”

A fellow comedian once asked Steve Martin, “How can I become as well known as you are?”  Steve told him, “Be so good at what you do that people cannot ignore you.”

There are only 3 legs to extraordinary success:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • How can you do that with excellence – perhaps better than anyone else?
  • What’s your economic model.  How are you generating income?

Integrating these 3 components will separate you from 97% of the people on the face of the earth.  How can you be the Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, Bono, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham in your area of passion?  Don’t let false humility keep you from sharing your best with the world.  Go ahead — Astonish me.

Pray with your legs

June 15, 2010

“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” — Frederick Douglass

Okay – I referenced this quotation last week and it continues to prompt a whole lot of questions from you, our readers. People want to know what that means, and furthermore, can I find scripture to support whatever it means.

Yes, I see far too many people who are “praying” for solutions and answers – and simply living in that prayerful mode – hands folded and eyes closed, waiting on God to supernaturally give them the specific answer that will remove their challenge. So, just how does God answer our prayers?

Imagine any of these situations with me:

  • You really need a job
  • You’d like a better car
  • You want to make peace with your spouse
  • Your lawn mower is broken
  • You want to have a best-selling book
  • You would like to have a college degree
  • You want to be a more effective parent
  • You must have $5,000 for a new air conditioning unit

I believe God is the providential supplier of everything we need. But I also believe that his delivery system requires our active participation – “praying with our legs.” If you need a job identify 30-40 target companies; contact them each three times and God will provide a job. If you want a best-selling book write something of value then be willing to persist through the rejection of 14 publishers as Max Lucado did with his first book (his books have now sold over 30 million copies.) – and watch God open doors. If you want a college degree explore six options for doing so that are possible even while you continue working. Block out 2 hours a day for focused study and see God allow that degree to be yours.

And can I find scripture to support faith and prayer that involve our legs? Oh yeah. My favorite is in Exodus 14:15. Moses is dealing with those whining, complaining children of Israel who see the Egyptians coming after them in the desert. I can just see them on their knees, praying and begging God to solve their problems. And the verse says – “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march!’” (Living Bible)

God provides food for the birds – but he doesn’t just show up and throw it in their nest. Sometimes the exercise of faith we need most may be to engage our spiritual quadriceps, stretch those hamstrings and use our gluteus maximus for something other than supporting our head while we pray.