Archives For Spirit


September 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

Energy.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that other than time, energy is the most important thing we manage.  Generating, managing and increasing our capacity for energy.

And the thing is, if you’ve got no energy then you can’t make the most of the time you have.

There are things that sap your energy and things that give you energy.  Dealing with the unimportant and spending time with difficult people…draining!  Hard work, however, actually helps create happiness and energy.  Not only have I found that to be true in my own life, but there’s actual research to back it up.

The thing is, most of us guys don’t think about how we expend our energy.  We just spend it on whatever catches our eye first or most powerfully.

And there’s so much to do!  Developing our relationship with our wives, playing with our kids (one more time daddy!), building a career, networking professionally, developing relationships with those we want to have deeper friendships with and getting in some hobbies and much-desired down time. Oh, and then you have to remember to grow yourself, do the lawn, help around the house, plan a family vacation, etc.  (And even the etc. seems big sometimes…)

The reality is that there isn’t enough to go around.  It’s an equal reality that most of us don’t manage or work on increasing our energy capacity either, though.

Consider this – do you think about what kind of activities leave you refreshed and energized?  What about the stuff that you mindlessly do that doesn’t actually refresh you at all?  (Yes, I mean TV.)  Do you notice how your eating habits affect the energy you have?  Ever wondered about that mid-afternoon coma that you slip into every day?  Maybe that has something to do with what you ate up until that point…

Or how about sleep?  Life satisfaction?  If you’re not happy with your life and the direction of it, do you have a plan?  An accountability partner?  If you don’t think having a plan matters much, try reading this post by Eric Barker.

Thing is, if we’re to have any chance of leading our families well and leaving powerful legacies it’s gonna take a heck of a lot of energy.

Strength from painTime can’t be increased.  You have what you’ve been given.  Period.  But energy can be increased.  And I think it all comes down to thinking like an athlete training their body.  Increased capacity always – let me highlight this – always comes via pain.  And what is energy but increased strength of spirit, mind and body?

Train your muscles and they get sore.  Push your mind to grow and it can hurt.  Stretch your spirit to bare more than it ever has and I promise you’ll feel it.

But then you wake up one day and find that you can do more than you could before.  I think it’s a mindset.  It’s a mindset that not only embraces pain but yearns for it as an indication you’re alive.

How often do you wake up and say “Today…I raise the bar. No zero entry pool – I’m jumping in deep.”  (And then really go for it?)

We want to leave a legacy.  To lead our families.  For our kids to grow up and become men and women we’re proud to know.  We want our team at work or in the community to push hard and do great things.

Significance of any kind requires focused, intense energy.  Don’t just charge in thinking you can change only your determination and end up with different results.

Begin by building the right foundations.  Actively think about your energy.  Know your current limits, manage within those current limits realistically (based on priorities) and learn to embrace the pain of increasing your energy capacity.  If ever there was a time where “no pain, no gain” was a good thing to say it’s now.

It begins right now with you and me thinking about how we can increase our capacity for energy.  If we start, those we lead will follow.  In fact, they’re already following.  The question is where are you leading them – to increasing or decreasing strength and energy?

The Right Question

January 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’ve been struggling.  I’m even struggling to describe what I’ve been struggling with.  I feel disengaged and yet overwhelmed with the onslaught of life.  Part of me wants to run away and another part of me yearns to dig in and go deeper.  My heart tells me I’m on the right path and my head tells me I’m walking that path all wrong.

On the way downtown the other day, I asked myself this question: What do I need to do/have/experience in order to have the emotional margin to lead well?  Turns out, this may be one of the most important questions I’ve ever asked myself.

The most important question

You see, I’ve found myself in a place we all find ourselves from time to time.  Or maybe more often than not.  I’d found myself in “the routine.”  Ever seen the move Groundhog Day?  Yeah, where every day is the same and just keeps repeating itself over and over.  My days seemed to be a spinning top of activity and no progress.  By the end of the day I’d be worn out but wouldn’t feel like I’d gotten anything really important done.

Feeling like you’re spinning in place is exhausting and terrifying.  I think most of us allow our minds to wander into thinking about how great things will be when…

  • when the kids are older
  • when I get that promotion
  • when we finally launch that product
  • when my spouse finally gets past this bad patch

Thinking that way ends up being sort of like eating candy to satisfy hunger.  It tastes good at first but doesn’t actually solve the real issue.  You just end up hungry again really fast and feeling sick from all that sugar.  So I asked the question.  In other words, rather than waiting until something external changes I started exploring what I needed in my life right now that would let me find joy and peace in the midst of my circumstances.

Asking this question can be a revealing and freeing experience.  I’m finding great contentment in the self-discovery of the question.  I’ve begun understanding things I only had an awareness of before. Things like Stephen Covey’s “first things first” principle.  Or why every great leader in history has spent a great deal of time alone.  Simply put – you can’t give what you don’t have.

This question has lead to applying new boundaries and disciplines to my life that have immediate effect and help me put some structure around the daily grind so it’s no longer a spinning top but an exciting dance.

As men, we face the danger of disengaging because of being overwhelmed.  Don’t allow the people you lead, at home or at work, suffer because you haven’t answered the simple question – what do I need to have in my life so I can give people what they need to grow.

So…what DO you need?

Taking Time to Rest

December 18, 2012 — 2 Comments

Taking Time to Rest

Yesterday I was working from the house.  My oldest had a Christmas festival at school and I really wanted to go, so I stayed home.  (Hey, why can’t dad have a little bit of pre-school cheer too?)

My wife was working on Christmas cards while I was lost deep in my own thoughts nibbling on whatever tasty treat was nearby.  “I think I’m going to take next week off,” I mentioned as an aside.  There was a pause.

“Like, off-off?!” she asked incredulously.

“I think so.  I’ll do some relaxing, reflecting and a bit of planning of course.  But I think I want to take the week off.”

“What brought this on?”  (Back story for you: This will make our 9th Christmas together and I’ve not once truly taken more than Christmas day off.  Last year I scheduled a conference call on Christmas Eve – in the morning.  It’s nothing neurotic, I just like what I do and enjoy making progress in my work.  Not a need to work but a genuine enjoyment of it.)

We talked a bit, but what it came down to was that I just felt like I needed to slow down for a week.  I’m not burned out.  Nothing is crashing around me.  Heck, in some ways I have a lot of reasons to ramp up next week to knock out some things I haven’t been able to get to in the normal work weeks.  But something inside me just keeps repeating…take some time to rest.

I’m not the best guy in the world to talk with about this topic.  Just sitting still is a skill that I’m terrible at (yes, it is a skill).  Taking time to rest for me most often ends up being a block of time I use to do a bunch of projects that have been waiting on me to have time.

Ideally though, shouldn’t resting be, well, restfull?

Knowing myself, if I don’t have a plan walking into next week it’s gonna be an epic failure.  I’ll either blow it by entertaining myself (not gaining the level of refreshment and energy I should from resting) or working on a bunch of things that aren’t “work” (thus not really resting at all).

So I’m going to spend a little time this week thinking about how I can be intentionally restful.  That sounds weird to me, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it.  I want to rest and be still.  But I want to let that stillness have a deeper impact on me than just mindlessly getting through a week.  I want to have a chance to allow myself to be refreshed, to reflect and to gain some deeper energy and insights that will help me be a better dad and person.

Growing as a dad, leader, individual doesn’t always have to be about going, doing and stretching.  Maybe sometimes it’s about not doing any of that and instead just letting yourself observe the deeper things of life from a position of stillness.

Do you take time to be still?  And are you any good at it?  I’d love to get any feedback from you on how to do this because I’m a complete rookie!

The other day I was with some friends and we were discussing what makes a life look different from others. Specifically, being Christ-followers, we were talking about what could make our lives look noticeably different than non-followers. Now, I know this is a risky topic to take on because of the incredibly emotional nature of the discussion. But I think this is relevant for anyone really. Don’t we all want to live a life that is somehow different than the masses of humanity?

MatrixWe’ve all seen the Matrix. And if you haven’t, stop reading this blog right now and go rent all three of them and get to work. Seriously. (Me tapping my fingers as some of you leave…) Okay, now that we are all on the same page, don’t you sometimes feel like Neo? Not that you live in a matrix and the real world is at war with artificial intelligence. But that when you look around you it appears so many people walk around in almost a drone-like trance. If you ask people why they do things and they were honest much of the time I think you’d end up with something like…because. That’s it.

Don’t you want to just shake them? Yell in their face to start thinking and wake up? But that is exactly the issue. Have you first asked yourself if you are walking in the same trance? There is a reason that daily life seems so unchanged and mundane throughout history. Yes, the environment changes. The clothing changes. The technology and organization changes. But fundamentally not much really is different from 1,000 years ago. We are born and want to grow up fast while our parents tell us to slow down. We play, learn and strive to be a man or a woman. We seek out independence and freedom from the bounds of our childhood homes. We seek out work. We find work. We look to advance in our work. We build stuff. We seek for even more stuff in our lives. We want connection with other people. We meet that special someone. We have kids. We complain about having no time to play anymore. We complain that youth is wasted on the young. We pay taxes. We die. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Wow. I’m not really that much of a downer I swear. But isn’t that the thing we fear? Pointlessness. That if you strip away all the Facebook bluster about how exciting our lives are and take away the occasional fun experiences our lives just about follow this kind of progression. This is where we stood the other day asking the question: What makes our lives look any different from other lives?

If this were an easy answer I wouldn’t be putting it in a blog post. I’d be putting it on a piece of paper in a bottle and selling it for millions per bottle. I can’t solve this. The best I can do is give a single perspective in a maze of views. The single thought that I have had since that night is this: Our actions should hint that our minds are focused on something other than the things that make this life better.

Here’s the point: if this life has looked the same for so many for so long, should start looking elsewhere? Maybe you believe that there is no afterlife and there is no God. OK. But can you at least see that living for the betterment of mankind as a whole (i.e., beyond your life) is carries a greater legacy than anything else you could do with your life? And if you are a believer (of any sort, really), shouldn’t you be focused on the next life more than this one? Simple math tells you that even if you live 150 years on this earth that eternity is waaaayyy longer than that.

But here’s the thing, how many of us live day to day thinking about life beyond the here and now? I’d wager the number is pretty much zero. Why? After millions of years of being on the earth (or thousands depending on your persuasion), learning how to deconstruct DNA and build computers that can almost think as well as a human, why have we not realized that optimizing this life means thinking beyond it? I’m not saying this is a new thought nor am I saying this is particularly revolutionary. It’s not. And yet you and I don’t live this way.

The question I’m asking here is what does your life point to? What does my life point to? When I’ve died and been gone for 100 years, what will it have mattered that I was here? Maybe I’ll attempt an answer to that at some point. For today, I’ll just let that question sit.