Stand Alone

Every single person in the world is a one-of-a-kind. Remarkably unique. There are no two people exactly alike. Even identical twins differ. The fact that everyone has their very own fingerprint, is an extraordinary differential, setting everyone apart from each other. If we would stop there and realize that we are unique and that we were made by design, we could accomplish so much and be happier in the process.

The danger comes crashing in when in comparing and coveting become an everyday occurrence.  

When we compare ourselves against another human being, one of three things will likely happen. First, we may feel superior because after all of our comparing against a particular individual is completed, we will see that (in our mind) we are further along, more talented, have more money, live in a bigger house, or a host of other things that will puff us up. This breeds arrogance and many other attitudes and habits that are not justified. They are not justified, because comparing our strengths to another’s weaknesses is absurd.

Second, we may feel average after comparing ourselves to others and this can seem to satisfy us because we don’t feel too weird, too tall, too short, too fill-in-the-blank. This is a very dangerous place to be because mediocrity never really accomplishes anything. Ever. It is also fertile ground for apathy. Apathy is ugly and one of the highest dream killers of all time, because it keeps people from action.

Lastly, we may feel we have less after comparing ourselves to another person. Less successful, less good-looking, less outgoing, less friends, less life experiences, and the list goes on and on.

The world is full of imposters. It is full of people trying desperately to fit in, only to find themselves depressed and full of anxiety while they chase the very things that they were never designed to catch. When we covet someone else’s position, looks, spouse, bank account, and more, we can quickly get on a hamster wheel trying to catch “them”, trying to be more like “them”, wishing we were “them”– and everyone has a “them” if we were honest with ourselves. But “them” is for them, not you. Desiring what others have ultimately leads us to a place where we are not satisfied (and probably where most mid-life crisis originate from.)

If you will learn to walk in your own skin, run your own race, and win your own battles, you will find yourself much happier. I liken it to a key to a car. The key is programed for a specific VIN number and it will not start any car in the world except the one it was designed to start. No one would be angry that their car key is not starting the neighbors car but on the same token they will get upset that their life (key) isn’t exactly like or better than their neighbor’s.

Everything made has a purpose. But everything made is not multi-purpose. Everything made was made intentionally. That includes you. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. You were intentional, even if someone has told you were an accident. There are no accidents in human creation. The secret is being content in what you were created for. You were not created to be a failure. However, in success lies many setbacks that look like failure. Failure is not final unless you stay there. It is a temporary setback and once you overcome the setback, be sure more “failures” will follow. Keep pressing forward. You will succeed when you realize that you must walk in the footsteps you were created for. When this happens you will realize you can stand alone and succeed in your own endeavors – not duplicate someone else’s.

Humility is on Life Support

*Disclaimer – This post is meant to cause a pause — and get people to think. It is not political. If you get infuriated, you need to read it again and reflect on the last sentence.

It seems that society has become like a bunch of misbehaved children with no parent to correct them, put them in a time-out, or to give them an old fashioned spank to wake them up. Society has removed the people that can speak into their lives and encourage correction. If your Pastor or Priest tells you where you have missed the mark, you immediately think the Pastor or Priest is the problem and justify it by recalling their errors in their life. If a boss does not give you a favorable performance review, in your eyes the boss is automatically incapable of doing their job.

You may know one or more of the people that are saying things out loud or posting derogatory phrases, put-downs, or the like somewhere for the world to see. They could be part of the problem. Calling people names creates a bigger divide and reveals an enormous ego that is not easily quenched. Calling the President or President Elect an idiot (or orange or a dementia patient, etc.), is really just an exercise to artificially inflate personal intelligence; and it is ugly for all to see. The problem is, they have systematically unfriended, deleted, and/or disassociated themselves with anyone who thinks differently than themselves and certainly anyone who disagrees with them. In their bubble they seem to be right. After all, their news channel, their friends and associates and social media feed all serve up the things they believe — so it must be true.

Even in the church. And it should be the church that shines a Light. Not a flashlight on their favorite candidate or civic movement. We are called to reflect Jesus only. I have painfully watched church-going Christians post on social media (until their fingers must have hurt) who is right, who is wrong, and who God wants in the White House. And I might add it didn’t seem to be done in love. In the Bible, the book of Second Kings is full of righteous kings and more so full of wicked kings. And in the same Bible, the Apostle Paul teaches us that the leadership over mankind is God’s doing (Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God). The Apostle Peter exhorted us “honor the king” with a small k. Meaning honor those who are in authority over us (Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.) Simply put; Submit to Trump even if we do not agree with him. Submit to Biden even if we do not agree with him. Submit to the police even if we do not agree with them. Submit to parents, pastors, priests, bosses – anyone who has authority over us: not just the ones that tickle our fancy.

Sometimes the people that name-call and wag their finger, have never really accomplished anything in life. Some that have accomplished something in life, truthfully believe they are superior. I can hear it now – “I am superior” some will say. That is because they have not really given themselves an accurate self-appraisal.

Until we as human beings learn that we should not think too highly of ourselves and consider others more than ourselves, our society will continue to decline. Most people are too concerned with being “right”, that they are willing to die on that hill at all costs. They simply compare other’s weaknesses to their strengths. When they look at their own weaknesses, they are full of excuses and justifications. Many times false excuses and false justifications. Some argue those in power are narcissistic as they themselves post on social media and run back to their post to see who has liked it. The old saying it takes one to know one still rings true.

In 2020 I did a lot of listening an very little talking or writing. It was a time of self-reflection. Here is what I found; I do not know everything: I am not the most important person in the world (even though I might think so:) My opinion is just that – opinion. Keep your opinion to yourself is still good advice: When your mouth is open it is possible your brain is on parade: What I think in regards to hot topics doesn’t matter to everyone else: I need to listen more: I need to love much more: I need to forgive more: I need to understand more: It is likely no one will change their mind by hearing an opposite view screamed at them. As Dale Carnegie stated “ A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still:” I need to connect better and look to understand others more.

I do not have it all figured out. My hope is that some will pause and consider the principles. Circumstances are many; principals are few. Circumstances always change but principals never do. I am confident that if we look to change ourselves first, we will see we are flawed (maybe more than those we think need to change.) This self-assessment should shine light on how far we have drifted and drive us to have more compassion, grace and love to others – not hate, discord, & judgement.

The Power of Thankfulness

Being thankful can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. It may be hard to get started, but once you do get started and it becomes a part of your daily life, you will find that for the most part you will have a new outlook on life. You see, when we are truly thankful for something, we are instinctively placing value on the very thing we are being thankful for; which allows that very thing to become more important to us. And it is hard to be disappointed in something we value. Thankfulness also shows our maker that we can see a blessing, even in the midst of problems and concerns.

When I wake up, I am thankful to start a brand new day that no one has ever lived in before; in the entire history of mankind. It is something liken to a blank canvass, that has never been painted on, no matter what yesterday’s canvass looked like. I am not necessarily a morning person, but because I wake up thankful, I become optimistic for what the day will bring. One benefit is that I am starting the day with a greater outlook than most, all because my outlook matches my gratitude.

As I was leaving work the other night, I could smell garlic from a restaurant across the street from where I work. It smelled amazing! I instantly found myself hungry and thanking God that I could smell this amazing aroma.

When I see the sunrise in the morning I am thankful that God is faithful and on-time every day! Even when it is raining and I cannot see the sunrise, I am reminded that it is still faithfully there each day — even though the storm is in the way. The storm does not mean the sun is absent: it just means that I cannot see the sun visually.

It is hard to complain about your country when you are thankful for the freedoms and opportunity it provides. It is easy to have gratitude in seemingly mundane situations, when we come to the realization that it can always be worse. It just takes a conscience decision to do so.

My daughter took time to smell the roses and took this lovely picture of a butterfly on a beautiful flower. I was thankful for her eye and thankful that we still have people in this world who are willing to put the selfies away and focus on something that adds value to their life.

Do you want to see your boss/pastor/priest/spouse/children/neighbor/job/house/career/town/country in a different light? Are you interested in how to feel differently about these specific things? Are you wondering how you can draw closer to God? How can you get through another day? It might not be easy but it sure is simple; BE THANKFUL.

In order to be thankful, we MUST take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on the very things we are thankful for. And this is the hardest part as we are naturally self-centered. For without the little things that add value to our life that we should be thankful for, we can become pitiful and poor in attitude and spirit. But because of them, we can become more at peace and richer, far more rich than silver and gold can provide.

Actions Have Consequences

Hit your thumb with the hammer, and it will surely hurt. Eat well and exercise, and you are likely to be healthy. Cheat on your taxes, and you will likely be prosecuted. Sir Isaac Newton stated; “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Being in the automotive business, I hear thing like “it wasn’t meant to be . . .” or “the interest rate is not fair” or “I expect top dollar for my (beat up) trade-in.” The truth is, actions, words, and decisions have consequences.

The person who thinks that they can wait to make a decision to buy something, whether a vehicle or a roll of toilet paper: and then due to their inaction the item gets sold to someone else, then states “it wasn’t meant to be”–  is flat out wrong. Their decision to wait caused the desired item to still be available for others to buy. Their indecision is the reason that they did not get the opportunity, and this indecision has nothing to do with — “meant to be.”

The person who is irresponsible financially with high credit card balances and late payments, and spending more than they make is directly responsible for their credit score and the interest rate that a bank will extend. This rate is completely fair considering the individual has proven to possibly default on payments, overextend themselves financially, and overall not be a good steward of their personal finances. The bank is required by law to treat the customer fairly based on their personal credit history, which is direct reflection of either good decisions or bad decisions from the consumer, not the bank.

When a person does not take care of their current vehicle (physical body, home, or otherwise) and allows it to be damaged, smoked in, windshield cracked, rims scuffed, maintenance neglected, excessive miles, and worth MUCH less than they owe because they rolled negative equity from a previous bad decision, their actions create the value of the car, not the person presenting the information.

We have become very comfortable not taking personal responsibility for much of anything in our current society. Personal responsibility breeds good decisions and good decisions will ultimately give birth to good results. Conversely, neglecting personal responsibility breeds poor decisions and poor decisions give birth to poor results. Actions have consequences and the only one to blame is the one looking back at us in the mirror.

Forged in the Fire

The same metal that is forged into a tool, can also be forged into a weapon, or a bowl, or a hammer. Without the fire, there is no possibility of reshaping the hunk of metal into the desired result. Men & women, are also shaped in the “fire” of life. There is no way around it and no possible substitute.

The success we enjoy, is a direct result of the challenges that we have gone through in life and likely persevered; due to a deep rooted commitment and resolve. Likewise, the failures in our life are usually the lack of a deep rooted commitment to succeed and ultimately an unwillingness to go through “the fire”. Why? Because it hurts, and too many people don’t like it when it it hurts.

Commitment and involvement are two totally different things. It has been said that you can clearly see the difference between commitment and involvement on a bacon and eggs breakfast platter — The chicken was involved but the pig was committed.

Everyone wants to lose weight, but few are committed. Most people want a strong marriage, but it is only the ones who are committed to see it through, that endure for decades. Some want to have a successful career, but many are simply not willing to sacrifice to the extent that is needed to rise in the ranks. Religious people want to stand strong but seemingly fade away when persecution arises.

Spoiler alert: the sacrifice, pain, sleepless nights, disappointment, tears, set backs, persecution, and more, will always hurt and always be harder than we could ever imagine. But in the midst of these battles, our character is built. Most importantly, after the battle has been fought, the victory is sweet: and nothing can take the place of the feeling you get when you have overcome adversity due to your resolve and commitment to to your core beliefs. Some of the battles we lose BUT we do not quit. Instead we learn and this helps us immensely in winning our next battle.

So, make a decision to stand your ground and to be all-in in your commitment. When you do, some will call you “lucky” or “blessed”. Truth be told it will be because you were forged in the fire.

What You (Diligently) Sow is What You Grow

Sales is hard enough on its own. Nevermind the fact that most salespeople can’t get out of  their own way, which hinders them from achieving success. Keep in mind — everyone is a salesman. You’re selling your mate on getting married, selling your coworkers how much you love football, selling your congregation on giving or the Gospel, selling your friends on the latest Netflix series, etc. Although this blog is written for those who are in a career revolving around commissionable sales, everyone can get something from it if we are willing to apply the principles.

Picture this — summertime is the time for gardens to be bearing the fruit of your labor. Some plant a garden early in the season. They spend time tilling the soil, adding manure, compost, coffee grinds, putting up a fence to keep the animals out, and more. They water diligently and pick weeds every day. This garden will have a crop producing too much for one household, causing the homeowner to give away tomatoes and cucumbers by the basketful. On the contrary, another person plants a garden by simply adding plants to the ground. Some days they water, and some days they do not, and it just doesn’t seem like their garden really produces much of anything.

Many people that are in a sales profession liken it to the lottery; they think if they put in $1.00 worth of effort, they will quickly become a millionaire. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, it is more like a garden. There is planting and much caring as well as a lot of sunshine that is required. But the most painful thing is time. Most people give up before a crop is yielded. In sales, it will be harder; take longer; cause more grief; and disappoint, so much more than most expect. It takes lots and lots of hard work.

The garden analogy is just like a sales career. The one who does more than is expected bears a bigger crop. If you work on having a good product demonstration, study your market, know your product inside and out, want to help someone to buy and not just wanting to sell, have diligent follow-through, are polite, ask for referrals, update your notes, ask for the sale, fight for deal — you will have the proverbial baskets of tomatoes and cucumbers to give away. But if you attempt to have a half-hearted approach you will get a half-hearted crop because what you diligently sow is what you grow.

 

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The economy is finally getting restarted with restrictions lightening more each week. In a very short amount of time, we will be back to normal; or at least the new normal. Many people have been furloughed for weeks. For some, they have never been furloughed, and have been at it each and every day. At the very least, all will be forced to take an inventory of their life.

Some have spent the last several weeks desperately afraid of catching the virus, and by stopping in their tracks, they have not been able to really live. Assuming they would catch the virus —  after two months of fear driven isolation and hibernation, they would actually be sick for up to fourteen days PLUS the two months they spent in fear.

This is not the end of humanity with some kind of end-all virus. I am not making light of those who have been sick or have died; I am simply stating a point. The point is this; Whatever holds your focus and full attention will grow roots and bear fruit.

Focus on good health and every habit changes to support that focus. Focus on relaxing on vacation, and you will find yourself melting away in paradise without a care in the world. Focus on catching a virus and you will find yourself immersed in masks, social distancing and surfing the internet to find anything that backs up your stance.

For me, I choose to see the light at the end of tunnel. In fact, I saw this massive Corona undertaking as an opportunity to choose what I focus on. It has allowed me the opportunity to zero in on that which has become blurry. I have also intentionally ignored the very things that take my attention away from these important things. I have found a new spiritual focus, a new business focus, a new family focus, and more.

I have been reminded of a time when businesses were closed on Sunday and nothing was open in the evenings. I believe life is more rich with these businesses closed. I have been reminded of a time when families ate at the kitchen table every night and on occasion ate at a restaurant as a treat. I believe family relationships are better off for it. I recollect a time when Sunday was centered on God. Going to church and spending time with family and sometimes friends — and nothing else. No sports, no shopping, no sleep overs, no work, no errands, no appointments, no nothing. I believe life is much more rich because of it.

So as we come out of this dark time, I will be focused at the light at the end of the tunnel and allow my spirit to feel a sense of gratitude for this time we have come through and are still coming through. I have been able to be richer because of it.

All Play and No Work . . .

Okay, let’s face it; the first day back at the office after a nice relaxing vacation can be very challenging. After all, while we were on vacation, we would have taken some time to unwind and refresh and probably slept in and overall we would not have exerted ourselves. Then, the first Monday back to work seems surreal. We are expected to go from a leisurely stroll to a full sprint.

COVID-19 has changed many things but probably the most important thing to notice is our pace at the office. For those of us working in a variable pay environment, we have been forced into a leisurely stroll. Those of us that were not furloughed have had reduced hours, reduced traffic, reduced tasks to be completed and an overall reduction in job related stress. The real danger is settling in and getting used to the results that we are now producing in the slowdown.

Most economists will agree that April was the low point in this economic stand still. Most believe that May will mirror March, and June and July will have a sharp increase, however, even with a sharp increase in June and July, we will be in a recession environment. Not all people furloughed will be asked back to their positions, not all businesses will open back up, and the reality of a long recovery is at hand.

With this said, it is vitally important not to become complacent with reduced hours and production. We live in a capitalistic society that rewards bigger results based on our efforts. It is important to set bigger goals for May than you think are possible and plan for an even bigger June. Do not get lulled to sleep by the March/April business climate. It will only be the new norm if you choose it to be. If you choose it to be, you will be left behind. In fact, for those of us still working, we have people who are depending on us to grow our business back to a resemblance of where it was when they left — and in a short amount of time, so that they can get back to work.

So look back on March and April with gratitude to have been able to hit the pause button in life, which afforded you to be able to smell the roses. But it is now May and we have work to do. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Conversely, all play and no work makes Jack an undisciplined, unproductive member of society. Set your sights high for May and beyond. Reach higher; work harder; FOCUS; stretch; and grow. Learn to have a balance of smelling the roses and being more productive with your time when you are back to work.

All I Can See

I recently saw a documentary about our plastic epidemic and the effects on the planet. Thanks to that one hour documentary, all I can see is plastic, plastic, and more plastic — EVERYWHERE. It is like a cruel game of Eye Spy.

We are currently dealing with COVID-19 and that is all that people can see. On the news or in person, the average human is inundated with stories, facts, news, or otherwise. So, it goes without saying that the coronavirus is all they can see.

Truth be told, all I can see or you can see is what we fill our thoughts and imaginations with. I suggest we fill our thoughts on love and not hate. On faith and not fear. On hope and not despair. We are in complete control of what we think about but what we fill our minds with will either propel the thought or starve the thought to the point of filling it with something else.

So, maybe you need to starve your thoughts that fan into flames a negative overall mindset, and replace them with something productive; such as thoughts and words of faith, attitudes of hope, and actions of love. Let’s share good news and an overall message that lifts us and others to a better place. After all, if we focus on these things, it will become all we can see.

An Inside Job

Personally, I have peace and joy during this very trying time. I am continually sharing with my staff and my family that joy is an inside job and not dependent on, or slave to our circumstances.

If we take action through a lens of fear, it is bound to increase the feelings of anxiety. It is usually an act of defense if we act at all. Survival mode if you will. When we act out of faith, it is driven through hope and thanksgiving and most always proactive.

Our inner circle needs leadership, not pandemonium. Our communities, co-workers, family, and staff need leadership and vision, not more fuel to a wild fire.

Leadership is the ability to influence others. So in essence, we carry around two buckets at all times. In one hand, a bucket of water and the other a bucket of gasoline. Wisdom and leadership teaches us when to use each one. One puts a fire out and one makes even a small ember a huge flame. In a situation like what we are currently living in, leaders must asses the facts and lead from a position of strength. Those who are throwing fuel on a fire in a time of crisis are not leading at all. This is the time to use the bucket of water to calm the fears of those around us.

This does not mean that we need to like our circumstances or ignore them. In fact, we can down right hate our current circumstances. But rest assured this too shall pass. With the exception of death and taxes (and Tom Brady going to another Super Bowl with Tampa Bay), everything passes. So, use this time as a time of reflection; as a time of goal setting; for being more prepared when we go back to “normal”; for smelling the roses; for more quality time with those we love; to maybe facetime those whom we do not see or speak to often; as a time to reconnect with friends once close; an perhaps more important than all, a time to pour the bucket of gas on our spiritual life.

Last night my daughter made her very own home-made hibachi grill for our family. The fried rice was super! Her recipe included rice, and egg or two, salt, pepper, and stir fry sauce. The chicken was outstanding and so were the veggies. She even had a water bottle to squirt in everyone’s mouth and she tossed veggies into our mouths from her spatula. She is refusing to bow to the fear, because joy is an inside job.