I lived my life so I could be right here...

It is about midnight - and we just switched over to Halloween.

Spent tonight carving pumpkins with the kids and doing other kid stuff. The house is a WRECK.

I mean I'm looking at a plastic Samurai sword and watercolor painting messes on Amanda's desk. The kitchen has 4 full bowls of pumpkin guts and barbeque pulled pork dishes in the sink. The couch has Halloween costumes and several changes of kids clothes and there are books and toys and shoes and sparkling flip flops EVERYWHERE.

This is what I came here to earth to experience. This is what I want to do with my life right now. If this is as good as it ever gets, I will die a happy man.

Some of my highlights from tonight:
  • Watching Sadie light up when she sees the candle flickering in her spider pumpkin: Amazing!
  • Presley getting so excited she is belly flopping from the ottoman to the coach and back screaming "Cannonball": Nothing better.
  • Trey seeks out his own design and carefully executes with little to no assistance and pulls of an awesome Zombie Pumpkin at only age 9: I couldn't be prouder!
  • Jayda questions her own resolve and interest level, but powers through with some help from Uncle Mark: She is my angel.
  • Chloe losing focus and accomplishes almost nothing because she can't stop watching what everyone else is doing even though her "Werewolf" pumpkin is by far the most complex and she will not be dissuaded from that design, so we all wind up doing everything for her: I would not have it any other way.
  • Amanda cheerfully helping, serving, organizing, encouraging, loving and producing the whole event: Thank you for letting me be a part!
I'm so blessed - so thankful. I don't know if it could get any better.


"A Toast To 2010 - The Best Year Yet..."

Aahhh, 2010. Two Thousand and Ten. Zweitausendzehn... Twenty Ten.

It is here at last.

2009 represents for me the greatest year of my life, EVER. It was probably the hardest year, one of the most challenging years... maybe the scariest year - but there is no question that so far - 2009 was my best year ever, and I feel so thankful for the past year.

For the one or two people who used to check in with my blog - until I went on a 6 month sabbatical from writing... I am happy to report that I am back at it.

Some of my favorite accomplishments of 2009:
  1. Spent more time than ever with my family
  2. Got to know ME in a new way (thanks to "the 7 Habits", to Rod & crew, my wife, parents, and a few key others... God, DW, R&MP, BB, B&MD, TN, BB, M&MK, R&MP, and few others)
  3. Wrote in my "Gratitude Journal" in all but about 50 days. (320 entries)
  4. Lived through a very tough time
  5. Depended on God more than on myself
  6. Am the best person I have ever been, today.
That said, I missed out on some things too, and I hope I NEVER have to live through another year like this one was, LOL!!!

Goals for 2010:
  1. Keep going with what I'm doing
  2. 365 Entries in my "Gratitude Journal"
  3. Spend more time than ever with my family
  4. Go on 4 vacations
  5. Blog at least 20 times
  6. Finalize and close 0ut the impact of the Real Estate melt down in my life, and move on professionally to create serious, recession-proof financial stability
  7. Give more than I take
  8. Be a better friend to all I know
  9. Be closer to God every day
  10. For the sake of it, should I put "to get in better shape physically" since everyone else is doing it anyway?
I feel as optimistic about things as I have felt since 2005 when my construction company exploded... not that I have a good reason - but I feel so blessed.

I want to thank my wife and my children, my parents, in-laws, and my friends for being by my side through a tough year, and express my love to them, and to all those who may read this...



The Adventure of a Lifetime

Check out some of the lyrics from the popular band U2's song "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For":

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still havent found what I'm looking for

Classic literature is filled with stories about people who spent their life looking for something, only to find that it was right in front of them the whole time.

Today some of my dear pals started an incredible adventure - The Mongol Rally. I did not know how I would feel not participating... would I feel sad or disappointed? Would I have a sense of loss, that I had missed an opportunity - or jealousy perhaps.

Back then, when I decided NOT to go on the Mongol Rally, I told Bryan that I was starting a different kind of 10,000 mile journey: The journey to be the man God wanted me to be.

This quest has lived up to every expectation I could have imagined. I feel closer to my Heavenly Father, to Jesus Christ, more in love with my wife, my children, and my life than I ever knew would be possible. I have had to truly look at myself now compared to before, and wonder if I ever really truly loved before! That may sound crazy, and I know that I DID. But the enormity of the love that grows as you consecrate, sacrifice, serve and work for others was never known to me. Maybe only now am I beginning to get a tiny glimpse of the love God has for each of us.

I have always been astounded at my wife Amanda's love: Watching my wife suffer to bring our children into our family - the desire she had to have children, the complete dedication to do whatever it took to get them here, and (specifically during her pregnancy) the pain and challenges of carrying the baby... the discomfort each step of the way... and then the physical trauma and suffering of giving birth, and then feeding, and nurturing our baby... and all the sleepless nights, sick and tired, yet continuing along - most often while I slept - this is a remarkable demonstration of the Adventure that is the topic of my blog tonight.

One of the scariest things we can ever do is to attempt to follow that admonition to "lose our life in the service of others" and then hope that we will find it. Attempting this is not easy, and while I am far from the mark, I can say that in the past months I have lived moments in which I (to the greatest extent I could for my life) have surrendered my life to Christ, "lost my life" in doing what was right and serving - all the while not knowing the outcome, and engaged in walking his path... and remarkably, have been blessed with some of the the greatest lessons - some of the greatest ADVENTURE imaginable.

The Adventure tonight was incredible, and I wouldn't trade it for London: Tonight, I prayed with, sang to, and kissed each one of my children and tucked them in to their beds as they fell asleep. I laughed at "Doug" on "King of Queens" and watched Amanda's face light up with laughter as we watched that funny show... and then started this blog.

The Adventure of a Lifetime is right in front of me, and the toughest part is having to recognize that it was right here all along, and I didn't see it.

Surely there is adventure in the streets of Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia - or in swimming Lake Baikal, Russia. But I know of no greater adventure than in facing the man looking back at me in the mirror as I brush my teeth each morning and night, and choosing to BE the person my Father intended.


Pain Can Be a Facilitator

I have a couple of incredible stories to tell:

A friend of mine and his wife celebrated the birth of a baby not long ago. The story of the baby's birth is pretty incredible. He had been at the gym, she was having contractions... timing things - all was normal. Aways into his work out, he noticed a couple missed calls from his wife. He finished a few sets, and headed home. I guess things had progressed rapidly, and the baby was coming NOW!

As soon as they got home, they jumped in his new sports car and started racing - literally breaking traffic laws, running red lights, swerving in and out of traffic to get his wife to the hospital. SHE WAS IN PAIN!!!

At one point on the way to the hospital, they get pulled over by a cop. My friend pulls over, gets out, goes and tells the cop he has to go, he get back in the car, and drives away just as crazy as before. Her water breaks IN THE CAR! She is yelling: I have to push! It is coming!

Within 30 seconds, LITERALLY - of his wife getting into the hospital bed, she had completely delivered the baby... no doctor, no drugs, no nothing - she was DONE. Baby is here in 30 seconds FLAT! His wife says it was the most pain she has EVER felt.

According to my friend and his wife, it was also the FASTEST recovery she has ever had... within a day (I think) she was healed and good to walk around, etc.

Here's another pain story:

My friend Vern has had both of his hips replaced, and is a healthy 60 years old. 2 weeks ago, Vern was out for a daily walk feeling great, when the titanium ball of one of his artificial hips literally breaks off - disconnecting his leg from his body, and leaving a broken fragment of the titanium hip to damage the inside of his leg.

Vern called me because I was in the area, and I was able to assist him in getting an ambulance to the scene, and get Vern some of the help he needed. I will never forget praying with Vern on the sidewalk watching his entire body shaking violently from all the pain. How grateful I am that I could be there with him that day.

Because of the severity of his injury, the need for a specific doctor to fix the issue, and other factors, Vern was in tremendous pain for 36 straight hours, and underwent 8 hours of very intense surgery. He literally went nearly 48 hours without ANY sleep. All he could do was wait in agonizing pain until the recovery from surgery could begin. The doctor said it was the longest surgery he had ever performed because of having to remove the old hardware, replace it all, and all that had gone on internally in Vern's leg.

I am happy to report that Vern's recovery has been incredible. His physical therapists and the doctor were in disbelief at his ability to walk unassisted, and without even crutches just 3 days after surgery... and he is on the go now almost like before where a traditional hip replacement recovery can take 3 months or more.

Vern and I talked the other day about why his recovery was so quick, and I thought of the quick recovery of our friends after the baby being born so quickly and without drugs. The doctor had said that in some ways perhaps the pain and lack of drugs to deaden the wounds might have contributed to Vern's speedy recovery.

In life there are instances when we recognize something painful has to happen, in order to progress. Certainly any woman facing childbirth knows that the pain will come, and has to prepare for it. Whether it is this pain, the difficulty of a career change, or confronting challenges within our selves, our families, or our relationships - the pain is VERY difficult.

In my own life, I have confronted my share of difficulty... and it HURTS! It is so difficult to deal with, and sometimes when the pain is ongoing, it is so much easier to pretend it doesn't hurt and to try and ignore it or focus on something else. (Try to deaden the pain with drugs). Like Vern going 2 straight days without sleep, and agonizing - just waiting for the resolution to be over, when I am in the most difficult times, it has felt as if life would end, minutes have seemed to take HOURS...

A tremendous blessing that I have today, is the blessing of the Pain. I know in my heart how bad it has hurt, and that there is no way I could have dealt with it alone. In many ways, I am so grateful that I have had the chance to feel - and continue to experience pain that is a small piece of the pain that was suffered by One who suffered for me, and all mankind. I have had the gift of waiting for the great Healer, who comforts me, and sets my heart at ease, and brings Peace when I feel so lost. Sometimes this can take a long time, and waiting for that peace to come can be difficult... but I am learning to trust that it will come.

Somehow, I think that pain can help the healing process begin. It can bring people closer together, and heal them faster, make their bonds stronger and relationships with themselves, with each other and with God deeper and more permanent.

I NEVER WANT TO GO THROUGH THIS KIND OF PAIN AGAIN - And it is tough to recognize that in my case, it is not over yet... but I can look back at so many blessings received and have hope - a lot of hope that pain can facilitate healing - and help me to become a stronger, better son, father, husband, provider, friend, listener, servant, leader, and person than ever before... maybe even better than I could have been if I would not have had these experiences?

I am actually anxious to "test out my new hip" every day when I wake up... and even though it can still hurt, I love the gift of life, and the hope that I can be better... and hopefully do something to bring others joy, peace, or at least help them so to not have to feel as much pain in their life.


Starting Over = Never Give Up!

In my life, I like to have a plan. Hmm... I propose that we start with A, B, C... then we move on to D, E, F, and G. As we continue things will progress through from H, all the way until we get to X, Y, and Z.

Having the plan interrupted - or feeling like the plan is interrupted can be very difficult.

I can remember putting a puzzle together with my daughter C, and my son T messing up a couple of pieces... my daughter felt so frustrated she was ready to break apart the entire puzzle and quit. She cried, "Dad! Now T messed up my puzzle I have to start all over!" She was very upset, and in that moment, "Starting Over" was the worst thing imaginable for her.

"Starting Over" as a feeling is very difficult to deal with, even for adults. My life doesn't look anything like the way I desperately want it to right now, and it is tough to admit that it is my own fault. I pray every day so hard for strength and courage to do the things necessary to help it look different than it does for the sake of my wife, my children, and so many others who are facing challenges right along with me. Making these changes and improvements takes a lot of time, and I haven't been the most patient person. Having to wait makes the feeling of "Starting Over" that much harder.

Today something happened that was very difficult for me, and I felt devastated. I felt so discouraged that similar to my daughter trying to put the puzzle back together, I felt like giving up. I blew it up and out of proportion... and much like my daughter, I was upset because I felt that I was going to have to start all over on a process that for me has been the single most difficult process in my life. In my own life, I get so scared! I don't want to start over! I want to have my life... "the puzzle" be back the way it was!!!

As a father, it is easy to look at my daughter's puzzle, and explain that "Starting Over" might simply mean "Starting From Here"... and showing her that she can take the pieces that my son messed up, and spend the time putting them back where they go.

When a day like today comes, I can feel almost crushed under the weight of having to start over. Fears that maybe I won't make it, maybe the puzzle will never come together, maybe there is no way I can do it on my own... all of this make me so afraid that a part of me wants to quit... but I don't even know what quitting would look like? (For my daughter it meant messing up the rest of the puzzle, and refusing to continue to put it back together, and running upstairs to her room).

I guess for today, Starting Over for me means to get down on my knees, pray for the courage to be better, and to "Start from here" putting the pieces together that I can... and hoping that somehow as I keep going, and never give up, the rest of the pieces will start to make sense.

In that way, I am so grateful for the strength to "Start Over" today... or to say it better - to "Start From Here". My prayer... and the only comfort I can find is that if I trust in Him, he will help me to become so much better than I ever could have been on my own, and that the finished product of my life will be more beautiful than it ever could have been if I had not chosen to Start Over, and Never Give Up.


What Might Have Been

A friend of mine said recently that the most painful, most difficult, and scariest thing we will ever have to face is "the man we might have been"...

This statement was like a punch in the stomach!

It goes along with the poem by John Greenleaf Whittier:
"For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'."

What might have been if I had only made different decisions in my life? It is a scary thought to realize that someday, many years from now I will look back at those painful and critical "crossroads moments" in my life, and have to face the reality of the person I was then, and the life-long consequences of the decisions I made.

Out there, 20 years from now, the man I might have been - the man I dreamed of being - the one my children needed, and the one for whom my loved ones pleaded will look back at me in the mirror, and I will have to face him... to face them.

It is in those moments, like it or not - I'll be accountable only to myself for the tragedies I experienced and my reactions to those tragedies... and will have to ask myself "How would my life have been different, if only I would have ________________________ (fill in the blank). Who would I be? Would I be happier? What might have been if I would have chosen differently?

In this spirit I am trying with everything I have to face myself in the mirror NOW, and every day along the way... and make the decisions necessary so that in 20 years I can be better than I ever hoped.

This is not easy. In fact it continues to prove to be the greatest test I have ever encountered. This is so painful to face. It seems that recently I wonder every day if there is enough inside of me to make it, to go the distance. I plead for strength beyond my own.

The most incredible thing that I have found: There IS strength beyond my own... and it is the source of my hope that someday I will face the man that might have been, and be victorious!


Constancy vs. Consistency

Yes readers (all 5 of you who actually read my blog) it is time for another download of what I have been learning... and today's chapter will focus on two attributes that have emerged in my life in place of one.

For the past year or so, I have really tried to strive for CONSISTENCY in areas of my life. Recently, (even just in the past couple of weeks) I have started to become aware of a very similar trait of character, which is CONSTANCY.

First, I rarely if ever bother to define a word, but for today's blog, I will.

Consistency - steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.: There is consistency in his pattern of behavior.

Constancy -
the quality of being unchanging or unwavering, as in purpose, love, or loyalty; firmness of mind; faithfulness.

1. resolution, steadfastness, fidelity, fealty, loyalty, devotion. 2. permanence, regularity, dependability.

Allow me to share some of the differences I have discovered, and a little insight as to how the distinction came into my consciousness:

First... when I started this blog, decided to walking 50 miles, and really began striving to be the type of person I am supposed to, consistency is one of the character traits I wanted to develop more than any other. Check out my blog post from last year about the importance of Repitition... which is similar to Consistency.

It seems to me that Consistency is all about doing things. It is WHAT WE DO, consistently. A person who chooses to use foul language may do so with consistency, just as a person who consistently wakes up early to go to the gym. Allow me to express a tremendous amount of gratitude for this principle. It is not easy for most people (myself included) to truly be consistent... and it is in striving for CONSISTENCY in my life that I have discovered the power, hope and freedom of CONSTANCY.

Consistency is the cousin to the principle of Constancy. Instead of a focus on consistently doing certain things, Constancy is focused instead on Being and Doing certain things ALWAYS. This constancy in every moment is a greater principle, and demands a higher commitment of self... of consecration to things more important than ourselves.

There are things that each of us IS in every moment... and other things we are striving to do or be. I am always a father by virtue of the fact that I have 4 children, but it is in the deep devotion to them, to who they are, to who they will become, and to being the father they need and deserve with every breath I take that awakens the principle of Constancy in Fatherhood. While I may choose to pray with my children each night I put them to bed (consistency) it is my own commitment to personal prayer that changes and deepens the commitment to them (constancy).

While I may go to work every day to earn some money (consistency) it is the deepest desire of my heart to provide my wife and children with comforts and safety in financial security (this has been rough over the past while ;) but choosing to keep going is easy when the desire is so big) that provides me with unique insights and answers to complex and seemingly unsolvable business challenges that comes with constancy in purpose.

My wife is as good of an example of constancy as I know, and while I may have mentioned her on Mothers Day, her constancy in Motherhood is one of the most remarkable examples of constancy I have personally witnessed. This is far different from that of a person who is by virtue of biological fact a mother, but who consistently chooses to place the needs of her children second behind her own.

There are many things I can DO almost constantly, on the quest to accomplish constancy; as we do these things, the fabric of WHO we are is changed:
1. Remember and give gratitude to God
2. Love others unconditionally with all we have.
3. Be honest and charitable
4. Be concerned about the well being of those we love.
5. Hold on to Hope and Faith
6. Pray

There are thousands of things that we can DO consistently, and as we do fabric of our character changes too, as does the power of our constancy. A few simple examples are:
1. Read good books
2. Excersize
3. Eat Right
4. Work Hard

I am sure by now the point has been made. It has been powerful to recognize that in many aspects of my life, constancy is not only a positive, but a REQUIREMENT. Consistency is not enough when it relates to my wife and children... these are relationships in which constancy is required. It is a comfort to know that in areas I am weak, I can accomplish constancy by being consistent... and that the two go together.

In other areas... like training for a marathon, consistency is important to accomplish a goal, but it can be very temporary. The conclusion: The power of consistency is wasted if we do not harness it to awaken within ourselves constancy in principles of sound character.

So if you like the blog, the good news is - I WILL BE BACK CONSISTENTLY to report on my quest for CONSTANCY in the most important facets of my life!


On Mothers

What a gift that we have a day dedicated to reflecting about Mothers.

What a shame that we don't take the chance to do so more often!

Anyone who knows my own mother can attest that she is a very special woman. She loves God, and every one of her 9 children. She approaches life in a very unique way, and is not the typical mother. My brother Dave, a comedian jokes that my Mom taught him that noone would want to be his friend so that when they did, he could be pleasantly surprised. In high school I told my Mom I was going to a party. She asked me "who are you going with". I responded that I would be attending the party with the leaders of the school. Good kids, the student body officers, and members of student council, other good kids. Then my Mom asked, "well why would they want to hang out with you?"

Perhaps that question is more relevant today than back then. When I was seventeen or so, my parents and I really struggled. As many young people do, I promised myself I would never do things the way my parents did.

Then I met the woman who would be the future mother of my children... my wife. My posts are too long as it stands, and for me to write the whole story with Amanda would take a lifetime... in fact in many ways, I pray the story is still being written!

Anyone who is lucky enough to know Amanda would also attest that she is a very incredible woman. She is strong, she is soft, patient, and filled with charity and compassion. She loves our four children in a way I could believe anyone could love someone that much - I am learning! Amanda brings a smile to everyone that knows her, and her smile and her laugh are probably her two most contagious characteristics.

Amanda is similar, but different from my own Mother, and both are wonderful woman. Both have a strong commitment to being good, and to principles of truth. Both love their children with everything they have. Both woman are worthy of celebrating on Mothers Day.

How grateful I am for both woman. I would not be who I am without my Mother, and her love. I don't know if I would ever have been able to feel such a degree of love for Dad, my Mother, myself, or anyone without the influence of Amanda for the past years.

Mothers Day is a day where we get to celebrate and embrace the Mothers in our lives. I can say with certainty that I have never witnessed any person in any capacity of business, law, friendship, ecclesiastical duty, even fatherhood - that is so completely devoted to a singular cause than these Mothers. While the two Mothers I'm speaking of (my wife, and my own Mom) approach their roles differently, I am truly grateful for both.

They both deserve to be honored forever, and I am thankful to have had a chance to try in a very small way to do that today. May we honor the Mothers in our lives with our actions every day.


A New Name For The Blog -

When I started this Blog, this was a blog about my quest to be GREAT.


I hoped and dreamed that my energy and effort to be Great would become an inspiration to millions... the original name I selected was "CLIMBING EVEREST"... a story of my quest to climb the tallest mountain on earth, and conquer!

While I continue to strive harder to accomplish great things in my life, it is exactly this quest - that has meant so much to me - that has taught me I may have been "CLIMBING EVEREST", when God intended for me to climb a different mountain.

There are lots of classic stories in literature about this type of discovery.

One of my favorite movies is STARDUST, and if you have not seen it, I recommend it highly. Stardust is the story about a boy who goes on a journey to retrieve a fallen star to prove his love to a girl from his hometown.

As he goes on his journey, he finds the star - a woman - and begins to drag her along with him so that he can get the thing he really wants: the love of the girl back home.

The trouble is that the harder he tries, the more trouble he gets into until he realizes that it the star itself is the very thing he wants, and his life and heart is changed forever... and he becomes a man and a king. As you might imagine, he and his star live happily ever after!

In many ways my quest to become GREAT has been similar. I have spent so much time, energy, effort, and focus trying to prove to myself and everyone I know that I am, or can be GREAT. The journey has been long, and mostly about me dragging everyone I know along with me, because I would not yield.

It has been a long a difficult journey, and makes me so sad to realize I failed to see the stars in my life all along... and perhaps to them I was GREAT to begin with... but I didn't feel great.

Sometimes, I suppose, there are courses worth abandoning... and for me "CLIMBING EVEREST" is no longer the goal.

So what is the goal?

To just put down on this blog what is happening for me, and record my life...

The goal is to be a GOOD person, and to trust that as I do what is right, I will find joy in myself and my family and friends, instead of only finding joy in being a guy who would stop at nothing to accomplish more than other people around me, and trample on my life and those I love in the process.

I don't know who I am going to be when this (my life) is done... or when that day will come. What I do know is that right now, today I am a DAD... I am a HUSBAND, a SON, a FRIEND, and so many other things, and I have ignored today for so long, and made so many grandiose plans to conquer the world, I have failed in many of these other areas.

In many ways I feel so much gratitude for the lessons... and for the hope I feel in the change in course. I hope anyone reading this can have similar peace in directing your life where it should go.


Worth The Wait

I don't have a clue who first coined the phrase "Anything worth having is worth waiting for"... but they were right.

If you have ever been ridiculously hungry, you know exactly what I am talking about. Somehow food that you waited for, and anticipated always tastes better than running to Taco Bell because it is time to eat.

Last week, I was blessed and fortunate to close a business deal that I have been working on for literally 18 months. Frankly speaking, every other person associated with this deal had given up all hope about 6 months ago (right before Christmas) and totally abandoned the project... and millions of dollars along with it.

The fascinating thing is that I have felt so defeated by this project, after having worked on it, believed in it, and struggled to find a way to make it work on my own for so long. Finally, I surrendered. My surrender was not a giving up of hope - but a decision just to keep trying my best, and keep trying even though I may get burned by the outcome. The other interesting point is that it seemed like everyone else gave up... and somehow, with some divine help, I kept working.

We have been working for 18 months in a gridlock between my partners, the bank, the original seller, attorneys, the city, engineers, architects, and a contractor. It has been tough and seemed that every time we would make progress in one area, another area would blow up, and halt any hopes of getting something done.

3 months ago, something happened with the deal. I had continued to communicate with the parties, despite a lot of negativity from some in the deal... and one day one of the groups said, "Jake - you are still working at this. We are not really sure why. If you could wave a magic wand, what is it that needs to happen that we are not seeing that will make this work?"

Somehow, one party came back to the table... and then another, and another. Kind words were spoken to me by some of these gentlemen for the first time in more than a year... "thanks for sticking with it", or "your efforts have been commendable". They don't even necessarily give me credit for the deal happening, but it is gratifying to be know we are moving forward with an outcome that is the best solution for everyone...

Even after the parties got back together, it has taken 3 long months of work to finally structure something that everyone can live with... and Friday May 1st, 2009... we all signed the deal.

While I feel great about the outcome so far, the deal still requires a lot of work and could still fall apart. What has been done so far to get it going again is just the starting point, and has only been the beginning.

In many ways, being a part of the success of this deal will be far more rewarding to me than the participation I had in the easy real estate deals from 2 or 3 years ago, and I won't even be able to take credit for making it happen. I just kept going. Those old deals came easy, and are gone as easy as they came. Learning from those deals put me in a position to appreciate the value of the wait.

No matter what happens with this project, I have grown tremendously as a person learning the lessons from my life and applying them here.

This lesson seems to be showing itself in many other areas of my life.

I started a garden with my kids. I read books, mixed and prepared soil, bought seeds, and have watered it consistently... and there is little to any visible signs of progress in any way! To be honest, it can be very frustrating. I have had a lot of self doubt: Maybe I am just a lousy gardener. Maybe I mixed the soil wrong. Maybe I don't have what it takes.

The very reason I started the garden (other than that I wanted a cost effective, teaching, bonding, and meaningful experience to share with my children) was that too often in life I have been all about INSTANT RESULTS... getting what I want when I want it. Somehow, the people who know gardening have shared that it just doesn't work that way with a garden.

It requires work, and waiting. It requires PATIENCE, and planning, and consistency. (Having to water it, take care of it, etc.) I suppose that each year I garden, I would get a little better at it, and learn a little more...

In life, things worth doing are worth waiting for... and I believe that in some cases, the longer we are willing to wait, to sacrifice, and the more time we are willing to put in with little reward, the sweeter the reward we can receive.

My hope is to be able to have the strength to keep my eye focused on the things of the most value - and invest everything I have into those goals... and I have to hold on to that hope, or that faith that in the end, it can be Worth the Wait.


Good vs. Great

This blog topic is NOT to be confused with the book called "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. I've never read Jim's book... and for me the topic of Good vs. Great has a different meaning.

Most people talk about taking their skill from being Good, to being Great. The desire to elevate themselves from a state of being "good" or "acceptable" - at math or table tennis or water polo - to "great" or "incredible".

As I started this blog and tried to identify what it was in life I really wanted... tried to create a sort of "LIFE VISION" - I determined that this blog would be a sort of journal, or record about my quest to be more than just average - I wanted to be GREAT.

What I have realized is just how important this goal is. My LIFE PURPOSE is NOT to be the greatest hockey player, real estate guru, or sales person (I would actually settle for good at all of these). MY PURPOSE was to become a great PERSON... a great husband, father, son, friend, businessperson, and man.

I have been chasing this goal for some time now, and what I have found is a bit perplexing: If you or I EVER want to be GREAT - really and truly - there are 2 very challenging Truths we must embrace:

1. In order to become GREAT, you must first be GOOD... and there is none Good but One.
2. In order to be the Greatest, you must also be the LEAST.

Can we discuss these 2 truths - seemingly paradoxical in nature for a moment?

First: In order to become GREAT, you must first be GOOD, and there is none good but One.

If I (or any person) am not GOOD first, seeking to do RIGHT, be CLEAN, and add to the lives of others, how could I ever be called GREAT? If my singular mission is to better myself, my wealth, my life, and my goals... than even if I accomplish all of the things I try, haven't I simply TAKEN more than I gave?

The idea that anyone could be GREAT - without first being a GOOD person is actually kind of crazy. Yet in the world we see so many examples of this... athletics, business, etc. Was Michael Jordan GREAT? I would say that Air Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time - but with so much money, fame and fortune, has he accomplished greatness since the highlight reels stopped playing, and the bulbs stopped flashing? (By the way, Michael has been a hero of mine - it is just a question!)

Becoming and staying aware that we - NONE OF US - are as great as we think seems to be an important step. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The ablest man I ever met is the man you think you are". This was a laugh-out-loud quote for me. My wife would witness of this being a theme from my life... I think I can do anything, and too often fall short and am left making excuses for why it was not my fault.

Rather than worrying with who I think I am, being content to do what is right, and recognize that there has only been One who is good is a critical first step. Even Jesus Christ when called "Good Master" said that he was not to be called "Good".

What about the second principal?

The famous story of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. In Luke 9:46-48 "And there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the Greatest..." and they were told very plainly, "Whosoever receives me receives him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be GREAT."

This must mean that if I have a true desire to be GREAT, I must also truly - deep in my heart - desire to be the LEAST.

For anyone (myself included) who has ever had aspirations of greatness, reconciling all of this in our hearts is not easy. I have felt a burning desire my whole life to do something great - and have chased my tail for years with such aspirations. Now finding a way for my feelings to co-exist with the truths that there is only One who is Good, and that I must be the Least... is not easy.

Like anything it requires PRACTICE.

I have found one situation in which these truths become easier to understand and embrace. When I spend time with my wife & children, and watch them and their great love for life. I see who they are and all they can become, and I observe my family in our struggle to survive these tough times it is obvious how critical it is that I be the LEAST.

And quietly the answer comes - if I will put them first, and be the least; if I will be Good, and keep going, never tiring from putting them first... someday without ever trying, it will happen... I will be lifted up.

Embracing this requires trust in power beyond our own, and a willingness to let go. It is so challenging to do, and do consistently. I am finding that it is impossible if the motivation is so that I can be GREAT... it is much more simple to do when the motivation is THEM.


Conform vs. Consecrate

For the last 10 years I have had a favorite saying, by George Bernard Shaw. Here it is:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself, therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man"

I remember where I was when I read this for the first time. This quote inspired me for a number of reasons. It told me I could DO and BE who I wanted. That if I held on long enough, and REFUSED to CONFORM, eventually everything would go the way I wanted.

REFUSAL TO CONFORM... hmmm. Anybody that knows me would probably concede that this has been a theme in my life... and by following this quote as a defining creed, both good and bad have come. I have accomplished some pretty incredible things, and am smack dab in the middle of a lot of pain as a result of the arrogance adherence to this quote manifested in me.

So what about the greatest being that ever lived, Jesus Christ. I think that everyone would agree that He certainly didn't CONFORM to the leadership of His time. BUT - unlike the quote from George Bernard Shaw, Christ did NOT persist in trying to adapt the world to Himself, either. Some might argue that He tried to change things... and we certainly know that He changed EVERYTHING... but his was not a life of refusal to CONFORM. His was a life of CONSECRATION. He did what he did because he had a sure knowledge of His Father, and sought only to do the will of His Father.

We have all heard the saying, "You can't change others, you can only change yourself." Imagine the arrogance of my quote, that basically postulated that I would refuse to change! How much pain might I have avoided by recognizing the principal of CONSECRATION vs. CONFORMING.

A few quick examples:

Person trying to "lose pounds" struggles to CONFORM to that "new diet". Person who is converted to healthy living chooses to CONSECRATE his diet choices to a deeper mission within him / herself.

Person wanting to live on a budget is frustrated when they continually fail to CONFORM to the strict budget... but when the pain of being a slave to finances becomes great enough, suddenly each refusal to splurge is CONSECRATED to the cause of financial freedom.

As I have chosen over the past weeks and months to continue to CONSECRATE things unto causes greater than my own plans, life has taken some very tough directions... and to someone observing me, they might perhaps perceive that things just got bad enough that I was "broken" into a place of humility, and finally a willingness to CONFORM.

Make no mistake - CONSECRATION requires humility... a humility & trust in principles and powers outside of my control that I never could have believed I would feel. Somehow, in CONSECRATION the humility is a WISH, almost a desire - deep within. In CONFORMING humility might be born of being forced.

I believe fo CONSECRATION to exist, we must have a belief or hope in or for something so far out of reach, that CONSECRATION comes natural. Despite the struggles that have been heaped up, the difference between CONSECRATION and CONFORMING has helped me to keep going. In CONSECRATION, the events that are transpiring are results of my choices.

EVERYONE should have causes that they are engaged enough in to CONSECRATE pieces of our lives to. Many people do this naturally... like a parent making sacrifices for their children... but these "sacrifices" are not really sacrifices to the parent, because the parent is CONSECRATING the sacrifices to the cause of the family.

I hope that the lesson of CONSECRATION vs. CONFORMING may assist some reader to take action toward a higher purpose, and do so joyfully, even though it may not be easy.


Living Without

If you ever want to appreciate something, try living without it for awhile!

Recently I went 1 week without internet access (except on my phone)... what a frustrating feeling of being disconnected!

More significantly, every time I travel or am away from my beautiful wife and children for several days, I am overcome by the sense of missing them, of anticipating seeing them, and when I finally do it is like a treasure. I a love to observe how quickly my children grow. My second youngest daughter is four. She told me yesterday about the movie "Monsters vs. Aliens" and she said, "that movie is hilarious Dad, you HAVE to see it!" Something about the way she said the word hilarious caught me off guard, and nearly brought me to my knees... my children are growing up!

Imagine a world where just a few of the things that are a part of your normal life are now GONE. What if you were suddenly forced to live without hot water, or heat in your house? Okay - those are pretty big ones. What about living without a Washer and Dryer? Would you hand-scrub and hang your clothes? Or are you simply confronted with the inconvenience and expense of heading to the Laundry? What if you had to go a week or two without your car, or a day without your cell phone! What if you couldn't reach your family and friends - anybody for a whole day, a month or a year?

The other day I went to traffic court - and plead guilty to a speeding ticket (10 over). While in the courtroom, I waited as the Judge met with about 10 individuals who had been in jail. Some for a few nights, and some for several months or even a year. As I observed these people, I felt something. I imagined what it must be like to be alone in there. This made me very uncomfortable.

This was an important opportunity for me to reflect on all of the things I am the most grateful for in life... and also think about all of the little things I would appreciate if faced with a similar circumstance: A hot meal, a car to drive, internet access, the ability to work to provide for my family, and I thought about each member of my family... all of the things I would miss most, along with all the things I plan to do as I continue to be a part of their lives.

There is a travesty in this principle! Why is it that many people get caught in the trap of taking things for granted? How is it that too often we must lose something in order to value and appreciate it as we should?

As I listened to the conversations these prisoners conducted with the Judge. Each one seemed to promise reform... convey to the judge a commitment to do better, and to be more. As I sat there... I could not help but wonder, "Am I any different?".

The answer is YES! I choose to be different.

As I reflected, I concluded that generally most people react similarly. Once we lose things, we start to appreciate them. In that way perhaps we are all alike. Most people are more worried about the things they don't have, than they are grateful for what they have. Here are two more important things I believe can set us apart from being caught in the trap:

1. TIME & DISCIPLINE (Patience). If I will choose - be WILLING to live without a luxury or comfort for a period of time, appreciating the value of it, and choosing to sacrifice it for today with the hope of finding even greater appreciation and more joy after the period of sacrifice, I AM different than someone who simply loses things and then regrets the loss.

When I cam home from living in Germany I bought a car I loved with the help of a friend. It was a nice car (in my opinion) but it had no CD player at all. I can remember being encouraged by several people to buy the CD player, get "A system" and deck it out - but I was willing to wait. I worked hard to save money and pay the car off. I saved much of my money to get a down payment on a condo, and buy my wife a wedding ring. Every purchase I made at that stage in my life was rewarding because I waited, worked, and truly considered each choice, and when I made a decision I made a decision based on value, and not immediate gratification.

Somehow and at some point, I regret to admit that I lost track of this character trait. I become egotistical, and had to HAVE to be happy, instead of being willing to work to BE happy within myself. Hidden in the negative pattern I am describing is the second secret to being different:

2. A GOAL GREATER THAN MYSELF. At the heart of MISSING something is a longing for something or someone that we seek for. What is it we seek? A car, more money, all of these luxuries, in their very nature SERVE ME.

What if instead of LONGING for, or SEEKING for a luxury, our seeking is focused on SERVICE, LOVE, PROVIDING. This simple shift is the difference between me working hard at my business to gain success and conquest, and working to PROVIDE. If providing is truly what I seek then when I accomplish it - I am filled with joy and satisfaction, instead of a desire to have MORE, MORE, and MORE conquest.

So the next question for me is SUSTAINING the correct goals. One of the most difficult things in the world is to SUSTAIN. I blogged about this topic last year when I wrote about REPETITION = GREATNESS. In that post I committed to write this blog. While I have come to realize that blogging SEVERAL times per week may not be in line with my priorities, I will continue to post... because that is the essence of SUSTAINING.

Perhaps the only thing I have learned relative to being able to sustain an effort, and keep it going is to have a GREATER PURPOSE IN LIFE. To set for ourselves a GOAL that fills every inch of our hearts and minds. For me the goal is clear... and big enough that despite any amount of adversity, the goal burns in my heart and moves me to walk toward it. Unfortunately, it took the collapse of the economy, and the subsequent collapse of my ego to recognize the importance of this goal that I had lost track of, or put on the back burner to my conquest... and to recognize some of the safeguards or habits that I either chose never to form because I believed myself too strong, or that falsely believed I could get by without.

In response to this post, please consider something that you take for granted, that living without would turn your entire world upside down... and commit NOT to take it for granted.

And go find that REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BIG GOAL that is the one thing you want most. And then, if you are serious about it, try LIVING WITHOUT something you love or enjoy for awhile until you progress toward your goal. My guess is that if you are unwilling to go without for awhile, either your goal is not really your goal, or you are not ready to do what it takes to achieve it.


Getting Answers To Tough Questions

Several months ago, I was struggling internally with a whole bunch of stuff. This blog probably is enough evidence of that for anyone who has been following.

In the midst of some pretty intensive attempts at personal discovery I had so many questions:

What do I want to do with my life?

Why do I feel this way?

What am I going to do for a living when I grow up?

Do I want to run my own business, or maybe working for someone else would be easier for awhile?

Am I a good Dad or Husband?

There have been too many questions to list, but one day I was sitting at my desk in my office at home, and I typed the following questions on a paper and then taped it to the wall:

WHO am I?

What is my PURPOSE?

What is my GOAL?

What is my LEGACY?

I think you will agree that these questions are different than the other questions... but how? Rather than being questions that define what I wanted to "DO" they focused on who I wanted to "BE"... on the person I am striving to become.

For several months, these questions just stared at me every day. They looked at me and demanded answering. These are difficult questions to answer because to give them an answer, I had to be prepared to either live with myself, or be the person I wanted.

As the weeks and months went by, I decided to try to manage my time better, and bought a Franklin/Covey Planner. As I began to try to use the planner, it became evident that I needed to form stronger self discipline, and HABITS. I needed help, and the planner recommended this important book... The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. (As I have consistently read this book I have wondered if the book should be titled "The Ultimate Journey of The Discovery of Ones Heart and Soul in a World Where All That Seems to Matter is Money", or "Finding Your Life Again When You Thought You Were Lost Forever", or even "The Book That Will Give Jake Strength to Be The Man He Should Have Been All Along.")

How I wished I would have read this book 10 years ago! One of the most remarkable things about it is that as a result of some of the learning and forming of Habits in this book, I am actually consistently reading several other books I should have been reading. Go READ this book, and do all of the exercises in it!!!

Forming Habits is not easy, but it is worth it. My experience with forming Habits so far is that the change that inspires the habit MUST come from inside... from my deepest desires... from the answers to some of the questions above.

Several weeks ago, I started GETTING ANSWERS to these TOUGH QUESTIONS. What is funny is that it took so much time and energy from me to have the strength to face myself and ASK the questions in the first place. And GETTING THE ANSWERS has not been any easier. I wrote the answers to these very questions several weeks ago... and then, because of an assignment in Stephen R. Covey's book, began working on My Personal Mission Statement.

He encourages readers to go slow, and there are SEVERAL processes you can go through to find the Mission Statement... for about 10 days I have had the words "MISSION STATEMENT" written in my Planner.

Today, I FINISHED IT! (for now... it can always be added to or refined).

Some of you might be thinking - Okay Jake, just tell us your answers so we can feel impressed - that is not the purpose of this blog! My purpose is to inspire you to GET YOUR ANSWERS, and WRITE YOUR MISSION STATEMENT so you can feel the power they bring into your life.

I have concluded that my answers to these questions are for me - and maybe my wife and my children to know... but I can promise anyone who might read this - getting your answers IS WORTH IT.

If you are stuck - YOU CAN GET THE ANSWERS! It is AWESOME to know that there ARE answers!!! Contact me and I would LOVE to share my experience with you individually.


Learning to Trust

If you are a "Doer" (or is that spelled "Do-er"?)... then you are a person who does things... you make things happen. Or so you think.

Certainly it can be said of people who are "Doers" that they try. I think there is a verse in the Bible that says be ye Doers, not hearers only. Anyone who knows me knows that for my whole life I've been a "Doer". I guess my logic has always been "why would I trust someone else to do something for me when I can do it myself?". Other sentiments might be "if what you are do-ing isn't working, do more!"

This perspective has its share of benefits - but in recent times I have been forced to look at things with a new perspective:

Learning to trust in the Lord.

My intent here is not to turn my blog into a religious soap box at all... but stay with me for a minute...

Trusting and hoping in a power greater than oneself is a powerful principle. When a child learns to swim, at some point - the child must let go of the edge or his parent, and SWIM! The child must trust that the water they are terrified of will hold them up even though they know they sometimes sink. If they follow the direction of proper training, despite their fears, they will find that they can make it... but only by continuing to follow the steps for swimming (kick those feet, paddle those arms, breath, kick those feet). Only by letting go of the edge can the child come to know and proclaim "Daddy, I CAN SWIM!" Yet it does require action, and TRUST to try.

I am completely out of my element in life. From the economy being its very own force that seems to do whatever it wants, to other circumstances and challenges - being a "Do-er" is not enough.

The best part about the situation is that because it is not enough - I have had to LEARN to TRUST in God, and not my own strength. I like the child have had to learn to trust that if I kick my feet, paddle my arms, and breath, he will not let me drown.

I am not sure what came first, trusting Him - or putting him first - but somehow as I have striven to implement BOTH of these principles, the Do-ing has become easier, more automatic, more joyful, and more productive.

It doesn't make all of the emotion or energy centered around the circumstances go away, but it does give me the knowledge that He can make more out of me than I could have anyway.

So now: Kick, kick, kick! Paddle, paddle, paddle! Breath... kick those feet!


Lost in Space

If you read my blog today, please take a minute to do something with me. Put your cell phone away for a minute (no texting). Clear away any distractions - and take a few deep breaths before you read on. Now read carefully and pay attention to your feelings...

Imagine yourself in space. Noone is around at all. Everything is gone - really gone. You feel you are suspended in place, and as you look around you realize you hear nothing. You look to try and find Earth, but you see thousands of planets everywhere you look, and that is all. Imagine that you realize you are just there in space, alone... no food, no method of travel, noone to even try to talk with. Now imagine that you realize you are lost in space. You realize that while you will remain conscious - your life will stay like this.

Who are you? What is your purpose? What if this went on forever with no end? If you had to live the rest of completely alone, what would you do?

If you are able to visualize this experience, what do you feel?

Fortunately for most everyone, we are constantly surrounded by family, friends, children, work, and other activities, and we will likely never have to confront a circumstance like this. Still, asking ourselves who we are in this context can be scary, and even create feelings of panic.

Sometimes, events happen in our lives that give us the feeling we are alone, or forgotten. This can be a painful experience.

Maslows hierarchy of needs suggests that humans need Oxygen above every other thing. They have to be able to BREATH or they can't think, process - do anything else. Maslow said that just after oxygen, we need Food, Shelter and Love... I think he was WRONG!

Finding LOVE out there in outer space can be tough for a guy like me who needs to connect with people like I need oxygen. As I have felt my way through this exercise several times the last few days, I have learned some interesting things about myself, and about LOVE.

First, Even if all alone, there is a purpose to my life. In this context it can be simpler to recognize my biggest, most important goals... goals about who I am and who I want to be, not just goals about what I want to do.

What do we learn about LOVE if we are all alone in space?

Some of the most remarkable demonstrations of LOVE in human history have come when a person chooses to sacrifice something high on their own list of needs for something higher on another persons...

A mother who loves her children so much that she chooses to provide them Food while she goes hungry clearly illustrates this point... or a story of one person giving up a warm coat to a loved one, and freezing as a result would show Maslow that Love is more than a need WE have for ourselves, but a NEED we have to GIVE. Giving and receiving LOVE instead of keeping my shelter (a winter coat).

So maybe Maslow was wrong? Maybe we all need LOVE, then oxygen, food, shelter.

So what if you knew that you had to live forever in outer space, but that by doing so, all of the people you loved could have the Love, Oxygen, Food, and Shelter they needed, would you? I guess that is a question that can only be answered by determining Who You Are? What Is Your Purpose? And are those things real enough to last if you are lost in space?


The Midas Touch, in Reverse?

The story of the Midas Touch is one we all remember... and the concept is one that is applauded in our culture.

Allow me to recount:

Dionysus found his old schoolmaster and foster father, the satyr Silenus, missing. He had been drinking wine and wandered away drunk, to be found by some peasants, who carried him to their king, Midas (some say he passed out in Midas' rose garden). Midas treated him well - entertaining him for ten days and nights with politeness, while Silenus entertained Midas and his friends with stories and songs.

On the eleventh day, Midas brought Silenus back to Dionysus. Dionysus offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wished for. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold.

Midas rejoiced in his new power, which he hastened to put to the test.

Allow me to interject that this is the part of the story we all remember - in fact it is this concept we all admire in those few people we know who seem to succeed at everything. "You should meet my friend Bryce, he has the Midas touch" (no really - he does)

If I am allowed to speak frankly - this is a gift I actually at one point in my life believed I possessed. (I am so ashamed to admit this.) This is a "gift" we often envy or admire.

Lately, I have felt like I had the Midas Touch - but in REVERSE! Everything I touch (when it comes to real estate) turns into GARBAGE! This has caused me great sadness, remorse, guilt, anger, loss, disappointment and frustration.

But lets go back to the story of King Midas:

Good King Midas hastened to put his new gift to the test. He touched an oak twig and a stone; both turned to gold! Incredible.

Midas returned home, and had his servants prepare a feast. On trying to eat, his food became gold and his drink hardened before his very eyes. To his horror, he even turned his daughter to gold.

Naturally Midas hated the gift he had been so delighted to posses. He plead once again to Dionysus - this time begging to have the gift removed. Dionysus answered by telling Midas to wash in the river.

Midas was freed from the curse when he washed in the river. According to the story, the power flowed into the river, and the river sands turned into gold. (As a sidenote, Midas was a real king, and this story explained why the river Pactolus was so rich in gold, and the wealth of the dynasty claiming Midas as its forefather no doubt the impetus for this myth.

What can I learn from the story?

First I take away that the idea or wish to be able to turn everything to gold is in itself not something that would bring happiness. What if every person I talked to, every deal you did, every move made was a guaranteed success? What a boring, and terrible condition. Any triumph of victory or personal achievement would be bleached out of life. No struggle = no reward.

What else can I learn?

What is fascinating is that when times were good I started to believe I had the Midas Touch... and now that times are tough, I have struggled with the feeling that every thing I touch fails, turns into garbage, etc.

I think I can learn that both of these conditions are OUTCOME based beliefs. I have drawn conclusions about myself based upon results instead of the PROCESS I have followed, or PRINCIPLES I have lived.

I am so grateful for these tough times, because if I can learn lessons now, and make them a part of my character, I will know to measure OUTCOME last.

One of the wealthiest friends I have has silently taught me the lesson that those with gold are not assured to be happier than those without... he has become one of the happiest / funnest guys I know because despite his financial comforts, he has continued to strive to be a better husband, father, son, and friend... and found the richness of life in the process.

I hope to integrate this principle into my life as well.


Busy vs. Distracted?

Allow me to confess that in the past 30 to 45 days, my quest for personal growth has had its challenges. I have allowed myself to become (Bom, Bom, Bom) Too Busy.

What is fascinating about the last 45 days is that despite my feelings of being overwhelmed, the reality is that I have accomplished a fraction of my traditional output. Quite literally what I am saying here is that if I was normally able to get 5 things done in a day, I got busy and started accomplishing only 3 things in a day, when my whole quest is to accomplish 12.

So here was the "Ah-Hah" moment: I am talking to a gentleman on the phone and he is reciting to me how busy he is. As I listen to him name of the laundry list of things it became clear to me I might just as well have been listening to myself. It also became clear that this gentleman and I are in actuality NOT BUSY, but DISTRACTED.

The following definition can be found on dictionary.com:
dis⋅tract⋅ed [di-strak-tid] – adjective
1. having the attention diverted: She tried to work, but was consistently distracted by text messages from her friends.
2. rendered incapable of behaving, reacting, etc., in a normal manner, as by worry, remorse, or the like; irrational; disturbed.

There has been a LOT written about how BUSY people are in our lives because of the day and time we live in. People list off work, school, church, kids, cell phones.

Are you fricking kidding me? We don't have to farm our own food! The truth is we are NOT busier - just more distracted.

The SOLUTION: Be focused. Make a work plan and stick to it. Be the leader of my own life!!!


Call Off The Wedding!

A very sad thing happened today. I was putting my four year old daughter to bed tonight, and she said, "Dad... I am so, so, so sorry... but I can't marry you anymore."

When I asked why, she told me it was because I needed to stay married to Mommy. She did reassure me, "But don't worry Dad. I promise I will still come and visit you. I'm just going to live right by you guys on our street."

This might be her line of thinking because I am blessed to live just 2 houses away from my parents... or maybe it was her sweet way of softening the blow. For about the last year or more, she has told everyone that asked her who she would marry, "I'm going to marry my Daddy".

This was actually a harder pill to swallow than I expected. Obviously not hard because the wedding has to be canceled (although I stand to lose a big deposit with the caterer who is booked solid until 2028)... but more because it means that she is growing up, and that I am not getting any younger.

After her announcement, she promised me that when putting her to bed in two days, I could do both her prayer, AND her song. (We pray and sing a song with each child, each night). She then figured out that today was Monday, and that tomorrow (Tuesday) Mommy would do her prayer and song, so Wednesday I could do both prayer and song, and Thursday she would do them herself.

Watching her look at her little fingers, and recite the days of the week while she unraveled this schedule was a bit like witnessing a butterfly perched on a flower, slowly fanning its wings, then taking off into the air, and fluttering away.

My oldest daughter (7) came into my office today and said, "Dad... I am really serious, and I want you to listen", and then announced "I don't want you to pinch me anymore". She is so fun to tickle, pinch, and tease... but I suppose a line has been drawn. (Except for every once in awhile.)

I have to wonder if I am continuing to develop just as my beautiful children?


Oh, the Places You'll Go! By Dr. Seuss

I read this poem today and I actually shed some tears. (It is a fact)

Life is hard!!! I am so scared sometimes... but I know there are places I must go.

I hope this poem means as much to you as it did to me today.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!
By Doctor Seuss


Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and three quarters percent guaranteed.)



Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!


Earliest Memories

I put my 6 month old daughter to sleep last night, and watched her smile as she closed her eyes and fell asleep. Any parent can relate to this feeling...

So I wondered if she will ever remember any of this beautiful time. Surely she won't.

As I came downstairs and Amanda & I talked... a question emerged in my mind and I asked my wife, "What is your Earliest Memory?"

She shared two. One memory of her preschool, and an ice cream party where they made home-made ice cream and the salt spilled on some of it and ruined it. (She also described a four-posted jungle gym and slide from her preschool.) Another earlier memory was of her dad dropping her and her brother off at a sitter's house so that he could go to the hospital as her mom gave birth to her little sister.

My earliest memory is sitting inside of a car with it raining outside... watching my Mom get out of the car and run in front of the car up to a house, and my sister Steffanie tormenting me until my Mom got back.

It gave me a sense of peace to think of that time way back then. When I think of my wife way out in California - and myself in Idaho - it is pretty incredible, and I feel pretty blessed to have crossed paths with my wife, and now be able to watch my children make their earliest memories.

And, while I get to observe most of the beautiful, funny and little things that happen to my children every day... I know my kids will forget almost all.

I'm just glad that I will never forget their earliest memories!


Who Is Jake Ackerman?

The other day I had conversation with a gentleman named Justin Luedgerodt. (Did I get that spelling correctly?) We discussed the economy and the changing times.

Justin had some interesting insights. The comment that stuck the longest was: "There are a lot of people who've been successful for a long time who'll be forced to reinvent themselves."

I have had similar conversations with some of the best and brightest land developers, general contractors, Realtors, and others - and it is true.

Some people are waiting for the economy to "come back" and return to its previous way. In actuality we are transitioning into a new age.

From the Land Rush to the Gold Rush to the Industrial Revolution to the Baby Boomers - some called the last era "The Information Age". I think the New Age has yet to be written... but there can be no doubt - we will all be forced to change, adapt, and RE-INVENT ourselves if we wish to thrive.

So it is a great opportunity for me to ask: "Who is Jake Ackerman?" and really dig to find the answer.

Who are You?


Like Sands of the Hour Glass... So Are The Days of Our Lives

Come on! Who doesn't remember that Daytime Soap from back in the eighties? Anyone who has ever watched an hourglass knows... the sand just keeps coming.

This is the saddest, most joyous truth we have.

My younger brother announced Sunday that he is almost thirty - WOW! I remember making him laugh when he was two.

My wife told me last night that she overheard my daughter in a conversation about boys or something with one of her friends. When my wife walked past the room, the two girls quickly switched topics, "So... what is your favorite color?" asked one girl of the other.

I recently watched the Movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It was a terrific film based on the statement that "Youth is wasted on the young".

Amanda and I went to the movie together, and took turns taking care of baby Sadie throughout. The movie highlights the life of Benjamin Button, born an old man, and getting younger with every day of his life. In the movie he meets the love of his life and is getting younger as she gets older. It is a beautiful, sad, gleeful movie... and if you want to cherish your time more - go see this movie.

It left me feeling so grateful that I have someone who I can watch the years go by with. It left me appreciating the time I have with my little children more.

So while in hindsight there can be no doubt - our lives go by like sand falling from an hour glass - the best part of all of it is that every single grain of sand can be OURS! We can touch it, remember it, savor it, and LIVE each day... and that is incredible.

The other experience that deserves a chronicle here is that last Friday, my Dad and I went to Body Worlds for our Christmas present from Amanda.

This was a pretty incredible exhibit. Just seeing the human body - actual tissues of actual humans - was fascinating (and a bit nauseating) to me. As Dad & I went through "The Story of the Heart" exhibit, the relationship between the heart and brain was presented.

The importance of working your heart, exercising your body, and being health was evident. Seeing a the physical difference between the lungs of a smoker and a non-smoker, etc. was pretty awesome.

At one point in the show, there was a paper that posed the question, "Is the glass half full or half empty". We were not allowed to take photographs, so I don't have the exact caption, but the scientific data showed that even more than diet and exercise, the importance of being optimistic is critical to the health and well being of a body. (It also pointed out that regular exercise and good diet give your body the tools it needs to be optimistic)

This seemed to be something that I have held on to and preached, and now suddenly at Body Worlds came the complicated scientific explanation (breaking through my slight nausea at seeing all that flesh) for how & why being positive and optimistic makes for a happier & healthier you... and keeps you younger!


Tough Times Make System of Values More Critical Than Ever

A friend Steve Lloyd and I recently connected on Linked In. He is one of the most brilliant software developers around. On his profile he talks about the simplicity of computer languages - and the similarities they have to other languages.

One of the benefits of a computer language I suppose is that there are rules, and (except in the case of Windows Vista, LOL!) the computer behaves according to the rules.

As people we are by nature, NOT computers. We behave erratically. On a date with a woman once, I told here she was one of the prettiest girls I had ever seen... instead of feeling complimented - she got very angry. "One of? One of the prettiest? Am I not good enough for you?" she said. I really wished I had just left it at "very pretty" or something. WOW!

It has been said that the true character of people shines through in the toughest of times. In several of my past blogs I have written about my experiences that certainly indicate that is true, and I am so grateful to those people who have shown tremendous character in the recent really tough times.

So in looking at all of these things, I have contemplated the importance of a System of Values that directs us in our behavior. Traditionally, a standard system of values might look something like this:

1. My Family; 2. My Church; 3. My Career; 4. My Friends

Others might feel this is incorrect, and change the order some - usually based upon their own experiences in life, and beliefs, etc.

1. God; 2. Family; 3. Friends; 4. Career

A couple of quick observations before we get to my point with all of this.

First - I believe that most people would SAY that their system of values is similar to those listed above... but in the end it is our behavior that proves what our values truly are.

Second - What a wonderful opportunity tough times give us - to prove our system of values, to test our resolve, and to make us really choose what we believe and value.

Now... on to the real point.

If someone had asked me 2 years ago what my "System of Values" was in the context of this blog, I would have responded very similarly to the systems listed above... God, Family, Etc.

Suddenly I am making Value Based Decisions on a whole slew of other criteria that I had never previously considered:

God vs. Church vs. Faith vs. Jesus Christ
My Family (wife & kids) vs. My Family (mom & dad) vs. My Family (brothers & sisters)

Career (This is its own subcategory)
Stay with Construction vs. Start Something Else
Work for FREE to pay my Subs vs. Work to pay my bills and tell subs they are S.O.L.
Protect my own Credit Score vs. Protect my investors Credit Score vs. Who to protect

Surely along these same lines, many families are struggling with some of these same questions about what they truly value:

Eating Out vs. Paying the Mortgage vs. Buying Christmas Presents for Kids

What has been remarkable about this whole experience is that I observe different people literally value things differently. I literally know people who continue to "Eat Out" instead of "Paying the Mortgage" and let their house go... and who am I to say they are wrong.

The truth is that for some, if they owe a lot more on their home than what it will be worth in the next 3 to 5 years, and they were stretching to pay the mortgage anyway, they may value peace of mind more than having good credit and just let the house go and then eat out to celebrate finally being free from that millstone of a mortgage around their neck!

Others place such tremendous value on their credit score that they will tap into savings accounts, incur tax penalties by cashing in their 401 K, and paying, paying, paying. For some these decisions may be born of a desire to do what is right, and others literally just love having an excellent credit score.

For me today's blog is not a soapbox.

I don't claim to have a clue about the individual circumstances or value systems of all of the people I deal with... and have found that questioning the value system, integrity or behavior of someone else is unproductive for me... but rather choose to hope that if I were in their shoes I'd do as well as they do.

What I have done to find peace instead is to focus on what I control - my own System of Values...

I had a terrific conversation yesterday with Bryce. This guy is a pillar in the community and a terrific influence on everybody he knows. How fortunate I am to have so many people in my life of such integrity and character. Bryce has been an important sounding board as I have been dealing with some challenging complexities surrounding a deal with a dozen people involved.

He observed related to this deal that if any one of the people in the deal were sitting in the other persons exact position & circumstances, we would likely react almost the exact same way.

It is all good food for thought, and for getting my own Value System a fine tuning.

In the end, whether you believe in God or not, whether you have children and a wife or not, whether you love your friends or are a bit of a lone wolf, or whether you love your career, or just want to make a living so you can live your life, the old value system of 1. God/Church; 2. Family; 3. Career; 4. Friends has to become bigger, better at affecting your behavior... maybe something like this:

1. Do what is right, not what is easy.
2. Do unto others as I hope to have done unto me.
3. Work as hard and as intelligently as I can everyday to provide for my family.
4. Spend as much time as I can with the people I love, doing the things I love.

For anyone who would disagree with leaving God off the list (LOL) I think if I could pull those four things off, he'd be just fine being left off. (For me - he is in #2 and in #4)

What is YOUR Value System?


Announcing 2 New Projects and a Call For HELP Pulling Them Off.

So the other day I sat down with a man named Steve. We met to discuss (among other things) what his resources were, and how he could best use them to accomplish his goals of Financial Freedom.

Keep in mind, my shtick up to now has been either to do Real Estate deals while recruiting Private Equity from those who already have it, OR build a company using exponential duplication to amass time leverage FOR MYSELF.

TRANSLATION: 1. Get my money and other peoples money working for me. 2. Get my time and other peoples time working for me.

As I met with Steve, he spoke about the different avenues he and his wife have explored in years past to improve their life. He explained about the start up and shut down of several businesses and efforts to become free. He expressed frustration at efforts that had yielded undesirable results despite what he felt was a disciplined and consistent effort.

Specifically, Steve described what I understood to be a sort of longing for help... real help in getting both his time and his money under control.

Interestingly, this conversation was not unlike dozens of conversations like this one that I have had in recent months, and probably a hundred or more conversations in recent years... and in several of the conversations, I was the one interviewing those that have more of what I wanted, and searching for knowledge, tools or a system to assist in solving the problem.

As I spoke with Steve, a decision became clearer in my mind to take action in response to his request, and the search of so many others.

I decided that I would start a group, and simultaneously a blog dedicated to teaching principles of Financial Freedom, and other principles critical to individuals success.

The second part of my decision was as simple as the first... if someone is to get a handle on the money stuff... they are going to have to get a handle on a few other things too... including a commitment to live life, contribute to the world, and striving to BE better and make others around them better... so I decided to start another group called America Remix.

So... after a day or so of fiddling around with names for my projects, I landed on AmericaRemix.blogspot.com for the group and the bigger movement. For the project with the exclusively Financial Focus, I picked Not on Trees - Where & How Money Grows. To visit, go to NotOnTrees.Blogspot.com.

I am thrilled and excited to have put in motion projects that I have wanted to begin for a long time... and can think of no better time than now to begin.

As you can imagine I'll certainly need all the help I can get to make both of these projects as valuable as I hope and believe they will become, so PLEASE Contact Me and discuss both of these ideas and how we can work on them together, and stay tuned for more information.


The Sword in the Stone

Allow me to indulge in the telling of a personal story:

The Christmas of my eleventh year my parents bought a van for Christmas (burgundy Ford Econoline with grey velvet seats). As we woke up that morning, they announced Santa had bought us tickets to Disneyland, and off we went... what a great Christmas!

One of those magical days at Disneyland we came upon a large crowd of people and watched as men went through the crowd selecting several strong-looking grown men and leading them up to Merlin the Magician. Each man from the crowd would then attempt to pull King Arthur's Sword from the Stone. (It was an awesome sight for an eleven year old to see!)

After 5 or 6 men had tried and failed to pull out the sword, Merlin announced to the crowd that he knew that it could be pulled out, and that he could sense that somewhere in the crowd was a person worthy to pull the Sword from the Stone. Then Merlin began making his way back and forth through the crowd, pausing in front of different people and looking them in the eye before moving on. To my surprise, the long haired, long bearded Merlin I was watching so intently suddenly stopped when he got to me.

He put his hand on my head and pinched my cheeks, ran his hands through my hair and looked me up and down in a full examination as if to question if I was really the one, and then just as suddenly took me by the hand and pulled me behind him up to the Stone.

I can still picture his face and that long hair. I can still see those round spectacles and picture the crowd looking at me. I can remember them telling me to try to pull that sword out of the stone, and not even knowing what to do... until I finally got it. I was scared, and in shock, and I remember thinking there was no way I could pull that sword out. All those men couldn't even do it.

I can actually remember stepping up and pulling... the sword not moving at first, and then watching as I pulled that Sword out of the Stone! I remember the crowd cheering, and me not even hearing them, or believing my eyes as I looked at the Sword. How did I do that? (I don't think I actually even got it all the way out... it was too long - so they helped me after I pulled it most the way out - and then let me hold it.)

Then it gets fuzzy... but it was incredible. They put a robe on my shoulders and paraded me around... even took the sword and knighted me in front of everyone! I still was just in shock that I had pulled it out.

I am so thankful for that beautiful memory. It is one I will never forget. Thanks Mom & Dad, for taking me to Disneyland! In a way... making kids feel special is what Disneyland - and parents are supposed to do, right?

I still hope I am special - although sometimes I have my doubts. We are all special - and YOU and I can get whatever we want out of life...

I have decided no matter what - I am taking my kids to Disneyland this year.