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!!!