Random Thoughts: 2017 Part 1

It is currently July 9th which means we just recently passed the half way mark for the year. 2017 sure is moving fast!

This year has been filled with excitement and stress largely centered around wedding festivities.

Exciting stuff and later this year I will be a married man. I am sure this will bring about many blogs full of many more random (and not so random) thoughts.

Anyway, here we go –

Dead or Alive

I have been out of balance lately. Competing priorities do this to me all the time. Just life I suppose. However, we do have a choice. Life can happen to us or we can engage and shape it back.

I did a mental exercise recently where I sought to identify what I need to prioritize based on what makes me come alive. What I DO often, reflects certain themes about the desires of my heart. The things that make me come alive can be broken down into these categories.

  • Competition
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Coaching

What makes you feel alive?

When you answer this question I believe you are gaining a glimpse into God’s design for you AKA your purpose.

IF this is even remotely true, then why don’t I lean into this more?

Answer: I don’t know, so i have decided to devote the rest of 2017 to investigating this further and I encourage you to do the same.

 

Answer the question, What makes you feel alive?

Accountability

I shared this thought with some people I work with recently and want to capture it here. We all have a strong sense of justice. Right and wrong. Especially when we are wronged. We all desire a strong sense of accountability for the person who is not carrying their weight so to speak.

In the context of this story (at work), I was discussing individual accountability as a feeder element into the success of a team.

The decisions of the individual impact the entire unit. I thought about why people don’t care much about this. I mean, the people who are not carrying their weight. In some instances it is lack of accountability from their leadership, but in many cases I think it is the belief that the consequences are insignificant. I am convinced that although the consequences may not be readily apparent, they are nonetheless significant.

Here is the bottom line: you cannot escape your habits. As a result of this truth, you ultimately cannot escape accountability for your actions. Personally, professionally, spiritually, etc. The decisions you make consistently, whether good or bad, will have a direct impact on your life at some point.

Just consider that the decisions you make now, even if the consequences or benefits are not readily apparent, will be ultimately realized at some point. That is to say, you will be accountable.

Titles and Tunes:

  • If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas
  • The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias
  • Even If by MercyMe

Enjoy!

-Brian

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Life Lessons on the Golf Course (Part 1)

(I learn a lot on the golf course. I chronicled some of those lessons in a previous blog: The Greatest Game Ever Played. I expect this to be Part 1 of an ongoing series as I draw more life lessons from my time on the course.)

 

I got up to the short par 4  #7, selected an iron off the tee, and proceeded to hit my shot down the right side of the fairway. I then approached my golf ball safely in the fairway, only to find that this fairway was overrun by invasive weeds everywhere (where I come from, we call it crab grass).

There was evidence that the greens keeper was fighting the weeds, but in this particular battle, he was losing. The weeds had overwhelmed the fairway to the point of no return. At this stage, the course is better off to tear up everything, replace the soil, and replant the natural fairway grass.

How does this happen? How does something get so far out of control? The answer on the golf course is simple: lack of routine upkeep. The lack of small investments over time. Skip a ground treatment here and there. Let a few patches of weeds run wild, think that you can take care of it another day. Then, BOOM, it is too late and the only option is a complete excavation of the turf. The sad thing is, the routine maintenance over time probably costs less than the project to redeem the turf. All of those delayed investments over time finally catch up resulting in disaster.

We see this in the real world as well. This principle is alive in our lives. The principle of compounding decisions. Consider compound interest in the world of finance and investing. Compounding is considered one of the most powerful forces in the investment world (if not the most powerful!). Small investments over time can grow to large sums. Small debts over time can grow to large sums as well. As you can see, this sword can cut both ways.

On the golf course, the poor maintenance compounded over time resulted in disaster. On great golf courses, great maintenance over time results in exceptional conditions.

The Compounding Formula

Decisions + Repetitions ^(t) = Results

(t = Units of time. Days, months, years etc)

The only components of compounding are your decisions and the consistent repetition of those decisions over time.

The principle can be applied positively or negatively, working for us or against us.

How do we ensure this principle works for us?

  • Prioritize and Plan
    • Nobody plans to fail. But failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail. You have to intentionally decide what is most important and build from there. Prioritize. We would be wise to heed this advice: “You do not prioritize your schedule, you schedule your priorities.”
    • What does this look like practically? In relationships, it means dedicating consistent quality time to the relationships that are most important to you.
    • In health, it means scheduling and following through with exercise and other healthy habits.
    • In your finances, it means establishing (and actually following!!) a budget.
  • Count the Costs
    • What would it cost you to skip a workout? Miss an important event with a loved one? Spend a little beyond your budget?
    • Well, the answer in the short term is… probably nothing. One instance is not going to set you back. If you miss a workout, you are probably not going to the hospital the next day for heart disease. Miss an event with a loved one and they will probably understand. Charge a little extra on the credit card and you can probably get by.
    • However, this is what lulls us into a false sense of security. The consequences of missing one instance are not immediately apparent so it makes it easy to skip more.
    • This is not how the principle works though is it? Missing one instance can begin to compound… against you. Then all of the sudden… decades of poor decisions may result in catastrophe in a key area of your life.
    • The cost to you in the end may end up being so much more than the tiny cost of each instance over time. And just like the golf course fairway overrun with crab grass, you may find yourself in a position where a complete excavation of the turf is your only option.
  • Consider the Future
    • Just think if you decided to leverage this principle now, what that could mean for your future.
    • In relationships, it could mean a thriving marriage and a healthy family.
    • In health it could mean more energy, avoidance of preventable diseases, and a higher quality of life.
    • In finances, it could mean financial freedom and the ability to bless others in need.

I encourage you to take some time and evaluate what decisions you are making repeatedly over time.

The compounding formula is real, make sure it is working for you.

25 Random Thoughts from this 25 Year Old

I have noticed the increasing popularity of titles that include a number associated with a catchy title

  • 20 Things to do Before Your 20. 
  • 30 Reasons That Being 30 is Awesome. 
  • 14 Ways to Make 2014 the Best Year Ever. 
Okay, so maybe those aren’t real titles, but you get the idea. 

I figured “Hey, I can do that too.”
 So for the next installment of Random Thoughts I figured I would give it a shot.

Here we go.

  1. For countries in warm climates, the Winter Olympics must be one of the lamest major sporting events in existence. I have watched a grand total of 0 minutes of coverage and plan to double that number in the coming days. 
  2. The older I get, the more frequently I am acquainted with death. Friends, family, peers, etc. I don’t think I will ever truly get comfortable with this reality. 
  3. I am too inflexible with my schedule. God has a way of revealing things like that in the midst of your frustration. Fact of the matter is, my time is not really my time. 
  4. Gator basketball is certainly in good shape, but lacks the offensive explosiveness to be a favorite for the National Title at this point. Need more consistency on that side of the ball. Development of Hill and Walker will be huge as well as the health of team going into the Tourney season. 
  5. Gosh I can’t wait for Major League Baseball to begin. Cardinals may have the best pitching staff in the NL but lack power at the plate. Upgraded speed in the lineup though may be a good thing. 
  6. Being intentional about simplifying my life has helped me focus. (See next few thoughts.)
  7. Deleting many of my email subscriptions has made my life much less hectic. 
  8. Eliminating a few of my social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram) has helped as well. 
  9. My commitment to read more this year has been highly beneficial. Its one of the best ways I learn and relax. 
  10. I am really enjoying my new job and location. Truly blessed. 
  11. Receiving wedding invites = awesome.  
  12. Not being able to attend weddings that I was invited to = not awesome. 
  13. Preparing taxes = not awesome. 
  14. Getting my tax return = awesome. 
  15. Knowing that there will be a day when I will not get a tax return = not awesome. 
  16. Knowing that our tax system is broken and many Americans pay no taxes at all = not awesome. 
  17. Malcolm Gladwell = awesome. Check out some of his books, pretty insightful. 
  18. I am undisciplined in my prayer life. This is an issue. 
  19. Accountability with Christian brothers must be one of the most incredible gifts from God. If you are reading this and do not have someone or a group of people holding you accountable, I would really encourage you to find some people and open up your life to them. 
  20. Choosing between two seemingly good things is always very difficult to me. 
  21. I have concluded that taking care of myself should be a top priority. Why? Because if I do not take care of myself, I cannot focus on others. 
  22. Leadership is a passion of mine that I plan to pursue with fervor. 
  23. I am completely useless without sleep. 
  24. However, I will never resort to using coffee in order to wake up. 
  25. It is time to sleep. Have a good night. 

The Best of You

The Foo Fighters, a quality Alt Rock band from the 90s and 2000s had a song titled “Best of You”. In the song the artist asks “Is someone getting the best of you?”
Now, the context and content of the song is much different than what I will write about here, but I think this is a great question to ask. Is someone getting the best of you?
Better yet, is anyonegetting the best of you?
I don’t strictly mean this in the romantic relationship sense (although, as you will see, it applies there as well). I mean in the broader sense. In your everyday interactions, relationships big and small, are you giving your best to those around you?
Certainly we should strive for that, should we not?
The random people we see each day, they deserve our best. They deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and engagement.
The people we work with, they deserve our best. They are relying on us for leadership, mentorship, or contributions to the team goal.
Our boss or bosses/ the organization we work for, they deserve our best. They pay us to do a job, and to do it well. They deserve commitment and our whole attention while we are on their payroll.
Our friends and loved ones, they deserve our best. They sacrifice for us, extend their hearts on our behalf and invest in our development.
The face you see in the mirror each day, He or She deserves your best. You owe it to yourself to apply your full effort each day in your relationships and your life in general.
And most importantly, Our Great God, He deserves our best. He created us and redeemed us to a whole new life. He expects our best and we will be held accountable one day in this matter.
SO,
Why do we accept mediocrity so often? Why do we give less than our best?
Consider the following excuses that I have used to justify my mediocrity:
·         I am too tired
·         I am distracted
·         I don’t really like that person
·         I’ll handle it tomorrow
·         I am having a bad day
·         This is not my responsibility
I am sure I could come up with more excuses that I have used or have heard from someone else. I am sure you could put together quite a list as well. However, I am a solutions oriented person, which leads me to  the following question-
How do we fix this?
How do we create an environment where we can devote our best each day, in life and relationships?
Big question indeed but here are some simple tips I have found useful in my own pursuit. 
1)     Stop Multitasking 
Listen, I know you think that you are a multitasking machine. The reality is, you are not. Multitasking is a myth and is increasingly rejected by the scientific and business communities. Don’t believe me? Search for yourself. Studies have shown that multitasking decreases focus, concentration, and creativity. What does this mean for us and our ability to give our best? Well, if you are distracted or trying to juggle several things then you can rarely devote your full self to any one objective. 
As for relationships, I will ask this question- Have you ever tried to have a serious conversation with someone addicted to their phone? 
Yeah, aint happenin. 
Now I love my phone as much as the next person, but I strongly urge you to be present as much as possible. I understand you have to communicate with people but consider this practice- Once you take your eyes away from the phone and that particular relationship, take a moment to refocus on the people you are with. Presence and engagement are critical. 
2)     Prepare
“By failing to prepare,  you are preparing to fail.”
–  Benjamin Franklin
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Do we ever give much thought to our day? We may have a plan, but do we prepare? You see, there is a difference. Allow me to give a simple illustration from my own life.
Each morning I know what I need to do- Wake up, eat breakfast, pack lunch, read, shower, get clothes on, go to work. See, this is a plan. 
A plan tells me what needs to be done.
Preparation would be if I did the following: Set a bowl and cereal box out for breakfast, left my reading book on the coffee table, picked my clothes for the next day, and set out some of the items I need for lunch. Preparation is about readiness, it is part of the execution.
So often we are limited by our lack of preparation. Rarely do we prepare to do our best. What would that even look like anyway? Well, we have to consider preparation as an idea much broader than the physical things. Consider mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation as well
.
 
3)      Today
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:33
“Make each day your masterpiece”
– John Wooden
“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday, and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”
– Dalai Lama
This is a daily decision. Today is the only day you can influence directly. We waste our time worrying about the future and feeling guilty about the past. If you have a rough day, shake it off and don’t let it ruin the next day. 
4)      Shift Focus Upward and Outward 
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have to shift our focus. We must shift our focus off of ourselves, upward to Christ, and then outward to others.
Notice how all of my excuses started with I. It was all about me. Giving your best requires sacrifice.  You cannot give your best if you are selfish, its just not possible. Heck, you rarely give anything if you are selfish. 
This kind of commitment is exhausting, which is a good thing. If you are constantly pouring yourself out into meaningful endeavors (service, people, occupation, etc), then of course you are going to be exhausted!
In closing, I encourage you to evaluate your life, how you spend your time and energy. 
Be honest with yourself and ask the question: 
Have I given my best today?

Reflections on 2013, Preview of 2014


I have spent some time today reviewing my media (Facebook basically forces you to do it with the “Year in Review” feature) and journals from the last year and must conclude that 2013 was a good year for me. The previous years have been about healing and growth, but 2013 was a year of transition.
Consider the following-
My Dad retired after 26 years with his organization.
My sister returned from an overseas deployment.
I concluded my time at the University of Florida.
I left Publix after 8 years of employment.
I left the O’Connell Center after nearly 2 years of employment.
I moved from Gainesville to Orlando.
I started a career with a new Company.
A year of transition indeed.
I want to take a moment to honor a few people who truly blessed me in 2013:
Daniel:
I am glad that we have become good friends. I look up to you and respect you greatly. Thank you for your leadership of our church, and your investment in my life.
Matt:
Thank you for your friendship brother. I appreciate your transparency and how you were intentional about developing a strong bond with me this year.
Robert:
Blessed to know you man. Great roommate, better person, average basketball player.
BJamos and Fikcett. Nuff said, basketball when I come back to G-Ville soon.
Jack:
Dude, you’re awesome. Glad I got to meet you this year and develop a friendship. Excited to see what God is gonna do in your life.
P.S. Tower of Terror needs to happen again ASAP.
Chris:
Really looking forward to serving with you in ministry here in Orlando. Thank you for your leadership and your genuine love for people. It is evident to all those who know you.

Bryce:
Good call on the roommates thing. Proud of all of your hard work and drive through adversity this year. You are going to have a great 2014. 

I expect 2014 to be a challenging yet rewarding year as I settle into a new work location, assume control of new leadership responsibilities, and focus on developing relationships here in Orlando.
The Pastor of my new church (Yes, I will be joining this church very soon) encouraged the congregation to discover a word that will mark their year. This word will guide their focus for the following year. I have spent the last few days searching for my word and believe I have found it, but I am waiting for some confirmation on that.  Please pray for me in this matter.
I am so thankful for 2013 and am confident that 2014 will be a special year.
Here we go!

Random Thoughts: Duck Dynasty, Knockout Game, Podcasts, Titles and Tunes.

My renewed commitment to blogging means the return of Random Thoughts, one of my favorite entries.

Phil Robertson caused quite a stir with his comments in a recent interview published in GQ magazine. A&E responded by suspending him indefinitely from the show.

I am not going to discuss his comments specifically or engage in any discussion of the merits of homosexuality in our culture. That will be saved for another time.

However, I will take a moment to discuss the response by all to this situation.

As soon as news of this broke, this is what I observed: Battle lines were drawn, sides were taken, and arrows were launched.

WHY?! Why are we so hyper-sensitive to this? Shouts of intolerance and bigotry filled the air, responded to by shouts about free speech and… intolerance.The irony of this is rich to me.

Put down your weapons, be mature, and address each other like civilized human beings. 

Moving on-

Is there anything more reprehensible than the so called “Knockout Game”?
If you don’t know what this is, I encourage you to do some research.
Anyway..so this is what some people do because they are bored?

 Targeting defenseless people and seeking to knock them unconscious is disgusting. This is the type of thing that society as a whole should denounce immediately. This kind of rampant lawlessness is completely contrary to the American ideal.

On to something much more positive

Podcasts are changing my life.

Laugh all you want at that statement, but I am urging you to nix the cynicism and consider this for a moment. Consider the free time that you have and how you spend it. Now consider your goals, hopes, and dreams for your life.

Okay, now how do you connect your free time with your goals, hopes, and dreams? By being disciplined and intentional with your efforts each and every day.

You may be wondering what Podcasts have to do with this, so here is the answer- Podcasts are a tool that can be used to connect your free time with the life you want to have (goals, hopes, dreams).

Do you want to be smarter? There are podcasts for that.
Want to lead better? Podcasts for that too.
Want better relationships? Podcasts for that.
Want to be more productive? Podcasts for that.

Tunes and Titles

This is the segment where I share my current favorite songs and books that I am reading, get it- Tunes and Titles. (I thought it was catchy).

Tunes –

  1.  Bring the Rain – MercyMe
  2. Chances – Five for Fighting 
  3. Dum Dum – Tedashii feat Lecrae
  4. I Hold On – Dierks Bentley 
  5. You Revive Me – Christy Nockels 

Titles –

  1. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  2. David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell 
  3. Reviving Work Ethic – Eric Chester

That is all for now! Less than two weeks left in 2013. Be safe, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Letter to Mom


 Today would have been my Mother’s 56th birthday. In honor of that I’d like to share a letter I wrote to her a while back. I wrote this in November of 2010 when we discovered Mom was terminally ill. It was my heart then and it is my heart now. I celebrate the life she lead and am so thankful for her time here with us.
11/14/10

Mom,

I love you. I don’t know how this is going to come out, or how long it will be, but I trust that it will be good. I have so many thoughts, I cant possibly write them down fast enough, but I will try.

You are my Mom. Nobody can ever take your place or love me like you have. Certainly you were appointed by God to hold this position. You are a great Mom. And even when you are gone, your presence and impact will be felt daily. You will be missed deeply because you loved with such great depth. That time has not yet come, so I am writing this to tell you how much you mean to me, how much of an impact you have had on me, just to tell you everything. So here it goes.

You carried me for 9 months. I know you and dad were glad to have a boy. (I have seen the pictures, lots of smiles). Thank you for caring for me even before I was born. I was born healthy on August 1st and I imagine you were the first person to really hold me. I obviously don’t remember it but I have seen the photos. You and dad were so happy. I am glad and blessed to have great and loving parents. Thank you for that. So I was born, but even before then, our relationship was set. Mother and son, is any bond stronger? Maybe, but I haven’t felt it yet. I mean, your blood flows through me, how cool is that? As I said, I was born and the next few years went by smoothly (as far as I know). But in those years you still cared for me. I was your only son and you and dad had to change my diapers, put me to bed, heal my wounds, pick me up when I fell down and all of the other things parents do. You were always there. I said my first words, learned how to walk. At times, I was a pain, but your love never ceased. I’ve seen the photos and I know I was your little boy. I cherish that knowledge.

We moved to Brunswick and this is when I started to have some memories of life and our time together. BOATS!!! I would always say that when we crossed that one bridge. It makes me smile just writing this. And I was at small strides with all of my girlfriends and my picky eating habits. And we lived in oak grove at 4195 Harbor Point Drive. That was a good house. I remember stepping on a frog outside and I was so upset about that. I was a sensitive and caring boy. I still am. I got those traits from you.

Moving forward we went on to Tallahassee. So many memories. You and dad sacrificed a lot for us. You worked at Gilchrist and were able to be home in my developmental years. I didn’t realize the value of that at the time, but now I see it. It was nice having you around. Especially when I got poison ivy that one time, what a terrible experience!!! All of those Saturdays we spent in the yard and on the golf course. You and dad both have a great work ethic and you both showed us how to work hard. I cherish those times now. I miss them. Most importantly, during this time, we were active in the church. You and dad were engaged in the church and taught us a lot. Eventually I accepted Christ, which was good. I want to make this point emphatically- You and dad were a great success as parents because your example brought both of your children to Christ. And for that, I thank you. That changes everything for me. You always protected me. This sometimes led to a conflict with dad, but that’s okay. It happens. We all learned a lot through all of that.

Moving forward, I became an adolescent and teen. I am sure I gave you attitude many times and I apologize for that. You were always quick to forgive. We never had tension for long. During this time we had numerous great talks. They usually happened on long walks. That habit has stuck with me, I still love walks. Our walks were the best. We always meshed so well. We certainly think a lot alike. Very similar in many ways. In a strange way, you are my mother but also a great friend.

Then high school started and I was growing into a young man. Your girl had left for college. This time must have been tough because the family was seemingly moving apart. But like always, you held us together. The glue and mortar of this family that kept us together. You were there for everything. My successes and failures and struggles. Always available and willing to listen. Those years really flew by. They were great  and I will never forget them. The last two years were particularly fun because it was just me and you. That’s not to say that it was fun without dad, but those years were unique and incredibly valuable to me.

The first time you got cancer that was tough. But again, it was me and you. I was there through it all. I don’t know why God made it that way, but maybe one day I will. Time went on and I continued to grow and mature. We moved to Gainesville and I was a college boy. You and dad let me know often how you were proud of me. That meant a lot. Thank you for that. There was conflict, but you were always there, at the center, to resolve it.

Then I moved out on my own. And I know this time was tough. Just watching your son grow. Not long ago I could rest in the palm of your hand, now my palms were as big as your hands. Time flies. Your cancer returned and it was tough. Your strength amazes me.

So here we are now, in the midst of a great trial and you have endured so much pain. I hope and pray that it stops soon.  I just don’t want you to suffer. But I cant see my life without you, you were always there. I always assumed you would be there. For everything. It hurts to think about my future without you in it. We just have to accept the fact that you may not be there. I have been upset and angry. Why you? You are the sweetest woman in the world. (Job 38 answers that)

As I think about it, I know that you will be there. As I said,  your blood runs through me. The things you taught me will live on. I hope to love like you do My children will know about you, I promise

I  cant help but reflect and ponder the love story that is responsible for my existence. That of course is the story of Steve Amos and Bev Jordan. Dad said he knew exactly the moment he realized he was going to marry you. Winston Churchill once said that a family begins when a boy falls in love with a girl. So, our family began at that moment.

I just cant fathom how dad feels now. His best friend, life, battle buddy in this world, is now leaving him. I know it is taking a tremendous toll on him. I will do my best to take care of him in your absence.

Then there is Chelsea. Your first born. She was a cute little girl for sure. I know she was difficult at times, but I believe she is on the right path. I know you are worried about her. I trust that she will make wise decisions. She has matured in many ways. Besides, Dad and I will keep her focused.

You will leave behind quite a legacy. A legacy of love and strength. Everyone who knows you acknowledges your strength. It is truly remarkable. You are a loving mother, wife, daughter, friend and person.

Moving forward it will be tough. But as Christians, we must have joy at all times. (Philippians 4:4)

And we know you will be in the presence of the Lord. You will be home. (Revelation 21:4)

I cant even fathom what it will be like.

That’s all I guess. I know I will see you again. For me it wont be goodbye, just see you later.

– Brian