Random Thoughts: 30 for 30

This week is surreal as I am crossing the 30 year threshold. A milestone of sorts. It is particularly surreal because my parents were 30 when I was born.

The growth I experienced between 20 and 30 is difficult to fully capture in writing, but I spent some time thinking about it and will share some key takeaways and random thoughts.

I can not say that I have 30 lessons to share about life. Life is not that complicated.  (Besides, you would probably tire after lesson #13 or so.)

 From 20 to 30

At this stage 10 years ago, I was preparing to enlist in the National Guard. 19 days after I turned 20, I enlisted as a PV2. 1 year later, I graduated Infantry OSUT.

Now, 10 years beyond my 20th birthday, I am a Captain and Company Commander. 10 years ago I would snap to attention if I saw a Captain and was hesitant to speak to them or anyone exceeding the rank. Now I know that most officers are just soldiers like the rest of us. They are more normal than I would have ever thought as a newly minted Private.

The last 10 years have been marked by my military service. Memories, relationships, growth. There is no part of my life that has not been touched by the decision I made at age 20. It was a great decision and I would make it again.

– 10 years ago, my family was whole with a pretty optimistic view of the future. Mom was clear of the cancer she started fighting a few years before. Dad was looking to retire soon. Sister was moving along as an adult. Life was good.

Now, I have lived 7 years without my Mom as the cancer returned with a vengeance and she died shortly before my 23rd birthday. This feels like an eternity ago and life before then feels even more distant. Our family was never the same of course, but we have all moved on in some ways. 7 years later, I live at peace with loss. Death, while painful, is really just a milestone in life. This perspective may be a bit callous to you reading this now, but it’s true. I love and miss my Mom, but my grief is no longer a sharp pain. It is more of a longing you experience when you haven’t seen someone in a long time… and I am okay with that.

– Personally and professionally I’ve made great strides. My military career has been successful to this point. I completed my education and started a professional career that I enjoy. The Lord’s provision is real and tangible.

– I have lost a lot. Been burglarized twice. Had some (read, a painful sum of) money recouped by the military. Made some questionable purchases and investments.

I have gained a lot. Been promoted a few times. Made some good decisions and good investments.

– With all of this though, my view of money has evolved. I was always a saver and typically an obedient giver. However, now I recognize a tension that exists. Part of me, and many of us I imagine, desires the security that our assets seem to provide us. On the other hand, I have experienced indescribable joy and freedom from being generous. On top of that, the unexpected loss of my mother profoundly impacted my view of time… and consequently my view of money. They are related of course, time and money.

I read a quote the other day that captures this relationship – “the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

 Want to truly understand your priorities? Just ask yourself, what am I exchanging my time and my money for?

The things, people, places, ideas, etc that comprise the answer to this question is your life. This truth is absolutely inescapable.

 Changes from 20 to 30

I have changed a lot in the last 10 years.

– I see a lot more gray than I used to. I still have my areas of black and white, but understanding that I don’t even adhere to the standards I believe in has allowed me to understand people better. We are all imperfect and fallen. This has magnified God’s grace and hopefully allowed me to extend the same grace to others. The truth is, although I try to make things simple, people cannot be simplified. They are incredibly complex. Every person you meet has unique physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual attributes that cannot be refined to something you could call “simple”. In addition to these attributes, an individual’s experiences add yet another layer of complexity. All of this has increased the gray I see in the world, and consequently, the grace and understanding I am capable of extending to others (especially those I share opposing views with).

– 10 years ago, I had a pretty foolish view of relationships. It makes me laugh/cringe now. In the last 10 years I dated a handful of women. Some serious, even to the point of an engagement. Others, in hindsight, not very serious because I didn’t have the slightest clue what serious actually means until the latter part of my 20s. I hurt a lot of good women and experienced pain as well. That’s the way it is though. In order to love effectively, you have to be willing to endure pretty significant pain.

All of this helped guide me to my wife Sarah, so in the end it was worth it because she is worth all of it. Hopefully the lessons of the past make me better moving forward.

Simple recommendation regarding relationships: practice selflessness and marry someone who does the same.

– The entropy of close friendships from 20 to 30 is an inevitable part of life. This is not good or bad necessarily, it just is. I have less friends now than I did when I was 20, but I would also submit that I am doing life with my close friends now in a way that I never could at age 20. Friendships go through seasons, like most things in life, but there are a few constants… The friends that go through many seasons. I anticipate that this entropy will continue as children enter the picture but there are still a handful of guys that I would visit in an instant if they needed me. We may see each other less and less, but I’ll always have their back.

 Looking to 30 and Beyond

– The next big life step would be children I suppose, but I haven’t spent much time contemplating this reality. Obviously, my wife will have something to say about this as well. Beyond that, the Lord has a way of sorting these details out. I’m not worried about it.

– I was talking to some 18 – 20 year old guys tonight at church and realized that I am not as close to them in age as I tend to think I am. This reminds me that the next several years (or decades) of my life will be about influence. I am still young by most standards, but I believe we are all responsible for how we influence those that are following us… and someone is always following you whether you realize it or not.

– I have a few individual goals that I am still working towards, but I wonder how those will change over the next 10 years. I wonder if they should change. If they should change, then I imagine that they will (whether I surrender to this change willingly or not is another question).

Life Changing Books

– A popular saying (credited to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones) goes something like this:

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

This quote has some truth to it. I’d add experiences to the list, but Charlie may have been speaking in a different context. Regardless, I have been a reader for quite some time and this continued over the last decade. I have recommended a few books over the last decade but here are the top 5 books from that time.

These books truly changed my life and were instrumental to my understanding of the various seasons I experienced in my 20s. I recommend them constantly.

 

Closing Thoughts

– For most of my life, the Bible passage that most resonated with me was Matthew 6:25 – 33. Hence the name of my other blog – butseekfirst.com. I worried a lot about small stuff. Still do sometimes, but I have more of a peace about the Lord taking care of those details. When you see it happen in your life, it makes it easier to see it happen in the future.

– This decade has been marked by a greater understanding of time. 10 years went by quickly in hindsight. Time is always like that looking back and it hardly feels like it is slowing down. I think this is probably the lesson I learned in my 20s. The value of time and how to value my time. I imagine most people learn this lesson later in life. I don’t know why I learned this lesson so early in my life, but I hope it continues to inform my living for the remainder of my life.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thanks for reading.

-Brian

 

 

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Movies Worth Seeing

I enjoy going to the movies. It is one of the ways I disconnect and recharge (golf being another). Thought provoking movies are the best, even better if they are based on a true story. Few movies tend to fall into these categories making the ones that do of particular interest to me. Making them a worthwhile use of your time.

These are movies worth seeing:

Dunkirk

Dunkirk checks all of the boxes. Thought provoking. Based on a true story (with the added bonus of being a military story).

As I watched this film I couldn’t help but ponder hope and hopelessness. The entire film is an observation on hopelessness. You feel the sense of despair of the main characters. The loss of hope of the soldiers stranded on the beach. The loss of hope of the pilot trying to fend off the German airplanes. The loss of hope of the civilians trying desperately to reach the beach and save as many soldiers as they can.

How do you handle a hopeless situation? Dunkirk confronts you with this question.

Hacksaw Ridge

Just like Dunkirk, Hacksaw Ridge checks all of the boxes. Thought provoking. Based on a true story.

It has sort of a folksy feel to it because Desmond Dawes (Andrew Garfield) is very idealistic and innocent (the heavy accent plays into that as well).

Also, Vince Vaughn as a serious character is a nice twist. He does a pretty good job.

I appreciated how the movie highlighted his faith as a motivating factor in his service. The theme running through the film is just his perseverance and willingness to serve in the capacity that his faith allowed him to. Just think about it, a soldier unwilling to fight choosing to go into combat.

The action and drama of the film is incredible. You will have to see what happens.

The Finest Hours

Again, checks many of the boxes. Based on a true story with a military-ish perspective. This one has a similar feel to Dunkirk in the sense that you feel the fear of the stranded sailors but also the determination of the rescue team. One of my greatest fears is being stranded out on the open ocean, so the drama in this film impacts me in that sense. The dialogue of the rescue team captures the essence of sacrifice present in Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge. I love their determination in the face of near certain death.

The Greatest Showman

I have linked to the trailer of the film, but must admit that the trailer does not capture the storyline very well at all. You will have to see for yourself. With that said, this is one of my favorite movies in recent memory. My wife and I loved it. Honestly, films like this are not exactly my style with the music and theatrical aspects. However, Hugh Jackman is one of my favorite actors (he also happens to be a very talented singer and dancer) and the message of the movie is particularly impactful as a young man and new husband. In short, the movie captures something I think men in particular struggle with: the pursuit of significance at the expense of family. This is a very enjoyable film for everyone.

Check these out if you haven’t already and let me know what you think!

 

 

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

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!