Friday, July 31, 2015

Missing something in your life? Easy steps to be a different you!

You don’t have to be a rich famous celebrity or a Mother Teresa to have a life that has adventure and significance! I’m a proponent that ordinary people can do ordinary things in an extra ordinary fashion to see their lives make a difference. Here are 5 things you can do tomorrow and see your life turn around. So let’s break the mold!
  1. Drive home a different way – So instead of driving home the usual way from work or school go a different way! Forget about time, gas costs and pick a different route back that takes you through a neighborhood you would never drive through. Instead of being in a rush actually look at the houses, people and in my neighborhood wall art or graffiti. Do something radical and actually stop and talk to someone that is different from you and make a new friend.
  2. Adopt a grandma – one of the best ways to experience life is by making a new friend who you can help experience life in simple ways. Find a senior center and be bold and visit. You will be shocked to discover that seniors are a lot of fun and can actually teach you something about life! Don’t let a grandma be lonely!
  3. Eat out – yes it’s time to go out for dinner but instead of the usual pick out a restaurant that is totally outside your box. Be bold and different and go out of your way to meet the owner and server. Ask to hear their story of why they started their restaurant.
  4. Pay it forward – find a local nonprofit that needs volunteers or a new board member. Yes, this requires your time and heart to make a difference in the life of a disadvantaged youth, help build a house for Habitat for Humanity or visit your local animal shelter and volunteer.
  5. Go on vacation – yes purposely take a break from your routine and do either an away trip or stay at home vacation. Take one of your kids or that grandma you just met to the zoo or to a movie. Visit a national park and discover the awesome beauty of your state.
Lastly but most import is to include your family and friends in your pursuit of living a better life. Stop being jealous of those around you that are making a difference in the lives of others and enjoying themselves to the max! Don't miss out any more and do something different tomorrow. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nature’s universal language transcends all languages!

It’s always a breath taking experience to visit Yosemite National Park in California and see the various waterfalls, Half Dome and El Capitan. I’ve had the good fortune to have hiked up half dome over twenty times in the last 30 years. It’s a death defying type of experience similar to doing a marathon for the first time. It requires every ounce of your physical and mental strength to accomplish this feat.  What’s even more interesting next to the sights of the Creator is the variety of visitors from all over the world. (They are also a testimony to our Creator’s design powers!)

I admit to the fact that I’m getting old so walking and jogging up Vernal Falls did require a lot of sweat energy.  It was well worth the 2 plus mile trek climbing over 1,000 feet straight up the mist trail and the ascent of the granite staircase. What stood out was that every language imaginable was being spoken as we walked, talked and listened. As we waited for the bus back to Curry Village I noticed my wife talking to a Korean lady. As I approached I realized that my wife’s new friend was only saying yes to everything that was being discussed. I was impressed with how friendly this lady was with my Anne regardless of the language barrier!

I confess to the fact that most Americans, myself included, make the erroneous assumption that everyone should speak English. Yet, the reality is that I haven’t made too great an effort to be bilingual so my broken Spanish doesn’t help much when I heard families speaking French, German, Korean, Chinese and a few African dialects. What stood out during our time away is how the love of a family stands above language much as the look of amazement on a little kid’s eyes as they see the various water falls in the park for the first time.

Clearly the little chipmunks that came out of the woods didn’t care about the language spoken but the handouts being cast around transcended human and chip talk! It’s so tragic that today’s news is consumed with the evil in the world instead of taking a pic of four generations of a family walking together up Vernal Falls and the look of elation of an 80 plus year old grandma.

After posting a few of my pictures from our Yosemite Trip I have lots of jealous friends. Yet, the language of a sunset or sunrise does transcend all languages as we gaze at the power of the One who purposely made the heavens and the earth for both our enjoyment and education!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Unsubscribe - take back your life!

I know that there is a push for minimalism and that I can see the benefit of embracing that less is more! This last week I have attempted to help my wife understand that her e-mail doesn’t have to consumer her spare time. The challenge is that at times we have to choose to unsubscribe or opt out of things, people or events that waste our precious time. I confess to the fact that I have allowed my e-mail subscriptions to overtake my inbox. There isn’t anything glorious or impressive about having 1,000s of unread advertisements waiting to be deleted!

It’s so easy to be tethered to my iPhone so that I feel morally obligated to answer a call, respond to group texts or read a mailchimp or constantcontact update. I’m so thankful for voicemail and the ability to instantly text back that I’m not able to talk.  Yet, how often do we allow social media, texts and e-mails to stop us from experiencing life in the moment? Imagine what would happen if we took the time to unsubscribe to the things in life that stop us from living our lives to the max?

One of the most amazing features are short cuts on my laptop. It’s so easy to hit the command key and A key and then hit delete. All of a sudden all of those old e-mails or files are gone unless I choose to hit undelete.  My wife so often reminds me to turn off the T.V., put down my iPhone, put up my laptop and tune into life.  I admit that it will take some time to go through my e-mail list and intentionally unsubscribe to what might have seemed a good idea but ended up with endless advertisements.

It takes intentionality to retool your life. I know that it’s so easy to really believe that filling your calendar with events is the mark of success or spirituality. Yet, I’m learning that it’s so much better to do less and then ultimately do more. There is a tension between quality versus quantity. Who are you trying to impress? Does anyone really give you compliments on your multitasking skills?

I know that at times it’s easy to take someone’s unfriending me or unconnecting me as a personal affront instead of an opportunity to focus on my real friends. My hope is to never unsubscribe to life but to the distractions around me that stop me from having the best life possible.

So go find the small hidden print on the spam e-mail that gives you the option to unsubscribe to the list! Take back your life!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Diversity - fad, fact of life or our future?

What’s all the commotion about High Tech in Silicon Valley not having a diverse workforce? What’s more important; great products that define the world around us, with much thanks to Google, Facebook, Apple, or Twitter or the racial and gender makeup of these companies? Do those that own an iPhone 6s really care about who made it, the economic disparity of what an engineer makes versus a line worker in China? So why all the sudden interest in talking about diversity? Is it the recent shootings between ‘White’ Police officers and ‘African American’ males over the last year or inequality with pay for females in the workforce reasons that make diversity a hot topic?
I know that as a youth growing up the majority usually ruled whether that is in the political arena, educational setting or workforce. Whereas today it seems that the vocal minority is taking over whether that be in the area of same sex marriage, pro-life vs. pro-choice debate or politics with the emergence of the ‘Donald’. As someone that has worked in the nonprofit arena most of my life we talk a lot about ‘best practices’ that would be based on having leadership that is reflective of the community in which you serve. The difficulty is that up until recently most of the leadership whether that is in big corporations, local companies, the church, nonprofit sector or educational systems were primarily ‘White’ males.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that the American populace has always been a diverse group over the centuries that we have existed as a nation. The more recent issue with immigration and the reality that America is becoming more brown than white is now a concern for some. The issue of a flag in a southern state shows that there are sentiments on both sides of the issues that would like to make a case for their racial superiority or at least the history and legacy of the other group. There are others that want to expose racism and see significant changes in our society to give everyone an equal opportunity to experience life to it’s fullest.
The challenge and opportunity before us is the admission that not everyone has equal access to opportunities to help them experience life to its fullest. Yes, growing up with two parents that were college educated did give me certain advantages for my sense of purpose and place in the world. Having worked around at risk population for the last decade I see the disparity between those that have opportunities given to them almost on a silver platter and those that have to fight for everything. 
So why is it the case that being an advocate for diversity and multiculturalism should become a priority for everyone from Silicon Valley High Tech to the local school board or leadership in my neighborhood church? What should cause me to care about the plight of an at risk youth growing up on the street versus my child that attends one of the best schools? I think one of the typical ways of avoiding the issue is the excuse that I didn’t cause this disparity and it’s really not my problem to cause me to lose sleep. Yet, one day I will wake up to the fact that I’m the minority that will be at a disadvantage and few will care what I have to say if I’m not willing to make racial reconciliation a priority.
So is the pursuit of diversity in the workforce a necessity that will benefit everyone regardless of race, religion or gender? I so much appreciate Martin Luther King’s heart as he simple states the obvious, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’ I will be the first to admit that to pursue diversity in any context requires real work and involves taking a huge risk. Is it possible for White people to work alongside people of color? What happens when my team at work all speak Spanish and I don’t have a clue about what they are saying behind my back?
It’s time to engage the culture around us and see the blessing of having multiple ethnic groups come together as a family and not as a race riot that sees neighborhoods destroyed. I believe that the pursuit of diversity in the workplace can’t be a fad but a fact of life that will define a better future where everyone will have more opportunity to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Life is short. Have an affair?

This week over 37 million individuals are discovering whether their lives will be shortened because of hackers attacking the Ashley Madison cheating site.  What would happen, pretend with me, if you were part of this site and all of a sudden your spouse, friends or work partners receive some type of e-mail identifying you as a cheater? If we truly live in a society where morals have been put to the side it shouldn’t matter or should it?

I know that the allure of the forbidden fruit got not only Adam and Eve in trouble but also the rest of us, myself included. We face temptation daily about whether it’s ok to cheat, steal, lie or have an affair. The decision we make each day is whether faithfulness and integrity matter in my life, the lives of my family and friends around me. What has happened that over 37 million individuals have to cheat to find adventure and fulfillment in life?

I think that the illusion that you can cheat, lie, steal or have an affair and not get caught now has been turned into a nightmare by the hackers, ‘The Impact Team”. Is this some type of Robin Hood group that is coming to the aid of the victims that have been in the dark for too long? I know that for many living on the edge is what makes life happen. Yet, the hurtful reality is that living a lie is detrimental to everyone regardless of your age, gender or circumstances.

What would happen if I put just as much time, resources and heart into investing into the one that I’m presently with? I’m a child of the 60’s so I can remember a song about loving the one you’re with. It’s true this could be misconstrued but the reality is that I’m with my best friend/life partner most of the time. So is it possible that commitment, faithfulness and integrity can make a relationship real and alive? Does the forbidden fruit syndrome always have to win out?

It’s a tragic sign of the condition of our society that there are millions that can make an Ashley Madison cheating site profitable. Maybe these hackers might have given many a second chance to rethink whether cheating is going to enrich their short lives? 

So maybe I’ll start a new site that focuses on; ‘Life is short. So be faithful!’

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I'm losing my keys?

I consider myself to be above average intelligence, capable and competent, yet too often I find myself in a panic looking for my keys or is it my mind? A couple of days ago my wife had one of those moments that initially you get mad, frustrated and then really upset. We were at a fancy resort; the summer brings low rates, with a group of teens celebrating the end of our summer program. We were enjoying the variety of pools and our gigantic fancy room. Towards the end of the night I was about to get some pizza with a few of the teens when I realized my wife had my key for the little van. I quickly did the key exchange and left for my favorite pizza place – Barros. Little did I know I had just literally tossed my keys into the abyss never to be seen again.
The next morning we did a thorough search of the resort room, our various vehicles and then our home. The end result was NOTHING. How in the world is it possible for a key ring with every known key for my existence to disappear? Doesn’t God know that this isn’t funny, that it will cost hundreds to replace everything thanks to smart keys with chips and then there’s the keyless remote. I felt badly for my Anne at first but realized she’s the culprit not me so she should be able to figure out what she did with my keys. Clearly I still had her keys and didn’t lose them during our overnighter.
I assured my best friend that a lost set of keys wasn’t going to cause divorce or separation. Yet, we were at a loss after calling the resort a few times assuming that clearly the keys had been dropped in the parking lot and would be turned into the front desk. So yes we retraced our whereabouts the last night attempting to visualize what had happened. Is it possible that the key demon just tossed them into the bushes alongside the parking lot? Did one of the teens actually think they could play a joke on us and get away with it?
Regardless of what could have happened the stark reality was that I had to scrounge around and put together another set of keys. Yes I’m missing a few irreplaceable keys that will cause a little heartburn. Is this truly a tragedy on the par of an earthquake, tornado or tsunami? NO! Clearly my wife’s ego and mine have been bruised fearful that we are both facing the onset of early Dementia. So what could we do differently to have avoided this blunder?
I think most figure out hopefully sooner than later to always have the same place to put your wallet, keys, phone, etc…. otherwise each morning can be a rush to find them before you fly out the door. What’s even more important is to have an obvious plan when you are away from your home to know how not to misplace your valuables. Looking back I should have realized that my Anne was on her cell with an important call and was a little distracted. I should have taken both sets of keys because I was using the vehicle.
The important lesson out of losing my keys is not to allow this to become bigger than life. Yes, it is possible to allow something as crazy stupid as misplacing your keys, wallet or even your iPhone to become a point of contention with your spouse or teen? Is this really going to ruin my life and make it impossible to live the next day? NO!! Yet, if I allow my emotions to rule me it can cause a silly rift that in time can become real bitterness that can destroy a relationship.
Is the solution not to go on trips, have fun or splurge on occasion? Clearly not but maybe I need to always have an extra set of keys that are prepared for emergencies. So am I really losing my mind? I don’t think so but clearly I lost my keys. The good news is that I have replaced all of them and my life is back on track and I'm still married to the same amazing lady for 42 years!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lessons on freedom from my dog and braveheart!

What does it truly mean to be free? I’m around some that make the erroneous assumption that being free means you don’t have any responsibilities if that is possible.  Too many assume that freedom doesn’t cost you anything.  The reality is that your freedom costs you everything if you are willing to pursue it! One of my all time favorite movies is Braveheart.  I know that a good portion of the movie doesn’t totally follow the life history of William Wallace. Yet, what stands out from the movie is how the passion of a few to pursue freedom for their country ultimately provides freedom and inspiration for many!

This last week I’ve struggled with what stops a person in life from experiencing personal freedom? I know that we are hugely fortunate to live in a country and time where no one is a prisoner to anyone or thing unless we choose to allow it to happen! I know that it’s easy to make excuses or blame someone else for your lack of freedom. Yet, most likely the biggest cause for not experiencing freedom is your fault! Why is it usually the case that I’m my own worse enemy? I’m the one who too often stops myself from becoming the person I want to become.

William Wallace along with many others over the history of mankind has been willing to sacrifice everything in order to gain true freedom. Often this comes at a high cost that benefits others before yourself.   I so much appreciate this quote from E.E. Cummings, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”  So how do we become emancipated from the pressure to be like everyone else?

Here’s what I’ve learned from my dog Freckles about being emancipated.  What’s amazing about my Freckles is the fact that she in many ways is both tamable and untamable at the same time. We go for long walks with our dogs everyday. Our other dogs typically don’t go too far away in our field where we walk. Freckles, on the other hand, is always peering around looking for the coyote, field mice or others walking with their dogs. Yes, I confess to the fact that I get nervous when my dog disappears from my eyesight. The amazing thing though is that only a call or whistle and she will eventually come running back to us.

So yes at times I can imagine myself being William Wallace or even my dog Freckles. The challenge is that I’m me and no one else. So why do I struggle with attempting to live up to the expectations of others? Why isn’t it possible for me to stop being a people pleaser and just be myself? My brain tells me that freedom ultimately does require real effort and responsibility on my part. So why is it so difficult to take the steps required to achieve a freedom that ultimately is worth dying for? Why choose to live in a self-made prison?

I fear that too many today are living in their own self-made prison not having a Braveheart figure or dog like my Freckles in their lives to inspire them.  Is it worth the risk to step outside the box that you and others have created for your existence? I believe it’s time to become that person who is both tamable and predictable and also untamable and unpredictable!