Time for Practice

One of my favorite sports, football, is back again. I’m thankful and excited that they were able to make it work in this still health-challenged season of our lives. It’s been alternately fascinating and painful to watch this year so far because they aren’t playing as well as they usually do for the first week of football. Why? I assume the biggest reason is because they haven’t had the opportunities they needed to really prep as a team due to the restrictions from the virus. Week one games are hard enough to begin with, and to not have the usual months of prep and practice games to get everyone flowing together both old and new players, added a lot of pressure and forced some mistakes as well.

Football is a team sport in ways that other sports simply aren’t because of the number of players who are actively participating in the game play at one given time. So if you can’t get your team to work together, you don’t have a chance of pulling off a victory (unless the other team is way worse than you). Sometimes other sports like baseball can get lucky off hits from just a couple of people, or basketball off a couple of really high point scorers, but with football it’s not really playing the game if you don’t have everyone moving and involved. Everyone has to be in sync or it’s just failed play after failed play, which makes for really boring games, which is why everyone has to work on their fitness individually and then gather together to practice running different plays.

Something you learn from a very early age is the importance of practice in life, tied in with the fact that you rarely get it right the first time. Thinking about simple subjects like math facts and writing letters, even if you got it right the first time, you practiced pages and pages for years to get to a point where it is more second nature than anything else (especially other than a guess). My hope is that football teams will be able to find the time to practice and feel more comfortable and confident as the month goes on, hopefully getting into a better rhythm before too many games are lost.

The same holds true for us as we work on our victories: sometimes you just need to make the time to practice. If you’re familiar with some of the stories of authors who submitted manuscripts multiple times before they were picked up to be published, or ask them how many stories they worked on before they found one that they were comfortable submitting, both of those numbers are higher than some people would imagine. Most people don’t just arrive at the top of a victory mountain, it takes effort, progress, setbacks, practice, teamwork, creativity, confidence and more to get there. So if you’re realizing you’re in need of a little practice this week, don’t be ashamed, even the big sports stars and musicians spend time practicing, so why shouldn’t the rest of us?

Blessings Required

Everyone is given a name when they’re born. A person’s name is typically one of the few things that doesn’t change in life. Yes, some people are known by a nickname or shortened version of their given name, and some people choose to legally change their name, but the large majority of people are born and die with one name. If you’ve ever been around a parent-to-be, you probably have witnessed the work that most people put into naming their children, which in many ways is fascinating because you have no idea what that baby will be like or what name will really be a good representation of them. Which is why many parents give their child a name that they hope they will live up to, or a name that they think will stand strong for the child through all their stages of life.

The Bible has several interesting name related stories, including in the New Testament with Jesus’ relative John the Baptist who was given that name by a temporarily mute father and mother following instructions by God Himself (see Luke 1 for the story), and Jesus also renames Peter as part of his apostle journey. Of course there are a couple of name stories in the book of Genesis including Adam and Eve, and Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, but one of the most interesting is Jacob’s story.

Jacob, a twin, does some things he shouldn’t do and so he ran away from home for a season, and as he was returning back many years later with wives and children in tow, has an evening wrestling match with a man who he learns is God. It’s a unique story among the many unique stories that the Bible shares and Jacob actually has several of those unique stories. But this one is different because it is a human interaction with God and God says some special things about Jacob at the end of the encounter:

“”You can’t go until you bless me,” Jacob replied. Then the man asked, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”” Genesis 32:26b-28 (CEV)

Jacob has fought really hard for where he is in life at this point and has made some big mistakes too. It’s not necessarily a unique story, it’s one that many of us can identify with, but Jacob has fought for enough in his life that he isn’t willing to just call it a tie and let God go, so he asks for a blessing. God has an interesting way of giving a blessing, and it’s actually a three-fold blessing. First, you’ve got the wrestling match in the first place, which God used as a way to see where Jacob was and if he was really willing to fight for his life. Second, you’ve got the blessing of being named by God. And finally, you’ve got the blessing of God’s compliment and recognition for Jacob having wrestled with both God and man and won.

I’m not big on winners and losers, I don’t think that every situation calls for people to end up in first place (or last place), but I am big on victories, and I think that that’s what this is all about. God is making sure that Jacob is up to the challenge He has for him, the purpose He’s put him there for, and Jacob proves that even though he’s made some mistakes in the past, this time he’s ready to step up. What about you? Are you ready to take up the challenge that God puts in your life? Are you ready to overcome the mistakes you’ve made in the past? Are you ready for forgiveness and a fresh start? Maybe today is exactly the right time for you to step up and into that victory.

The Impact of Perspective

I was recently on the website for my local library system and clicked on a book they were featuring about gig work, with a title talking about how it used to be and the author’s intention to share advice about how to improve/grow it from where we are today. I’ve seen the gig world change over the past 10 years, and do agree that it should improve/grow, and not that it should be a passing phase as it does help many people keep food on the table and/or do something they love as a side opportunity. So I decided to click on the book and see if it was something I’d want to read to blog about as one of my business books of the month on my Family and Business blog.

To my surprise the blurb immediately turned me off and I barely finished reading it before closing the window. Why? Because the author started out by bashing the way certain gig companies have been run and “dark side” (their words) of labor in the gig worlds. I have yet to find a truly perfect company, gig or otherwise, and I know that some people are perfectly happy with how these gig companies are run and the role they play in them. I also love to read, so I’ve read tons of blurbs over my years and in some ways I’m glad they decided to phrase it as they did because I know not to get the book and be disappointed when I read it, but at the same time, if the blurb is an inaccurate description of the book it turned me off from what could have been an educational read.

I often write about perspective, after all, a big part of my “job” is to help others see things from different perspectives. I also appreciate on several levels when people point out what went wrong or what’s not right, because sometimes it’s important and necessary to fix the wrong/not right before you can get to the victory. But I also believe that there’s really a right and wrong way to go about all of this, and bashing or hating on people and things isn’t the way to have a productive or progressive conversation about anything. It’s all part of the consideration of extremes and trying to understand, establish and communicate the value of being so far to one side of a topic. I don’t usually think there is value in being so extreme (with a very few notable exceptions). As the saying goes, you get more bees with honey than vinegar.

Passion is always welcome at the table, but blind faith, unwillingness to hear other people’s perspectives, a negative attitude, lack of communication skills or willingness to talk and listen through things, and inflexible attitudes and habits will only get in the way of making victories (not to mention friends and a team that supports you). Are you so focused on one thing that you can’t see it from another perspective or aren’t willing to try things another way? Consider if the words, attitude and perspective you have on your situation are going to help you get where you really want to be.

Digging in to Victories

This week when I took a moment to peruse Facebook I saw the news that a musician I enjoy decided to take a long-term position with a church as a worship pastor. Of course having been in the industry for as long as he has and having worked with all the different other musicians he has, he’s definitely qualified to do it, and I know that church will benefit from it. The post I saw explained that he (along with his family) had been doing what many other people in the (spiritual) music industry do and that’s go to different churches and perform events or fill in from time to time, almost like a substitute teacher, but felt that now was the right time to plant some roots and work within one community for a while.

It got me thinking about creating victories and how sometimes we have to slow or stop our schedule and focus in on one thing in order to really get the most out of a victory or even achieve a victory. Sometimes we have to make a concerted effort, give a focused investment, set aside time and space in our schedule. Sometimes we have to move to or away from something or someone to get to the next step in our lives. Sometimes we have to settle down and dig in for a period of time.

Autumn (which we officially head into later this month) is a great time to be thinking about slowing down or what really needs a bigger investment in from you. This year has been a big year of changes, reality checks, and future reconsiderations, and what has worked in the past may/will not work going forward. We can’t go back to where we were a year ago, we have lived through too much in the past year. We’ve also been given a reminder of how it’s important to prioritize the things that matter most to you, and an opportunity to consider that maybe we don’t need everything in our lives that we’ve filled them with in the past.

Maybe it’s time to put down our own roots in certain ways, whether with a new job, a new relationship, a new home or just new habits in life. Maybe rather than just leaving stuff behind, it’s time to start welcoming in something new. Maybe it’s time to decide or settle on, or commit to things in our lives and not be so committed or attached to being crazy busy with tons of different little things. Are you taking time to invest in something this autumn?

A Little Success Wisdom

This past week a company was out in the road working in the storm drain and they managed to cut through 900 phone lines. Of course I’m extremely thankful that they didn’t cut through something more serious like a gas pipe or electrical wire (which would put us back in the dark for many days and we’ve already done that this month thanks to a tropical storm), but it does mean lots of expense for the companies, and lots of work for both the police making sure everyone stays safe and the phone company fixing the lines. While we could easily just chalk it up to being another fantastic contribution to 2020, it also highlights one of those important rules of success: measure twice, cut once (because they cut before they called to make sure that there wasn’t anything vital where they were going to be working). So today I thought I’d share a few of my own success statements and some of the other classics that you’re probably familiar with and may benefit from a reminder.

Measure twice, cut once

Do your homework/research

Use pencil before committing to permanent marker

“Cutting the pieces into smaller ones never makes a jigsaw puzzle simpler.” Peter Huybers

If you think something is impossible, it’s simply waiting for someone who believes they can do it (“I’m possible!”)

Don’t believe everything you think

Design is in the details

Less is more

Never blame the tools

Work smarter

Work harder

Hire slow, fire fast

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes

Don’t put the cart before the horse

Haste makes waste

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

What phrases and insights help keep you on the right track to victory and success?

Consistently Achieve Victories

I was talking this week with a couple of clients about their business, and we got to the end of our time together that day and the lady asked if she had it right that it was my recommendation to consistently x, y and z. And I told them that consistency is one of the biggest keys to growing their business because if they’re consistently doing x, y and z, their customers and potential customers will be in the loop with what’s going on and what they might be interested in buying/participating in, they’ll be building a relationship together, and the customers won’t have the opportunity to completely forget about the business with everything else going on in their life because the business will reliably be there for their community.

But consistency isn’t just one of the secrets to a successful business, it’s one of the biggest keys to life too. If you want to lose weight, you don’t diet or change your eating habits or exercise for one day, you do it consistently for a period of time and you’ll start to see the weight disappear. If you want a healthier relationship with your partner, you’ll consistently communicate (not yell/fight), have date nights (or whatever the pandemic stay-at-home version is), and you’ll work together at a team in as many aspects of your lives as possible. If you want to learn a new skill like cooking, you wouldn’t go to a grocery store, look around and become a world class chef, you have to practice different techniques and work with different foods over and over.

It’s rarely the case that you can do one big push and achieve your victory. Usually it takes many steps over a period of time to achieve a desired victory, and some are things that may never come to fruition in your live, but your consistent steps have helped set the necessary foundation for others to take over and achieve the victory. Monotony and boredom are definitely valid concerns, especially initially, but the good news is as consistent as your efforts need to be, that consistency doesn’t always have to be the same action (and therefore boredom-inducing). Take for example the example I used about the person wanting to become good at cooking. They don’t have to make gumbo each time, they have thousands of recipes they can make and many ingredients they can work with.

If you’ve been wanting to achieve something for a while but just haven’t been able to get there, I encourage you to map out consistent actions you can (and will) reasonably take each day for the next 30 days and see what kind of progress you can make on your goals. Even if you don’t totally achieve the victory, you’ll see some awesome progress that will encourage and motivate you to keep going.

Starting with a Commitment

As I’ve been thinking about how we can learn from this whole experience of 2020 and the experiences that people have had in the past, of course one individual that came to mind was Job, who experienced some spectacular challenges and experienced more loss in a short time than most of us do in a lifetime. I’ve lately been reading through the book of Jeremiah, and he was given some less-than-awesome tasks to do as part of getting the word out about God and getting people to take an honest look at their lives. But one of the verses that came to my inbox today was about the individual and story of Ruth. I’ve shared about her before many times during our spiritual posts, but she’s a worthy figure to look at for our victory post today as well.

If you haven’t read her story lately or ever, you can go do that here, it’s just 4 chapters long. But the short version is that the story starts with a famine in the land, Ruth gets married, doesn’t have any kids before her husband dies, she chooses to go with her mother-in-law back to where her mother-in-law is from (and she herself knows no one), does hard work at a farm type place, gets sent on a rather risky blind date of sorts, ends up married to the guy and has kids (she’s part of the genealogy of Jesus), and they all live happily ever after.

It’s a lot like the story that many of us are facing with losing our family members unexpectedly to the virus, facing unprecedented job loss and industry closures, and facing illnesses that we’ve never dealt with before. There have been some positives throughout the year, but most of them happened because we were able to work through or overcome the challenges we were experiencing. Some of us have discovered through this year’s challenges exactly how capable we really are, some of us have been extremely challenged by the loss of control and normalcy and have struggled to even keep up with the basics of life, and others of us have been able to rely on the strong foundation of hope, support, community, and commitment that we’ve made over the years both to others and to ourselves.

The commitment we make to ourselves and to others can often be the key that helps victories happen. Most victories aren’t the smooth, straightforward journey we would like them to be, rather they’re full of twists, turns, failures, delays and confusion. I don’t know anyone who would really like to live the challenges that Ruth, Job or Jeremiah experienced. No one chooses to lose family members they love or face what seem like insurmountable losses. But Job chose to be committed and faithful to himself and God, and Ruth committed to God and her mother-in-law and herself. It’s those commitments that gave them the courage and strength to make some really tough choices and push through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff.

I encourage you to choose to commit to yourself, as well as those in your life that matter most to you like God and some/all of your family/friends. It may be the difference maker that helps you get to your victories this week, or at least helps you get a strong step or two closer.

“But Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”” Ruth 1:16

Complacency Vs. Victories

I was trying to work ahead on things this week to be better prepared for the weekend and then a hurricane decided to become a tropical storm and knock out power for at least several days if not longer and there went all my effort out the window. That’s sometimes how victories go and why we always have a Plan B and alternative means of achieving that victory before we have to admit defeat. Few victories should be a one effort and done experience.

As I was sitting outside waiting for power to come back on and watching cars drive around after the storm moved through my area trying to get gas I was hit again with the sense that we’re once again behind the eight ball when it comes to this year. This year has been full of reminders of things we’re not on top of like we should be, like having extra toilet paper at home or extra money in the bank or a decent amount of cleaning products stocked up at home. And now on top of this we’ve been reminded of how when a storm is predicted those who have generators should stock up on gas before the event or having bags of ice on hand as well in a cooler in case you lose power and it’s out for longer than it’s been out for years.

The word that came to me as I watched the cars searching for gas was complacent. We’ve been complacent about some of the things that are easiest for us to typically access because we’ve forgotten the lessons that we’ve learned over the years (for example how long the lines were for gas after one of the last big storms). Consistency is a word I use frequently with my clients because it’s one of the biggest keys to achieving victories and having success, but you can’t be consistent and may not achieve your victories if you get complacent and don’t pay attention to the details and let the things that seem so easy and insignificant slide.

Complacency can be a painful and/or expensive lesson to learn. Sometimes you can get lucky and be able to fix the mistake and continue on your way without too much pain, but often there’s a very painful lesson involved, one that we thought was so painful at the time that we won’t forget it. And maybe we don’t forget that lesson, we just get wrapped up in the excitement of the victory we’re working on or the other challenges we’re facing. But that’s where consistency comes in and the importance of making sure that we’re following through on things that are important to protecting our future and our victories, even if they don’t seem important at the time (because we’re not facing a shortage of clients, or not facing a natural disaster, or not facing a relationship issue). You can’t predict when these things will happen, which is why you can’t get complacent and rather have to be consistent in your efforts to be prepared and planned ahead to the best of your ability.

What are you learning about consistency, habits, complacency and victory?

Individual Success

One of the things I love about victories is that they are different for each of us. I was listening to a finance seminar the other day and the guy was talking about how he’s perfectly fine with a 20-50% increase on his investment, he doesn’t need to double or triple or some extraordinary return on his investment. I think someone did a serious disservice to the world when they stated that it had to be a big victory or not to bother at all. There’s no reason to feel guilty over being happy with the success you had, especially if you’re satisfied with it, regardless of what other people say or do.

This got me thinking about the sport of baseball because in baseball there are options, if you will, to how you can earn points for your team. You can get on base and eventually get batted in, you can hit a home run, and you can hit a grand slam. Of course the quickest way to the ultimate goal of points is getting home runs or grand slams, but that’s not something everyone can do. Typically there are 162 games in the regular season, and even though the sport isn’t nearly as physically risky or challenging as football is, players don’t play all of those games. Decent players do play most games in the season, and the average home runs for a decent player is 45 or less, and the record is Barry Bonds who had 73 home runs in 2001. If you can’t hit home runs, does it matter? Well, you probably won’t get a job on a major league team, but there’s no shame in being extremely consistent about getting on base.

The point? It’s not always about getting to the finish line as fast as you can or with as big of fanfare as you can or to be the top scorer. If you’re happy and truly satisfied with improvements you’re making and growth you have in your life, and it’s (more than) sufficient to meet your needs and desires, then choose to be happy with that. You don’t have to live or fulfill anyone’s dream but your own. The good news is, any time is a great time to start living life for yourself with your dreams and desires and fulfill them in the ways that work best for who you are and what you’re best at.

Reality Reflection: Become an Overcomer

Tomorrow, July 18 is Nelson Mandela’s birthday, and it’s also the day that the world remembers and honors him and the work that he did and the life he lived. He’s always been someone I’ve looked up to and whose story spoke to me. Since I was first reminded that this day was coming up a week or so ago, I’ve been reflecting on how much of an overcomer he was and how there are some parallels for our lives right now. No, most of us aren’t facing jail or something that truly stacks up with all that he faced during his 27 years in prison or the racial segregation and other challenges he faced, but we can definitely feel hope because if he was able to overcome all that he did and still be able to smile and enjoy life and be as successful as he was, we can too.

Being an overcomer isn’t easy, especially if you have big dreams like Mandela’s that you want to achieve. I think most of us would be thrilled to overcome a life prison sentence after only 27 years and have another 14 years of life. But he did one better and had some of his most successful years after he was freed. But it’s a good reminder that anything is possible and no one should be able to tell you how big you can or should dream.

Mandela never gave up on bettering himself and helping others have a better life as well. He worked hard on building positive relationships and improving things throughout his years in prison both in the prison and out in the world, as well as learning all he could. He could have done the easy thing and just accepted life the way it was and possibly died in prison. But he chose to take action and try to help others even when his situation wasn’t good, and the world is a better place for it.

I don’t know exactly how things will shake out in the next few months as we continue to battle this virus, but I do know that we’ve got the same choice that Mandela did: do we choose to overcome or let life be taken from us? I’d rather see the world be a stronger and better place after the virus rather than weaker and more divided. What work will you choose?