What will you be when you grow up?

If you are in your thirties or forties you might have noticed what I’m about to share: it seems that everytime we get together and start talking about something (despite the level of seriousness) we eventually make references to some piece of pop-culture.  Being someone who watched entirely too much television and played way too many video games when I was younger my comments usually involve one of these two things.  I’m not complaining, mind you, just making observations.  This particular style of communicating is just one of the signature elements of our generation.

Another signature element to our generation is the concept, taken up by Madison Avenue, that when we grow old we’re not really growing old–we’re growing up.  Retirement is not just an end to work, but the beginning of the dream job that we’ve always wanted.  Part of the reason I think this marketing strategy has become so successful is that we have come to believe that the career and life we are now living was not our choice.

When exactly did we give in to the idea that I have no control over my own life?  Who did I think had it?  I’ve known people who gave up their dream job somewhere between High School graduation and their first job after college.  Others I’ve known lost it at their first college submission.  Some people, like me, never even bothered to come up with a plan until suddenly they had that life-changing moment where the two by four of common sense smacked them up side the head!  Mine happened twice: after I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer then again at a Financial Peace University seminar.

In case you fall into one of these aforementioned groups: the person in control of your life is you.  I’m sure some of you believe in fate, karma, destiny, etc.  Even some Christians (who should totally know better!) think that they have no say in the daily functions of their own life!

I hate to bust everyone’s bubble but just like you make the decisions (either by intentional thought or the lack thereof) that cause you to mess up you are also capable of making the decisions that make the correct choices for your life.  The Bible says ‘He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down without walls”.

We live in a society that wants something from you.  Madison Avenue wants your money (along with several other large entities); other people (work, family, etc.) want your time and attention.  This is a fact that will never end, and that’s not a bad thing!  The bad part is when you resign yourself to the pity party mentality.

     “Poor me!  I’ll never get ahead!  I’ll never get to be what I want or do what I want!”  This is a toxic thought.  If you leave yourself out of the decisions of your own life than what you get it what everyone else wants your life to be like.

Do you need to work?  Yes!  Does it have to be a job you hate? No!  You can have the job you want by taking the steps to make it happen.  Will you have to  give something up, make work a little harder to get that life you want?  Yes.  Will it be inconvenient?  Maybe, but if you want something bad enough and make the plans, put in the time and stay focused–you can have it.

It’s time for our generation to grow up.  We may not be the oldest generation alive, but we need to get with the program and start taking responsibilities for our own lives instead of making excuses.  If you don’t like the way your life is going something needs to change.  When I lost my house, lost my job, and had to move my family–when my dad died and I had to stop relying on him as the patriach–I had to grow up.  Life happens to you whether you want it to or not.  However, I can tell you this from experience–you’ll like your life better if you decide what it’s going to look like.  When I decided to choose to follow the Lord’s will for my life that’s when I saw the truth.  I let society determine the course of my life because I was an inactive participant.  Now I feel healthier, wealthier, and wiser.  I even love my job for the first time in my life.  Take the step:  choose to get involved in your own life–so you have one!

Plan A Only: is it possible to live without a “plan b”?

I’ll bet when you first look at this title you’re thinking:  “This guy is off his gourd!”  What type of fool doesn’t have a plan b?  My kind of fool.  I admit the “plan b” concept has been a part of my life on many an occasion, but I’ve been pondering this particular paradigm periodically in the present (too much alliteration?).

Some occasions of life call for a “plan b”, don’t they?  What if the restaurant I’m at is out of the food I had my heart set on?  What if the furniture liquidator sold the livingroom suite I was planning on purchasing just before I got there?  Shouldn’t I have a “plan b” if my vacation destination lost my reservation?

Thankfully we live in America, and there is no reason why you can’t have a “plan b” if you want one.  However, I’m writing this post for the purpose of communicating the obvious:  Having a plan b is choosing to settle for second best.

There may be a few times in your life where “plan b” seems like the only option, but what irks me is that some people start their lives as adults (or at least college students–and yes, there is a difference in my opinion!) with “plan A” as a pipe dream and “plan b” as the reality they must settle for.  I’ll never really get the chance to be a [insert dream job here], so I’ll just have to be a [erronenously conceived ‘normal’ job].

Okay, first of all you’re a quitter.  If you want to have your dream job–go for it!  Get that dream job and do whatever it takes to get yourself to the point where you can have it.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT just up and launch into a job you have not financially and vocationally prepared for–give yourself the gift of a properly funded, adequately trained life–then, go get your dream job (See ‘Quitter’ by Jon Acuff for more details).

Secondly, no one said you have to be a trained professional before you launch into your dream job.  When I was a kid (and preteen, and teenager) I made the mistake of thinking that I had to be good at something before I could actually do it.  If that’s what you are waiting for then you are going to be waiting a long, long, long time.  Get some knowledge from books, other people who have your dream job, and any other sources you can scrounge up, get your safety net (fully funded emergency fund of 3-6 months) in place and do it even if you’re not the best at it.

Third, don’t quit your day job until you are good at it.  Yes, I’ve been talking about having an emergency fund in place during this post, but that’s so when you are good at it and can launch into your dream job, you’ve got something to fall back on in case your dream job becomes a nightmare.

But wasn’t he talking about having a “plan A”only?  This sounds a lot like a “plan b” strategy?  It’s not–your plan A should have a space that includes a fully funded emergency fund.  AND your plan A should be full of the gusto you need to make it a success.  Get educated about your dream job, plan your attack, charage the hill with your defense figured out just as well as your offense, and make things happen.  Your life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you choose to react.  When you charge that hill it’s better to have a “strategic retreat” figured out instead of panicking and settling for a second best life because you were to afraid of what may be.

If you do your homework, plan our path to success well, and follow the steps to succeed, there is no reason why you should ever have to settle (or even worse–start with!) a “plan B”.

Also, as a final note, if you believe yourself to be the kind of person who is awful at making plans then I would like to introduce you to someone who is an expert at making plans that succeed.  In fact, he’s got a 100% batting average.  God is omniscient (knows everything), omnipotent (can handle anything), and is omnipresent (will never leave your side).  Plus:  he’s crazy about you!  His love is unconditional–no strings attached even though he knows everything you’ve done.  His love for you is unbreakable, and he wants what’s best for you.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  If you’re focused on God through a right relationship with Christ, if you’re living for Him and following his plan, then you will succeed because God never fails.  Hope and a Future with a Father who loves you unconditionally.  Who needs a plan B?

A DAB will do it.

In the ever present pursuit of improving myself (Doug 2.0 I like to call it), I have decided to improve my cooking skills.  Up ’til now I have been comfortable with my two signature dishes: homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and pancakes from scratch.  However, I made one of those noble sacrifices we men occasionally make–I watched a chick-flick with my wife.  It was about Julia Child living in France and how she came to write her first book.  It was also about this lady who blogged about cooking through the entire Julia Child book. Since it was about writing and eating (two of my all time favorite things to do) I have to say that it was a pretty good movie.  I loved how everyone in the movie kept cramming food in their faces, not just taking polite little bites like people in movies usually do.

My wife became inspired to try new dishes now that we are in a house in a new state.  She’s very organized, my wife, and she is a really good cook.  I actually gained fifty pounds during the first ten years of our marriage (which I have since lost thanks to a healthier life-style change we both switched to).  So I went down to our new library and got her a copy of Julia Child’s classic cookbook and we started working through some of the recipes.  We even made a souffle–the first one I ever ate!

Now we’ve switched to a slightly similar project we call DAB.  It stands for: Doug, April, and Betty.  We are pouring through the Betty Crocker book we got for a wedding present and are opening our world up to all sorts of new recipes, altering some and chiseling others into the tablets of our family recipes book.

Improving yourself can happen in different ways from learning a musical instrument to becoming an expert in a subject, or just learning how to do something better.  Staying the same may be appealing to some, but as we age we should get better (like cheese).  Keep growing, and drifting in a positive direction.

Drifting Back

I suppose it’s ironic to have a blog about being focused and then to leave your blog idle…for almost two months.  It was definitely not my plan.  However, not to offer an excuse, I was living focused out in the real world.  My old job decided to send me packing over training they refused to provide me, then evaluated me on so I decided to drift into a new way of thinking.

My wife and I home-school our four kids, so I realized that we don’t need to stay in New Jersey; we could go anywhere in the world!  Suddenly, with the world at my fingertips and a planet full of possibilities a bad situation turned into an exciting one.  On July 1st my job search went outside the Garden state covering the continent from East to West, and even overseas a bit.

The last time I did this was in 2002, but that was a county to county move.  This time it was going to change our whole life!  Just like in 2002 my wife and I began to pray, submitting ourselves to the Lord’s will.  Since he’s omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient–who knows better than him?

He came through in 2002 and again in 2014.  He landed a job at a small school in North Carolina, which is by far the best school district I’ve worked in since I began teaching in 1998.

So here we are, transplants from NJ to NC with a new life and a new world of possibilities.  Staying in NJ had its benefits, like being close to family in friends, it was (frankly) the safe move.  Sometimes we need to stretch and challenge ourselves to reach our full potential.  Stretching ourselves can stress us out when we handle it ourselves; the key to not being the guy (or gal) running around in circles freaking out is to have a good support system, weigh your options carefully before choosing, and above all have faith in The One who’s been around longer than anyone and has it all figured out.

Purposeful planning, part 2:

                                        Actually Planning for Future Events 

                Were any of you ever in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts?  I was—two years.  That’s it.  Ever play a musical instrument?  Me too!  Harmonica, Guitar, Trombone, and drums; also piano for a while—however, I never finished learning how to play any of them.  When I was younger I had a compulsion to make excuses to not finish things.  Now this may not be you, but I know it’s not just me!  Lots of us don’t finish what we start.  Our ability to finish what we start affects our ability to be purposeful with our own lives.

Make something happen!

                Not finishing what we start says something about who we are.  For one thing it says we don’t know how to plan for the long haul.  Success depends on meeting the goals (both short term and long term) that we set.  When we finish those goals we win—when we don’t…well, you get it.

                My ability to be prepared for things has gotten better over the years; I’m still growing, but I’ve made leaps and bounds compared to my younger years of losing things, quitting when things (sports, instruments, hobbies) became difficult.   Being prepared to succeed begins with planning for future events.

Same thing, every year.

                I don’t want to freak you out but did you know that your family members’ birthdays come up every year at the same time?  You know what: Christmas, Thanksgiving and your taxes also come up at the same time each year!  It’s funny how often we forget stuff like this: we know it’s coming, but we don’t save, don’t pre-shop months in advance, don’t save money for when the expected happens. 

                Some people do: I have friends who start their holiday shopping Dec. 26th.  That’s advanced planning and a great budget saver.  Planning for expected future events can save you frustration, time, and money!  Think through a calendar year; recall what things come up on an annual basis, both what’s consistent for you and what’s common to all of us.  If any of these things require advanced savings or advanced planning…start now!  You’ll be glad you did.

When It rains, it pours!

                But what about unexpected events?  How can we prepare for something that we don’t know is going to happen.  Statistics state that many of us are going to have some type of major crisis this year (money, health, career, house, family, etc.).  We don’t know what it is, but we do know that something is going to happen.  It is going to rain.  Putting away money for these rainy days (an emergency fund) will give you a shelter of protection when they come up.  Having the money to pay for whatever the crisis is makes things easier on you.

God has set the model for us in being prepared.  Nothing surprises him!  Psalm 68:10b tells us that: “…thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.”  God owns the whole universe!  He is really rich, He loves us like crazy, and wants to help us when we are in need; most of us just don’t ask for the kind of help he provides.  His Word, The Bible, is full of smart ways to handle money so we can be prepared.


Bring the Umbrellas!

                A story is told about a small Irish town that had been going through a drought.  The local pastor was concerned for his congregation and so they purposed together to do something about it.  They were going to hold a prayer vigil.  The Sunday of the vigil the pastor held regular Sunday morning service then sent everyone home reminding them to come back for the evening prayer service.  Well, just after supper time the congregation of that small church came back for the simple purpose of praying to God and asking him to end the drought.  As the people filed in to their pews the pastor bursts out yelling and shouting and telling them all to go home!  When they asked him why he said, “Because you have no faith!”  The congregation was shocked.  Hadn’t they come to pray?  They asked their pastor how they could say they had no faith.  “If you have faith,” the pastor announced in a booming voice, “then where are your umbrellas?”

                Plan for your purposes to happen: having a plan is great, being prepared for the unplanned is great, but when you set a goal to protect yourself or someone else, or to make something happen you’ve got to have the faith that your plan is protected and that you can carry it out to completion.  We must to prepared for the work God will call us to.


Proverbs 24:27: Prepared thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field”

The Difference Between Your “Current Platform” and “Future Platform”

Writers In The Storm Blog

By Chuck Sambuchino

medium_2490315446Ah, platform. It’s that dirty word writers hate. It appeared several years ago like a bad dream — a word publishing bigwigs used to describe a writer’s ability to sell their own work through a writer’s social media, networking and visibility. The bigwigs made it clear: Writers would not only have to write books now, but be the main marketing force behind them, as well.

Let’s be clear: If you’re a fiction writer, you want a platform. If you’re a nonfiction writer, you needa platform.

In fact, if you’re writing nonfiction and you don’t have at least a modest platform, literary agents and editors probably won’t even consider your book idea, no matter how good it may be. If you can’t sell your own book, they ain’t interested in your pitch.

In fact, I’ve been speaking so much about platform lately that I wanted to…

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