Planning for Purposeful Paths, part 1: building your legacy on a solid foundation

Legacy is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Every generation has people who are concerned with establishing their legacy. When someone passes others are concerned that the deceased’s legacy live on. Having younger children the legacies that I see being preserved are those of Walt Disney, Jim Henson, and some other famous people who built up their dynasty on entertaining and educating children. People like Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Frida Kahlo, Jackie Chan and a million others have built legacies that have lasted for decades.

As an adult, legacies are something each one of us hopes to leave making the world (or at least our families) a bit better. Being successful parents and spouses are some of the biggest legacies we all hope to leave, as well as leaving a strong financial legacy. My biggest concern is my ability to accomplish both of these things. Our financial plan (built on the foundation laid at a Financial Peace University conference my wife and attended in February of 2013) has begun the work of setting a firm foundation for changing my family tree—not only financially, but relationally. Dave Ramsey, founder of FPU, will tell you that when it comes to money it’s all about the relationships. Building a foundation in my behaviors (how I relate with money and with people my money affects) makes that foundation firm. Our legacy that we leave behind should be built on more than our finances but it must be firm! One built on a shifting foundation like sand isn’t going to last. So how can we make sure our foundation is firm?

The legacy we leave behind will be good, bad, or mediocre. The memory of it will be filled with selfishness, indifference, or a feeling of generosity. How you’re remembered is up to you. Our legacy that we leave behind should be built on more than our finances but it must be firm! One built on a shifting foundation like sand isn’t going to last. So how can we make sure our foundation is firm?
First we’ve got to acknowledge that our legacy is something that is part of a plan that is bigger than what we can imagine. God has designed the universe and everyone in it. The patterns that are systematically evident in creation reveal an intelligent design plan. When we explore the knowledge of God the creator through his word (The Bible) then we can gain an awareness of this foundation our lives are to be built upon.

Psalm 119: 73 says, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.” Ever hear anyone say, “If only life came with instructions?” Guess what? It does! The first step in building a lasting legacy is to place it firmly on a solid foundation one that was laid thousands of years ago by Christ Jesus at the moment he laid down his life to spare yours. When someone who loves you more than life itself gives you a gift it is not to be ignored. Seek out your heavenly father: explore his word and learn about the foundation for your legacy.

The Forest for the Trees

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Do you know that saying: “He can’t see the forest for the trees?”  This one used to really confuse me when I was a kid.  It wasn’t just the phrasing, but the meaning was confusing as well.  “Who couldn’t see a forest because the trees were in the way?” I’d ask incredulously. 

Okay, maybe I didn’t know words like incredulously (I even had to check my spelling when I typed it in the last sentence), and truth is I didn’t often ask questions about things I didn’t understand (a very dumb thing for me to do), but it’s a confusing colloquialism anyway.

Then I went to college.  While I was getting my B.A. in History I realized from listening to all those college professors and their protégés what that saying really means!

History professors and history students say really “intelligent” things like this: “It’s so great being a historian in this modern age!  We can understand so much more about the past then people did centuries ago.”

Now, I have to admit, that I didn’t see anything wrong with this the first couple times I heard this.  Then it started to dawn on me that what they were saying, and the saying about the forest and the trees were connected.  It hit me one day while I was listening to a professor talk about medieval farming practices, or something of that sort.

Modern historians believe that they understand the past better than the people who lived in the past.  I suddenly couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  That’s the equivalent of someone standing right in front of a billboard being told that you can see it better than them from a mile away!  OR: It’s like being from Florida your whole life and telling others what it’s like to live in Alaska!

Why should others opinions and experience be made less because we think we have a greater perspective, especially when we’re further from the actual event or truth than they are?  Doesn’t it make sense that people who’ve lived through something and experienced it first-hand would know better than people who are merely reading what others said happened?  Since when is second- and third-hand information more accurate?

When we strive to learn something, to better ourselves in business, our relationships, and in life in general it pays to listen to experts: people who’ve worked with others to accomplish, or have already accomplished what you want to accomplish.

This is called the pursuit of “best practices”.  No one would hire a personal trainer who’s 400 lbs., but knows all the theories of physical fitness.  Why, then, do we listen to people with no experience in what we are dealing with?

What do you think?  Is there any reason to take advice from the inexperienced?  How much can mere education be accepted without practical application and experience?

Don’t Trim the Pot Roast: finding your own legacy

 

Don’t Take your Pot Roast at Face Value

I remember a lot of stories my Dad told me about his childhood: one that’s always stuck with me has to do with his mom’s pot roast. 

For years my Grandma made pot roast this way: she’d cook it in the normal fashion, except for one thing.  She cut off the last quarter and set aside it to cook it differently, then place the 3/4 pot roast in the oven.  This went on for years.  It’s the way pot roast was made in my Grandma’s house and no one thought to question it…until my dad when he was about 12.

“Mom,” I can hear him saying, “how come you cut off the end of the pot roast like that?”

“What do you mean?” Grandma asks back politely.

“Why do you have to cut off the end of the pot roast?”

“Well…so it cooks faster.”  Twelve-year-old Dad, looking a bit confused, asks,

“Couldn’t you leave it together so and cook it for a bit longer.”

It’s at this point Grandma starts wondering herself why she’s always done this.  Which brings me to my first point:

(1) Know why!  Why do I do this?  Why do I hold the values I hold?  Why do I believe what I believe?  Whether you are a follower of Christ or not the advice He gives to “give an answer for the hope within you” is sound.  Know why you act, think, believe, the way you do. It makes you stronger to know why instead of just following blindly.  Faith is not following blind, but following despite the pressure to stop because you know that following is what’s right.

Make the Call

So Grandma got to thinking about this question my 12-year-old Dad had asked.  She called the expert, her mom, because the only reason for cutting off the end of the roast is because she watched her mom do it for years.

“Mom,” she asks, “how come you always cut off the end of the pot roast when you made one?”  This, of course, is the kind of question we all should ask when we don’t understand something we do, or think, or say, or feel.  Why am I doing this?  What’s my reasoning? If there isn’t one we need to take stock and analyze our life, job situation, etc.

I’ll never forget my Great-Grandma’s answer!  Honestly, it’s the only thing I know she said from her whole life.  It’s both simple and profound at the same time.  “Evie,” she said, “because we never had a pan big enough to fit the whole thing.”

So what’s my G-G-ma trying to tell us?  Know why!  Don’t just blindly do something because it’s something your parents did.  If it’s a job, like the situation I am currently in (and getting out of) don’t do the job because “it’s what your family does”.  God might have something different in store for you than what He asked your parents to do.  If it’s your faith, if your “ticket to Heaven” begins with a sentence like “My (random family member) went to church all the time so I’m good!” let me offer you this: “God has children, not grandchildren.” He wants you to be a child of God all on your own.

Make your own plan happen.  You were not made to live another person’s life.

 

 

 

 

Don’t leave your dream job up to an online quiz–make the choice; make the plan!

                Guess what!  Career tests online aren’t the best judge of what career you should have!  I know this is one of those “uh-duh” sentences, but how many times have we all sat in front of our computer after a frustrating day or week and filled one of those out?  While those tests are designed to provide answers they data they are using are how you feel at a particular moment on a particular day.  Considering, when we take them, we’re usually frustrated—not exactly the best possible data.

                If we were to take them with a clear mind on a relaxing day where everything seems wonderful we might get a career that we would truly consider.  Of course, in those moments, we start to tell ourselves it’s too late: that we’ve missed the boat because we’re too old, or deeply entrenched in our current career.  After all, what responsible adult quits his job when he has family and obligations?

A Dream Job is a Wish your Heart Makes

                Truth is: it’s totally possible!  As long as you handle your career change intelligently and carefully you can make the switch.

                Here’s a list of things to consider before quitting your current job and launching into a more rewarding line of work.

                (1)  There is such a thing as too many choices.

                                Sure, “Sky’s the limit” sounds very positive, but if you don’t narrow your focus to the things that you actually enjoy and feel like you could reasonably handle with some success then too many choices will bog you down and you will be too afraid to start.

                (2)  When you narrow your focus think about how to get started.

                                Jumping all in isn’t always the best plan.  In fact, it’s hardly ever the best plan.  Taking the plunge into a career you don’t understand is a sure fire way to crash and burn.  Instead ease into the your new job/career a bit more slowly.  Find a way to experience the job (either volunteer work, interview someone in that line of work, etc.) before you decide to quit the job that funds your life.  This will help you decide if you can actually make this job workable for the rest of your life.

                (3) Just before you get started think back on your current career. 

How do you act and react at in your current position?  How do you feel about your

boss? Co-workers? Clients?  If there are ill-feelings that can be traced back to perceived (or imagined) attitudes that you have you may want to examine those, find ways to deal with them and adjust your work personality.  In other words: if there are issues you’re having at work that can be traced back to you, the last thing you want to do is bring them into your new job.

 

                (4) Last, but not least: have a safety net!

                                The last thing anyone of us would want to happen is for our new career and potential dream job to not pan out.  However, it could happen and we need to be ready for that.  Having an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses  is an absolute must if you’re going to pursue your dream job.  FYI: an emergency fund is not 3-6 months of income; it’s the amount of money you need to keep your family clothed, fed, housed, transportable, and to keep the lights, water, and heat on.

                When you are ready to jump in to that new career, here’s a helpful link from one of my favorite blogs to give a good foundation in your new job:

http://bit.ly/1lJbGDO

What Dave, Jon, Mike, Stan, Martha, Thom, Joani, and John Taught me that Jesus wanted me to know.

I thought I’d list a few of my favorite books that have inspired and motivated me in the last seven months.

This list is a selection of what helped me change the way I’ve thought about my career path, about who I am and who I can become.  They’ve changed the way I think, each in their own way.

The most influential book in my entire life is the Bible.  It has the answers for everything that confuses and perplexes us.  It can turn our hearts and our lives around so that we have a clearer connection to the real purpose for our life straight from the one who designed us.

As for the books that I have been reading in the past six months: it all started with a book my youth pastor gave me a long time ago but I just got around to reading (sorry it took so long Jeff!).

                                Be all you can be by John Maxwell.  This book reminded me that my life isn’t just about what I want but about being steadfast in living out the specific purpose for what I was designed.  It also reminded me that my life isn’t just about surviving but living with purpose and intent!

Shortly after my wife and I signed up for Financial Peace University and Dave Ramsey told us all about how to handle money God’s way.  With things getting better financially the freedom from those concerns really began to open my eyes to the will of God in my life.

The next book for me was Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which taught me how to live my life intentionally following God’s plan and choosing to be involved instead of waiting for something to happen.

However, I still had some stuff to work out emotionally—holdovers from my “wonder years”.  To get rid of my defeatist attitude and be able to apply what I was learning from The Bible and these other books I read: Life without Fear by Mike Fehlauer-here I learned that the fear in my life is largely from an unthankful heart; God has never failed me by Stan Toler and Martha Bolton—here I was reminded that God isn’t going to get tired or tired of me, but wants me to achieve what’s best for me—and who knows better than The One who knows everything?

Another great book is Thom & Joani Schulz book Why nobody learns much of anything at church: and how to fix it where I learned to take my own spiritual education more seriously.

The last one I want to mention is Quitter by Jon Acuff.  This book taught me that I can have the job I’ve always dreamed of, but reminded me that I don’t get it from wishful thinking. I actually have to—GASP—work for it!

So now I’m wondering what all you other book junkies have been inspired by in your quest to reach your dream job and finally be the YOU that you were created to be.  Feel free to comment and share below!

Claiming back your soul from the company store

                When I was a kid my Dad always sang in the car whenever we went anywhere.  He was born in 1941 so all the songs he sang were Doo Wop songs from the 1950s and early 1960s.  One song I remember him singing repeatedly is Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Owe my soul to the company store”.

As I prepared to write this post this song jumped into the forefront of my mind.  It got me to thinking about how this old song about an even older idea, a full surrender of your whole life to a single company to the point that you’ll never get out of debt, never have a decent life (just an acceptable one), isn’t as old fashioned as some of us might think.

                Lots of people from all walks of life around the world fail to plan when it comes to their career and end up in some job that they have just because they need a job.  It’s sad that we do this to ourselves—some planning and clear preparation can prevent each person from being stuck in a job they don’t love.

                John Maxwell once said, “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” This lack of desire to do well comes from this victim mentality that people have about work.  The idea that we can’t have the career we want is a fallacy.  If you want it bad enough you can get it: you’ve just got to work on it, sacrifice for a time, and with perseverance land the job you’ve dreamed of instead of settling for something that you feel trapped in!  And the problem with this trap is the longer you stay the less likely you’ll believe that you can ever get out.

The Python Principle

                Having a job that you feel stuck in soon feels like the life is being squeezed out of you.  If you don’t change your mind about your job, or change your job to the one you’ve always wanted, you might lose your mind as well as your chance to do what you’ve always wanted to do.  Now I’m not suggesting that you quit right now; it’s important to have a plan.  Have an emergency fund in place before you quit, and have a good reason to quit—several of them in fact.  In Jon Acuff’s book Quitter there’s a whole quiz you can take to find out if you’re ready to make the leap and if not, what you can do to get there.  It’s a good book and worth the read!

For those of you who’ve gotten the dream job, what advice can you give to those of us who are still trying to get ours?

By the way if you want to watch Ford sing the song I mentioned here’s a link: http://bit.ly/MfvrDl

Is your J-O-B making you M-A-D?

drifter 2 pic

 

Chances are if you’re reading this post either you, someone in your family, or someone close to you is unhappy at work. According to a recent survey by the Gallup poll you are not alone! Around the world only 13% of employees are happy at their job.

Why so Glum Chum?

So why are so many people disappointed at work? Is it the way the boss treats you? Are you missing some of the resources you need to do your job well? Maybe your just not being challenged enough to hold your interest. Whatever the reason this is an epidemic that is sweeping our planet and affecting the economy of each nation. Unhappy employees make less quality products, don’t stick around long, are less productive and talk negatively about their company to family and friends. Honestly I think that most of us are just in the WRONG job. We’ve chosen our current job because we:

1.   Just needed the money
2.  It’s a legacy job, meaning we inherited it from someone else.
3.  We blindly chose it based on some loose idea as to what we thought it was.

If we really examine ourselves and know what kind of things make us happy we can have the job of our dreams, and if we work hard at being good at it we can even make a pretty decent living.

The Science of Work Happiness

Those of us are happy in our job, which has not always included me, usually have a few things going for them that the rest of us do not:

1.Your job takes your full concentration
–  If you’re job doesn’t require your mind to be completely engaged then it has the opportunity to wander. A focused mind is a happy mind.

2. You’ve got a clear set of guidelines so you know exactly what you have to do.

– This is my biggest pet peeve:  when I start a new job or a new task the training session has a tendency to be minimal, leaving a lot left unexplained. Somehow I am supposed to be great at my job when you barely told me how to do it! Or worse: you tell me what to do than change the rules! Ugh!

3. You’re so engaged in what you’re doing you forget about time, yourself, and the fact you’re actually working!
– Time flies when you’re having fun right? Did you know work can be fun? I’ve had a good time here and there, but some people actually have fun all the time—even when the day is rough and challenging. When your attitude about your job is dependent on who you are (instead of how you feel at the moment) you have a better time when you’re there.

If you could have any job in the world what job would it be? What would it take to get you there?

Since most of us will have to stick at our day jobs for a while here are some useful tips from one of my favorite sites The Art of Manliness: “How to deal with your day job” http://bit.ly/1jLai2Q