Grab a Shovel. Life is Messy

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I have had a message on my heart for weeks. Actually, I think it has been there for months.  I’ve wanted to share it with you, with others, but I’ve struggled to adequately put it into words. With each passing day the message seems to gather strength as I personally experience it in my own life. I see friends and family experiencing it firsthand as well. The message is everywhere and I, although I do not have the right words, must share it with you.

Life is messy.

I know what you are thinking. You can’t believe that I have been struggling for weeks to write and say those 3 simple words. It is an obvious statement to most. How can someone be alive for 40 years and not already know it? Truth be told, I’ve known it for years. I just wasn’t willing to embrace it as truth. And I think I am a part of the majority. I think that most people want to live in a world where we get our way, good things happen to good people, equality and justice are the norm, mistakes aren’t made,  and people don’t hurt and disappoint us. We want life to be easy. We want to achieve all of our dreams. We want rainbows and unicorns.

If we are going to chase unicorns we will end up with large piles of manure.

That is the reality. It is okay to strive for the perfect life, to pursue our dreams, to chase unicorns. We just need to know that we will encounter a lot of crap along the way. We will step in it, fall in it, have to smell it and probably even have to eat it at some point. We most certainly will have to clean it up. Life is messy, dirty, smelly, ugly, and downright nasty a lot of the time. We need to know it to be true. We must not be surprised by it. And we cannot let it deter us from the path to our dreams. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 14 that “the only clean stable is an empty one.” Solomon goes on to add “If you want the work of an ox, and enjoyment of an abundant harvest, you’ll have a mess or two to clean up.”

If we want to enjoy this life to the fullest, to reach our dreams, we will have messes to clean up along the way. It’s truth. Embrace it. Don’t hide from it. Find joy and happiness in your mess. Let’s be among those who are not afraid of and are willing to clean up the mess. I am not only talking about our mess, but the mess of others as well. Let’s be willing to meet people where they are, deep in their piles of shit. That is where relationships are built. That is where lives are changed. That is where we are supposed to be.

Now, where’s my shovel?

 

Tis’ the Season To Be Jolly, Kind and Generous

Every year it feels like Christmas sneaks up on us. One minute we are celebrating Independence Day, the next we are carving the Thanksgiving turkey and hanging the mistletoe. The year flies by like a speeding race car zooming down the homestretch on its way to victory. At times it is a complete blur. A crazy, hectic, difficult, mind-blowing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, exhilarating, exciting and fulfilling blur. We try to catch our breath during Thanksgiving dinner (and naps) before the rush of the Christmas season. That is how it feels for our family right now.

Christmas has always been a special time for our family. We enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the season, spending time with family, and giving gifts. Our love for this time of year went to whole new level in 2012 when we started our 25 Days of Giving. The experience from that first year was life changing. We learned a lot about ourselves as individuals, our family and those in our community. It put the “season of giving” in real perspective. That is why we have continued the tradition. We are better because of it. And that is why we will do it again this year.

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On December 1st we will begin our 5th 25 Days of Giving. We will embark once again on an incredible journey to brighten the lives of others during the Christmas season. The goal is simple. We want to make this season of giving special for those around us. There are families in our community who are hurting, need a hand, and/or just need someone to show that they care. There are people who dread Christmas because the stresses involved with the holiday are too much to handle. Others just need to experience kindness. They just need to feel the love of a kind gesture. Some just need to smile.

As with previous years we have identified 25 simple giving-acts, one per day, that can brighten the life of another person. We have scheduled each day in an effort to make it very easy for you to join us. We really hope that you will join us on this amazing adventure. Our hope is that you will participate each day, but we understand that it may be hard for everyone to be involved at that level. If that is the case consider selecting the days that fit best for you. Participate in 1 Day, 5 Days, 12 Days, or all 25 Days. Just participate! Take action this holiday season and make a difference in your community. Our communities need us more than ever. The 25 Days of Giving is an easy way to show kindness, love people and serve.

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We will share each day’s experience through Social Media and we ask that you do the same. Share your pictures and videos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #25DaysGiving and tag Impact 52. You can also email us your stories at impact52org@gmail.com. We will compile the stories and images and share them with those who follow our blog. Together was can make this the best season of giving to date. Are you ready?

The first four 25 Days of Giving have been absolutely amazing. We have experienced smiles, laughter, gratitude and tears. Each moment memorable and many unforgettable. And as with most acts of giving, the gifts and the blessings we have received in return have been numerous. The momentum behind this event continues to grow. We have seen involvement increase each year as more and more families and individuals from around the country join in. We expect this year to be no different. We hope you will be a part of it. We challenge you to eliminate the excuses and take action this Christmas. After all…. tis’ the season to be jolly, kind and generous.

PRINT YOUR CALENDAR HERE!

Hey You! Are You Ready To Go Back To School?

It is hard to believe that it is that time of year again. Registration is complete. Supplies and lunch boxes have been purchased. Some children are excited, others are scared. Moms and Dads are happy to get the kids out of the house and into a routine. Friday nights at the lake will turn into Friday nights under the lights. Yep, it’s that time. It is back to school.

I always enjoy seeing the “First Day of School” photos that flood my social media channels. The beautiful smiles, new outfits and the endless possibilities that exist for each student for the year are a great change from the hatred-filled political posts and “my way or no way” opinions that are the everyday social norm. I would like to see, however, more photos of adults going back to school too. No, I am not expecting you to go back to get another degree or improve your education. I want you to go back to school to pour into the live of our children, the future leaders of this world.

The landscape of public schools has changed a lot over the years. The small schoolhouse classrooms of “Little House on the Prairie” have transformed into classrooms that are full and literally busting at the seams. Poverty continues to grow and studies show that almost 1 in 4 children are living at or below the poverty line in the United States. Students who are not getting enough to eat or enough sleep cannot focus on their education. They struggle and ultimately fall behind leading them to dropout of school. Increases in technology (social media and cell phones especially) have made bullying easier than ever. Children can hide behind their smart phone or a computer screen as they torment and destroy other children. Attitudes and behavior are at all-time low inside the four walls of a school. Students regularly disrespect teachers and administration. Drugs and alcohol, rape, and assault have replaced talking too much, chewing gum, and running in the halls as “common” school behavior problems. Budget cuts and lack of funding have reduced the size of school staff and services provided for students. Lastly, parent involvement, in many cases, is not where it needs to be. In fact, it is non-existent in many schools around the country.

Does this sound like a successful recipe for academic success? The answer is simple: NO. We cannot sit back and let it continue. Our children deserve better. It isn’t the responsibility of schools and teachers to fight this battle alone. It is going to take a community to see real change. It is going to take you and me, our friends, families, co-workers, and anyone else we can recruit to make this happen. We all have to be involved.

Some of you are probably saying “no way, I hated school. They were the worst days of my life.” And to that, I would say exactly. Take your experiences and use them to help those who are probably struggling with the same things. Our children need us in schools. Teachers need our support. Administration needs our encouragement. Our communities will be better if YOU go back to school. Give an hour a week or a couple of hours a month. Invest what you can invest. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of children. They love having visitors in the classroom. They crave our attention, our approval, and our validation. Our presence gives children a vision of the future. A look at what they can be. We are firm believers that children cannot BE it if they cannot SEE it. They need to see successful professionals. They need to witness caring adults. They must experience more positive interactions and less of the negative. We make an impact by just showing up in a classroom. We make a difference by showing students that we care.

So, are you ready to go back to school? I am. I will be reading to 2nd grade and kindergarten classes monthly at a local inner city school, teaching Junior Achievement classes, and mentoring during lunch. In addition, I will be traveling across the midwest sharing life-giving messages in an effort to show all children that they have value and that their lives matter. Will you join me in my efforts to impact the next generation? Will you go back to school? If so, I hope you will post your “First Day of School” photo for all to see.

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What Are You Waiting For? Go and Grow

As 2015 drew to a close my heart began to stir. A feeling of restlessness began to set in. As the days went on that feeling of being stuck grew stronger. Don’t get me wrong. Things were good and my life was filled with many blessings. I just had these feelings of stagnation and discontent.  I struggled and then I read this:

“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and all the people.”

This one sentence of scripture (Luke 2:52) hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. Right there, in front of my eyes, was the answer to my situation. It was crystal clear and unbelievably simple. One word danced on the page like a breakdancer on a piece of cardboard.That word cried out to me. That word was GREW.

I realized at that moment that was too content with life. I was falling into the pit of status quo. I started to question if I was really living or just existing. I wasn’t growing. That is why I felt stuck. I had lost sight of continual improvement and growth. I had to make changes. I had to change my priorities. I re-read that one verse of scripture over and over again. I understood exactly where and how I needed to grow. It was articulately spelled out for me in that 15 word sentence. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and all the people.” Jesus grew. I want to be like Jesus. I need to grow and grow in these areas: mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. That is exactly what I sat out to do.

I spent the last few days of 2015 examining my life in regards to these four areas and identified real, applicable ways that I could grow. I then set goals and metrics that would allow me to track my progress throughout the year. I knew I needed a way to hold myself accountable or I would flounder around and fail to achieve my desired results. Here are some of my thoughts and goals:

Growing in wisdom (mentally) – We can never know too much. We can always learn. Being active learners allows us to be greater leaders and enhances our influence. I needed to expand my knowledge base around the things I love. I subscribed to blogs that center around fatherhood, philanthropy and giving, and my work. I also made the decision that I needed to read more. I set a goal to read 12 books during 2016. To many of you that may not seem like a lot of books as you read 30 or more every year. I can honestly say that I haven’t read 12 books over the last 5 years combined. So my goal of one a month for twelve months is a stretch. To date I have already read 8 and I am half-way through number 9. Each and every book that I have read thus far has had a pronounced effect on my life.  I have learned to enjoy reading which means I am spending less time watching terrible television. In addition to books and blogs I made the decision to start a journal. This has always been a struggle for me. I am happy to say that I have written my thoughts, feelings and experiences every day since January 1st and it is now part of my routine. Each of these simple, yet disciplined tasks, have allowed me to gain new knowledge and perspectives.

Growing in stature (physically) – I am 40 years old and 6’9” inches tall. I don’t think that I can grow in stature at this point in my life, but I can grow in regards to health. I have inconsistently worked out and ran over the last few years. My body would hurt and I would make excuses that led me to stop my routines. This year I wanted to regain my health and ultimately be in the best shape of my life. I joked for years that I would be dead before I was 50 because of no sleep, bad eating habits, poor physical conditioning and stress. As I prepared to turn 40 this year I realized that it wasn’t something to joke about. I needed to get serious. My goals for this year are to run 400 miles, do 12,000 push ups and sit-ups, lose 10 pounds and sleep at least 6 hours a night. I have a lot of work to do over the next few months, but I am making progress. I am currently registered and training for a half-marathon in October.

Growing in favor with God (spiritually) – This is the most important area of growth for me. I know that if my spiritual life is healthy and good, my earthly life will follow suit. I needed more of God and less of man and this world. So, I set some very specific goals for the year. First, read His Word (The Bible) everyday. It has to be part of my routine because I need every bit of it. I would love to say that read it everyday, but I don’t. I have to be better. I have completed the entire New Testament and have found so much wisdom and encouragement in my readings. Second, complete a one-year devotional. I am on track with this goal. I am reading Tony Dungy’s Uncommon Life devotional and it has been life-changing for me. I start each day by reading it and praying about the message. I then look for ways to apply the teaching into that day. Lastly, I set a goal to pray daily. My prayer life has never been good. It has been inconsistent, even lethargic at times. I am getting better, but not where I need to be.

Growing in favor with all of the people (socially) – We need people. We need life-giving relationships. I set a goal to spend more time meeting in person with people this year, building relationships. I want to pour into the lives of others and I now know that I need that as well. I cannot do this life alone. Because of my focus in this area, my relationships and friendships are growing. The fellowship I am experiencing with people of all ages, races, cultures has been amazing. In addition to friendships I need to continue to spend more time focusing on my family. I must be a better husband. I have to be a better father. I can only do that by being present and giving it my best effort at all times.

As I sit and write my thoughts on August 5 I can look back and see how much I have grown so far this year. Am I content where I am and ready to stop? Absolutely not. I truly feel like I have just begun. My commitment to growth this year has changed my life and opened new doors. My relationship with my Lord and Savior is better than ever. I am growing as a husband, father and friend. My health is good and I am on track to successfully complete the Fort 4 Fitness. I have a new children’s book that will release in October. I am beginning a new career with Destiny Rescue and will actively pursue my passion to inspire people to live life with purpose on purpose. I am growing and it feels good. Not just good, it feels outstanding!

I share this with you not to brag about my accomplishments because I haven’t accomplished anything. I just want you to know that if I can do it, you can do it. If we are not growing, we are shrinking. We want our children to grow and our plants to grow, When they don’t, we become concerned. Are you concerned about your own growth? If not, you should be. You are never too old, too out-of-shape, too tall, too anything to grow. You just have to make a decision to do it. You have to stop making the excuses that keep your feet stuck in the mud and move forward.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and GROW!

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3 Daily Choices That Can Change Your Life

From the time the alarm sounds in the morning to the time you go to sleep at night you are inundated with choices. Your day is an over-stocked smorgasbord of selections, options, sizes, colors, decisions, and forks in the road. Choices that are simple, mundane, cosmetic, spiritual, important and even life changing or altering fight for your attention. It’s overwhelming. It’s stressful. It’s life.

There are three decisions/choices that you can make everyday that you can dramatically change your life. They are not mind-shattering, ground breaking choices. They are extremely simple, often forgotten choices that are critical to living a life of fulfillment, success and impact.

Choose your attitude – You choose your attitude. You cannot control how people treat you, what things happen throughout the day nor the circumstances you find yourself in. You do, however, have the ability to choose how you react to the negativity that exists around you, your perception of the world and how you treat people. When you embrace a positive, optimistic attitude there is no situation that is too difficult for you to overcome. Choosing an outstanding attitude can, and will, lead to outstanding results. You become a person that people want to be around and that allows you to be a person of influence.

Choose your friends – “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” I have heard it for years and it true. You become who you hang out with. If you surround yourself with negative, life-draining people life is going to be negative and full of death. It is a very simple principle. Fill your days will positive, life-giving people and you will experience the joys of life. Your friends are your choice. You cannot choose your parents or your siblings, but you can choose your friends. Choose to spend time with those who lift you up, encourage you and make you a better person. Choose to walk away from those who don’t.

Choose not to be offended – The negativity of this world will eat at you if you let it. People are mean-spirited and will say things that hurt you. Your opinions will differ from those of others and you will be attacked for your beliefs, values and thoughts. Being offended by these things is a choice. Choose not to be offended. Roll with the punches. Accept that people will behave in a way that doesn’t align with your standards. Don’t lose hope in humanity. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy. I have social media accounts and I see the conversations and attacks that take place. I’ve been tempted to respond, but chose not to in the moment. Make that choice daily.

What do you think? If you choose the right attitude, the right friends, and not to be offended daily, would life be better? Maybe it won’t change things for you, but it sure has for me.

Tomorrow will be full of choices. Choose wisely!

 

New Children’s Book “Matty McNutt and His Big But” To Launch This Fall

In December of 2013 we published our first children’s book and began our mission to educate, empower, and inspire the next generation of world-changers. “Linnie Mae’s New Friends” taught children (and adults) that all people have value and that we should not pass judgement against them when we do not know their story. To date, it has touched thousands of lives around the country and the feedback we have received has been encouraging. Linnie Mae was the first book in a series of books that we want to share with children that feature real, uplifting messages. Our vision is a library of stories that change the way children think, behave, act and love.

Today, we take the next step towards that vision by officially announcing the launch of our next book. So, ladies and gentlemen, we announce to you that “Matty McNutt and His Big But” is scheduled for publication this fall. Matty McNutt is a typical little boy who loves music, skateboarding and his favorite hat. He is also a boy who makes a lot of excuses and those excuses keep him from living his life to the fullest. His constant use of the word “but” leads to a comment by his mother that affects Matty in a big way. It is a fun story with a serious message that will connect with children of all ages, teachers and parents.

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We have partnered with a local illustrator named Justin Moss on this project. He is a graduate of the University of Saint Francis and a lover of comic books. He has done an amazing job bringing the story to life through his illustrations. You will absolutely love his work.

Information about specific publish dates, a launch team, a book tour, and pre-orders will be announced in the coming weeks. We hope you will come alongside us as we work to impact the lives of children everyone. You can follow the progress and get updates on the project through our blog and all of our social media channels.

Thank you for ongoing love and support. We appreciate you!

 

Too Much High-C is Bad For Your Life

Today’s society is addicted to High-C. We thirst for it. We crave it. Some of us could not move forward without it. It is the main course of our diet and we consume a lot of it. Unfortunately, this High-C doesn’t come in delicious flavors like fruit punch, orange, or Ecto Cooler. It cannot be found in small juice boxes or the old-school, large 46 ounce cans. (Do you remember those large cans? You had to use the can opener in two places on the top in order for it to pour easily. I have many great memories of drinking Hi-C from my childhood.) The High-C I am referring to is a completely different thing. It isn’t liquid, you won’t find it on display and it is very bad for your life.

The High-C I am referring to has 5 ingredients. Each one, in its own way, can have a negative affect on us and keep us from experiencing the greatest things in life. We must understand these ingredients in an effort to ween ourselves from the desire we have to fill our bodies and souls with it daily.

Convenience – We all want convenience. In some instances we are obsessed with it. The world we live in centered around instant gratification and on-demand. I can order my groceries online, go through drive-thru windows, and instantly connect with people via a cell phone and social media. Are you a slave to convenience? What if I hid your phone? Would you freak out? What if you lost your television remote control? If you are like me, you will search frantically for it. You will remove couch cushions, dig through old food and change down in the seats, look under the chair and everywhere until you find it. In the process, you walk by the TV 10-15 times without changing the channel or adjusting the volume. We want convenience in all aspects of life. In our jobs. In our hobbies. In our relationships. We are willing to step forward to help people in need when it is convenient for us. We don’t want it to ruin our plans. We want to do it when we want to do it. This isn’t how life works and relationships definitely do not work that way. You will be needed and asked to do things at the most inconvenient time and that is fine. We need to be willing to be inconvenienced.

Comfort – The bed you sleep in, the clothes you wear, the people you associate with make you comfortable. We crave comfort. The chair you have in your home is a Laz-y Boy. It isn’t called “Hard as a Rock and will Hurt your Ass.” The shoes you are wearing right now you purchased because they felt good and didn’t hurt your feet. We want comfort. When we go to a business conferences or events where everyone is a stranger we tend to sit next to people who look like us, dress like us, and act like us. Why? Because it makes us comfortable and most us spend the majority of our lives living inside a very small comfort zone. That zone will rob you of some of the greatest moments you could experience in life. We have to embrace the uncomfortable and experience new things, meet new people and gain new perspective on life.

Consistency – We are creatures of habit. We like routines, schedules, and having control. We want consistent officiating at our sporting events and the milk aisle to stay in the same place at our neighborhood grocer. Consistency allows us to predict the future and have control over life. I think that consistency is a virtue and it has value, but inconsistency is also a good thing. We need inconsistency to create new thought patterns and perspectives. We need to embrace inconsistency by surrendering to the fact that we don’t always know where we are going, what the answer is, or that we need control. Sometimes we need to stumble around in the bushes for a while before we find the trail we are supposed to take. Being consistent is great, but changing our mind is just as important in life as making it up. Never give in to popular belief due to pressure, but constantly question your own beliefs and morals. Ask how they’re serving you and what they’re really doing to make the world a better place.

Conventionality – We like normal. We “do things the way we have always done them”. We live by traditions. The “normal” that exists in today’s world is filled with hate, violence, sex, excuses, deceit, and the list goes on. I don’t want to be normal in this world. I strive to abnormal, unconventional, and weird. We need new, outside-the-box thinking that challenges the old way in order to move forward. We need more people who will dance in public, find joy in the mundane, and take risks that make our communities better.

Cosmetically – Fake it until you make it. Instagram filters. Photoshop. Breast enhancement. Botox. Liposuction. Need I say more. Our world is obsessed with how we look. We buy things and wear things to impress people that we do not necessarily like. Men and women are battling body image concerns, depression and anxiety because they are trying to fit in and fit the mold. We need to spend less time on what we look like and how we look to others. Lets be comfortable in our skin and be real. Real is what this world needs.

A High-C diet can be harmful to our bodies and to our lives. I am not saying that all of these things are bad. I am simply saying that we need to consume them in moderation. If you want to live your life to the fullest, you need to be inconvenienced, uncomfortable, inconsistent, unconventional and real. Trust me. Life transformation can, and will, happen when you are.

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6 Reasons Your Family Should Serve Together

Do you serve together as a family?

No? Why not?

Here are 6 reasons why you should be:

1. The family that serves together grows together. Relationships are strengthened when you serve as a family. Spending time each week, each month outside your comfort zone leads to personal and family growth. You grow as individuals mentally, physically, socially and spiritually and that individual growth leads to a stronger family dynamic. Exposing your children to service makes you a better parent. It teaches them life lessons that you alone cannot teach. You improve your capacity as a parent because you learn the lessons too.

2. The family that serves together loves together. Serving other is loving others. By serving, families can learn how to love people better. You learn that you let stereotypes, preconceived notions, and mental filters affect how you see people. You jump to conclusions without knowing all of the information or taking time to get to know it. This leads to frustration, anger and hatred. When you surrender yourself and commit to getting to know people, their stories, their situations and their needs, you open the door to truly love them with all of your heart. What person, what family, wouldn’t want to love better?

3. The family that serves together heals together. There is something about serving others that brings about healing. The positive feelings that come from helping someone else allow you to forget your own problems. Working with someone through their struggles and time of need can change your perspective on your own life. You realize that your “major” problem isn’t really that major. Families that spend quality time together serving in some capacity create opportunities to work through their own challenges. Again, it helps with perspective. Spouses realize that the things they argue about are stupid, trivial and unimportant. Brothers and sisters who often “hate” each other recognize the blessing that exists in a caring sibling. Parents come to understand that they children and their “issues’ aren’t so bad. They are things that can be worked through. Healing happens on all levels when you commit your life to service.

4. The family that serves together laughs together. Volunteering can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It is, when appropriate, a great time to joke, laugh and enjoy fellowship with each other. When you laugh together you grown together. This is one of the greatest memories I have of serving with my family over the last few years.

5. The family that serves together influences together. We have learned this one first hand. Thousands of people visit this blog each month. They have found inspiration in what we have done. Many of those people have shared how our influence has led them to acts of kindness and service in their own communities. It doesn’t end there. My children have inspired me to be a better man and a better father. They have inspired me by their actions and love for serving others. They have positively influenced many of their peers as well. As parents we have influenced our children to live life the right way, making others the priority and seeking out opportunities to love people to the best of their ability. Serving others opens doors to influence others.

6. The family that serves together stays together. When you choose to be vulnerable with your family doors of growth open, bonds are created and strengthened, and perspective and outlook change. You shift your focus from flaws, problems and negativity to strengths, blessings and positivity. You value your family members and their contributions. Your love grows for them and you cherish every moment you get together.

Please understand that no family, especially our family, is perfect. We have our shortcomings, our issues, our struggles, and our fights. We are a work in progress. We are, however, better today because we serve together as a family. I am grateful for the experiences we have shared together and every lesson that we have learned.

Do you serve with your family? We would love to hear what you have learned and why you do it. If you aren’t currently doing it, what are you waiting for?

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Speed Bumps, Potholes and Dead End Streets. The Road of Life Is Hard To Navigate

Life is like a road trip.

When you plan a road trip you begin with your starting point, current location or your “you are here” location. You select your final destination and plot out the route that will get you there. That route is often the shortest, most entertaining and most fulfilling route. Most times it is the easiest and most convenient. The trip is planned so you load up the car, pack in the kids and hit the open road for the trip of a lifetime. Your destination is a place that you have always wanted to go. You are excited. Anxious. You have butterflies as you experience those “are we there yet” moments. You have been cruising along for about 30 minutes and things suddenly change. Your convenient, easy, exciting, magical, well-thought-out plan comes crashing down as you enter a major traffic jam.

Does this sound familiar?

This road trip is your life. The starting point is your current life and your destination is the life you have always wanted. You set goals, create plans, and make every preparation possible to progress towards the life you desire. Then, it all falls apart.

The road of life is hard to navigate and I guarantee that you will encounter things along the way that slow you down, stop you in tracks and make you think about turning around and going home. We cannot let that happen. We cannot become discouraged and be easily led astray from the goals we set. We must prepare ourselves for these obstacles in advance. Let’s take a look at a few of these things:

Backseat Drivers – Do you know these people? They are the ones that sit in the backseat and tell you how to drive and where to go. They question your decisions, groan and grumble about your choice in music, and complain that they are bored, too hot or tired. They aren’t willing to drive themselves, but they have an opinion about everything you do as the driver. Do you have these people in your life? Stupid question, I know. We all do. They are the ones who sit from afar and judge your career choices, relationships, and actions. They are the parents who constantly bitch at a youth sports coach, but aren’t willing to get involved and help out. Backseat drivers will ruin your road trip to the life you want if you let them.

Potholes – Large craters in the road that slow you down and ultimately keep you from your final destination if you hit them with your car. Negative people are potholes. Their constant “woe is me”, pessimistic, life sucks outlook will slow you down. I promise you that. And if engage directly with them, you will not reach your goals. You become who you hang out with. You become what you think about. If that is always negative, life will be negative.

Dead End Streets – You are going to make wrong turns and bad decisions. You are going to go down dead-end streets. Many of these streets are signed with “No Outlet”. Don’t buy into the sign. There is an outlet. There is always an outlet. You can simply turn around and go back the way that you came. Dead end streets are not traps and you are not forever defined by that decision or wrong turn.

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Heavy Traffic – Everybody wants to experience success in life so there will be a lot of people on the road. You have to be able to navigate the traffic, use caution when changing lanes, and use your mirrors to see what is happening around you. You must stay aware and alert. You cannot become overwhelmed in the confusion of heavy traffic. Stay calm and stay the course. You are in control of your car, your life. Handle it accordingly.

Speed Bumps – Speed bumps are used to control your speed. They are a minor inconvenience. They are not mountains. You will encounter inconveniences in your life that are small, minor, and not important. Don’t treat them otherwise. Adjust your speed, go over them, and continue on. Don’t make small speed bump into something more than it is.

Roundabouts – Do you ever feel like you are just going around in circles? Are you on the never-ending roundabout? If you don’t stay focused on your plan, your route, you can get stuck in the hamster wheel. You spend endless amounts of time doing things that don’t matter. Things that do not align with your goals and final destination. Stay focused on your destination and you won’t get stuck driving around in circles.

Road Construction and Detours – If you have taken any type of road trip in the summer you have experienced road construction. Four lanes become two, two lanes become one. Orange barrels and concrete barricades decrease the size of your lane and you feel like you are going to scrape up the side of your car. You sit dormant, not moving, because the dump truck and slow-moving crane are in the way. You become impatient and get frustrated. Sometimes your road is completely closed and you have to take a detour that takes you 10 miles out of the way. The road of life is filled with construction and detours. Embrace it and know that it is going to happen. Sometimes the longer route is the best route.

Terrible Weather – Depending on where you live this may mean something different to you. In the midwest it means snow storms with slick and hazardous road conditions in the winter. Thunderstorms that drop so much rain that you cannot see (wipers probably suck too) where you are going and you have to slow down or pull of the road in the summer. The storms of life will make it hard to see your route and your plan. The storms of life will cause you to slip off the road and crash if you do not navigate with care.

Police Officers – People are watching your speed and how you drive. Like police officers, they hold you accountable for erratic behavior, impaired decisions and going too fast. They are following behind you and sitting waiting for you. Please know that we need police officers on our roads and you need “police officers” in your life that will keep you safely on the road to your final destination.

The life you want to live is possible if you learn to navigate the road correctly. The final destination may be your ultimate goal, but the journey along the road is the ultimate adventure. Drive safe my friends!

What Do YOU Love About YOU?

During a recent a conversation, my daughter asked me a question that I had never asked myself. A question that in 39 years of life had never entered my brain. No thought had ever been given to it. That question…..

“What do you love about you?”

I, like most I assume, have spent numerous hours of my life focused on the things that I dislike and hate about myself. My attention consistently centered on my shortcomings. My inadequacies in the spotlight, examined under the microscope. Let’s face it. We all have things about us, our bodies, our lives that we are unhappy with. We want to look this way, we want to change that, we strive for perfection. The truth is that we live life with a false expectation. We get so caught up in the noise of society and what others are doing and saying that our judgement becomes clouded. Our sight becomes distorted. We strive for an unrealistic standard and fail to accept who we are.

I, like so many, have struggled with self-acceptance over the years. As a teen I was tall and very skinny (almost skeleton looking) and weak. My face was covered with acne. I walked bowlegged. All of these things led to wisecracks and jokes from others. As an adult, I still get acne, my body has moved to the other spectrum with a big gut, and my hair is falling out. It is very easy to look in the mirror and be disappointed in what I see. I learned years ago that none of those things are important. I became comfortable in my skin. I fully accepted who I was and who I am. Many people in our world have not been able to reach that point. Their self-hatred has led them down a path of depression, sadness, suicide attempts and loneliness. They are in pain. They are hurting. They need to know that they are not alone. My daughter was in that place.

So MaKenna’s question is an important one. A simple question like “What do you love about you?” can completely shift our thought process. A shift from a negative mindset to one of love and positivity. A small adjustment in thought could change the trajectory of our lives. That is what she hopes to accomplish. “I Love Me” is a project that she created to encourage people to share what they love about themselves. To seek those attributes that make them who they are. The characteristics that make them special, unique and one-of-a-kind. We must find the ability to love ourselves so that we can easily and adequately love other people. That is what “I Love Me” is all about.

I encourage you to ask yourself the question today. Go to Makenna’s blog and share why you love yourself. Encourage your friends to do it too. You can also post a photo of yourself saying “I Love Me” and post in on social media using the hashtag #ILoveMe2016. Let’s help this young lady help others move towards self-love and acceptance.

What do I love about me? I love that I am weird and different. I love that I am truly one-of-a-kind and there is no one in this world exactly like me. What do YOU love about YOU?

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