Sunday, May 9, 2010

What YOU and New Madrid, Missouri have in common?

When I mention the word earthquake, what’s the first thing you think about?
Most think about the State of California or if you recently watched 60 Minutes (April 2010), the San Francisco Oakland Bridge that’s far from being completed. This bridge is the main transportation vein for San Francisco and will generate widespread devastation if it fails to be completed before the next big earthquake.

Let's shift gears and discuss New Madrid. It’s a place many of you haven’t heard of until now. In the winter of 1811-12, the central Mississippi Valley, was struck by three of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history. On December 16, 1811, the violent shaking abruptly awakened residents’ of the town of New Madrid, Missouri.

Between Dec 16,1811 and February 7, 1812 the three violent earthquakes registered in at 8.6, 8.4 & 8.7 on the Richter scale. These earthquakes were stronger than the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Alaskan Good Friday earthquake in 1964.

These quakes were felt from Canada to New Mexico, rang church bells in Boston, cracked log homes walls, which were 3-feet deep in St Louis and damned up the Mississippi River.

The interesting thing…

The earthquakes of that memorable winter were not freak events. On the contrary, scientists have discovered that strong earthquakes in the central Mississippi Valley have occurred on a predictable and frequent basis.

The Central United States is vulnerable to a damaging earthquake. With little or no warning, an earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone will strike seven or more states, causing major physical, social, and economic disruption to a region that is home to forty million people.

The potential losses from future earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater in the New Madrid seismic zone are expected to be significant, for at least three reasons: 1) the population centers, notably Memphis and St. Louis, have thousands of structures that are not designed and constructed to withstand the effects of earthquakes; 2) the region is characterized by poorly consolidated sedimentary rocks, which are poor foundation material; and 3) a New Madrid quake would impact a multi-state region (about 10 times larger than the area impacted by a California earthquake of comparable size).

What New Madrid has to do with you and I?

Your and my life, are a lot like the New Madrid seismic fault. Many pressures have been applied to the fault lines of our lives; several structures have been created in our lives, which cannot be sustained in the wake of the economic downturn. The very things we looked to as a life raft-the perfect home & marriage, the unshakable career, and a secure retirement have disappeared for millions of people. This has left many of us feeling lost, alone, disenchanted, depressed and resentful.

The only questions many are left to wrestle with, like the New Madrid impending earthquake are “when, how powerful and what can be done about it?”

The confusing part is many of us have more questions than answers. Many of us did all the “right things” & are left in the wake of a nightmare. We don’t have the resources at our disposal to create the solutions we are desperately longing for.

Reducing Vulnerability by retrofitting our infrastructure….

You and I will deal with earthquakes in life because it comes with the territory. However these earthquakes needn’t have the devastating results the impending New Madrid quake is forecast to have due to failing to create the necessary structural & transportation changes.

You and I are in the position to change our lives by creating a plan to address personal/professional/emotional/physical challenges and seizing opportunities, which present.

Lets embark on the journey by identifying your top 5 vulnerabilities:

**The things that came up for me were 1) perfectionism, 2) depending on my own resourcefulness, 3) pride, 4) insecurity & 5) the past.

Now that you’re aware of what you are up against, identify 5 ways, which you can respond to these vulnerabilities to recover and reclaim you life.


Using the above example, my plan of escape follows. May it serve as an example to get you engaged in the process of permanent change.

To minimize the fault-line of Perfectionism, I will respond to this vulnerability by learning to ask for help. I will more quickly share what’s plaguing me with close confidants who can help shoulder the burdens I’m experiencing.

To minimize the fault-line of depending on my own resourcefulness, I will follow the same advice I’ve given myself regarding perfectionism, do a lot more listening during times of reflection, less speaking & listening for agreement i.e. during prayer, messages I listen to, advice provided from colleagues, friends and associates. I will remember that ‘none of us are as smart as all of us & none of us are islands.’

To minimize the fault-line of pride, insecurity & past regrets, I will work on becoming mindful of the ways I default to being a perfectionist and depending on my own resourcefulness. In doing so, much of the pride, insecurity and the past regrets will significantly minimize or vanish in its ability to control my thought life and behaviors.

Remember, learning without application is entertainment. Take the time to ask yourself the difficult questions and create your plan of action.

I guarantee the next time an aftershock or full on earthquake hits, you’ll be glad that you did.

To your greatness

Friday, March 26, 2010

What are you building with your life? The common denominator for breakthrough.

There are many large, extravagant homes in the world, but the Winchester Mansion stands out from the crowd because of the strange features you will find inside. For example, there are a number of staircases that literally go nowhere, stopping at the ceiling. You might think that somebody decided to close off a staircase, but actually, they were designed that way.
Some of the more functional staircases are also strange. One of them is nicknamed the "switchback staircase" because it turns seven times and has 44 steps, even though it only goes up about nine feet. Why would somebody design a staircase like that?
For that matter, why would somebody design any of the oddities in the Winchester house?

The Winchester house was under construction 24-hours a day, seven days a week, for 38 years. Eventually it spread to 160 rooms from a mere 8, but when Sarah Winchester suddenly died, the entire project came to a grinding halt.

How this correlates to our lives?

Most of us haven’t built a senseless mansion with secret rooms or staircases that don't go anywhere, but maybe your life is a terrible mess, or you live in constant fear, with a broken heart, resentment, regret or uncertainty of what your future holds.

This causes you to feel addicted and trapped like Sarah, yet for different reasons. Sarah was the wife of William Winchester, the son of the man who made the famous Winchester repeating rifle. Sarah and William had one child, a little girl named Annie, who died of a protein deficiency six weeks after birth. Fifteen years later, her husband William died of pulmonary tuberculosis, leaving her feeling lost & searching for answers.

Sarah sought answers from a psychic who indicated she and her family were under a curse due to selling Winchester riffles and the only method of escape was to move to the West Coast and build a property the way the spirits led.
Sarah was so desperate for a solution that she didn’t pay attention to the obvious-there was another way of probable escape from her loneliness. Ultimately Sarah found herself knee deep in renovation madness which ensued 24-hours per week, 365 days per year. Who in their right mind would sign up to live through constant remodeling?
I think of the many times I’ve repeatedly wrestled with frustrating esteem debilitating issues, only to believe my options were limited (or non-existent) because of failing to open myself to the possibility that things could be different.

So how do we get past our past?

You have to reduce everything down to the least common denominator.
The common denominator is the same all the time. You can work the common denominator and ultimately arrive at an answer. There is a feasible answer to each troubling question, no matter the situation, which WORKS.
Discovering the common denominator is the ONLY way to get past our past. It reveals the quality decision needing to be made, including the measurable, actionable steps.

1st: Face the truth about the situation we are dealing with. Honestly describe what you’re dealing with and TEMPORARILY grieve the circumstance. You’re human; hurt, anguish and defeat are normal emotions.

2nd: Identify solutions and those resources (people, books, cd’s, etc), which helps to conquer the circumstance, repeatedly undermining you.

3rd: Get moving by actively applying what’s been learned. This is the place many fail. This occurs namely due to a couple reasons: a) complacency, b) hopelessness, and/or c) pride.

I recall a painful experience where a stepchild inappropriately rejected me. Initially I was shocked! My feelings progressed to frustration, anxiety and resentment. This began to take a toll on my relationship and my self-esteem.
I felt deeply wronged, criticized and was told to just get over it, without the opportunity to address the issue which had progressed to “issues.”

So what to do?

Ultimately I recognized the pain and blatant disrespect had more to do with the stepchild, their ‘relational way of accepted being;’ this wasn’t personal, just simply RUDENESS allowed by their parent and other relatives, preoccupied with looking good, rather than providing clear boundaries and NECESSARY correction.
This understanding was my catalyst for change. It’s far too easy to personalize the attack and perceive it from an improper perspective and actually remain stuck there.

I still am applying steps 2 and 3 to my life circumstance. Some days are easier than others, namely because I don’t always feel supported. The thing which, helps, is to remind myself of the truth, to trump the horrific facts.
Life boils down to a quality decision. Decide optimally and you’ll renovate the mess of a life previously made in no time. Soon, your new life will be second nature.
If you will commit to this life changing way of thinking, you’ll understand, like me that “CIRCUMSTANCES DON’T MAKE ME, THEY REVEAL ME.”
Thank God we all are provided the opportunity to CHANGE.

To your greatness

Monday, March 15, 2010

FEAR…its time to Spring Forward

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves-regret from the past and fear of the future. Which face of fear has its hands clinched around your neck?”
-Dr. Kasmin Boswell

This past Saturday we had to spring forward by moving our clocks one hour ahead. This is poetic because it happens to coincide with our need to spring past fear.
Few things in life create more worry, stress & fear than your future. If you take the right steps today, tomorrow is guaranteed to take care of itself. Allow me to explain…

Fear is one of those things we often experience through ‘feelings,’ yet don’t exactly know how to pinpoint. If you’re like me, you sometimes find yourself frustrated, depressed or melancholy without knowing fully why.

To better understand the many faces of fear, you and I are wise to name them. I’ve listed the most common “fear friends” thereby enabling you to gain a better grasp of what you and I are up against.

The Insecure One- This fear causes your self-esteem to diminish or “appear to have” completely disappear. You fixate on people as objects, rather than persons. You fixate so much on your “issues” that you have no time left to forge toward a viable solution or meaningful connection with anyone else. This fear sees everyone as your means to an end.

The Distorted One- This fear causes you go to extremes i.e. “I’m all alone.” “Nobody loves me.” “I’ll never love again.” You rarely deal with truth because you’re knee deep in battle with shadows, rather than the real issue.

The Victimized One- This fear causes you to feel there’s no way of escaping your pain.

The Stressed One- This fear causes you to feel immobilized; it cripples and criticizes you. You’re emotionally and physically affected.

The Mistaken One- This fear causes radical theft of your identity. This fear takes more than it gives. You might swear you’re too empty to possibly make any deposits into anyone else’s life. You tell yourself if you help someone else, they’ll be little or no time left to think about your problems. Left unhandled, it’ll steal the truth you already know about yourself and situations you find yourself addressing.

The Paralyzed One- This fear causes fear of taking another step and steals your joy. It alienates you from access to the truth you already know.

The Complacent One-This fear leaves us fine with being the victim & telling our story to whoever will listen. We become emotional vampires. Sucking life out of once treasured relationships. This fear tears at the core of intimacy in our relationships because we are too busy protecting ourselves, to do whatever ultimately needs to be done to preserve and/or strengthen relationships.

The Regretful One – This fear causes you to feel as though you can’t be transparent because of believing there’s too much ‘regret’ to overcome. This fear whispers, ‘why bother.’

The Isolated One- This fear causes us to be afraid to share our fear(s) with anyone else; or at least the one’s who can actually help. This fear convinces you that TRANSPARENCY is for weak people & if you’re SMART you’ll tough it out or do what you already have been doing.

I recently discovered Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson’s book “Take The Risk.” In it, he teaches an excellent Best Case/Worst Case Scenario exercise. The bare bones of this approach, is to ask 4 key questions. They are:

-What's the best that can happen if I do this?

-What's the worst that can happen if I do this?

-What's the best that can happen if I don't do this?

-What's the worst that can happen if I don't do this?

Though these questions can be insightful when answered, yet don’t FULLY help you with application to your real life circumstance or help to determine how you will navigate past the grips of FEAR staring you in the face. I’d like to share six points, which inspire me to keep moving and to never let fear overtake me! Keep in mind, fear will come; just don’t allow it to stay.

How you and I may respond to fear

1) Surrender. Recognize you don’t know ALL the answers. Remove pride and ego from your life. Hint: pride and ego are present in the places you immediately think to hide, misrepresent issues or engage in negative self-talk to keep you from proceeding ahead.

2) Resist the tendency to blame yourself or anyone else.

3) Draw near to resources that will sustain you and create a foundation for you to flourish. This shifts your focus from the problem to the solution and/or possibility.

4) Deal with what you’re doing incorrectly. Clean up your stuff. Ex. If you have issues with someone or notice a circumstance, keeps resurfacing, get past it. Getting past "it" includes writing a letter to confess or face the issue; create a strategy to forgive or accept (them or it) and bring closure.

5) Shift your motives. Do everything from a place of humility. Recognize that everything in life isn’t about you. The best life is spent in contribution and commitment to continual learning.

6) Recognize wimpy theology, makes for a wimpy life. You have to choose to be strong and courageous even in the midst of horrific setbacks. Each time you refuse to crumble under pressure, growth occurs. As you grow, you better adapt in the handling of difficult circumstances.

This is a call to mature in faith, courage and integrity. This only occurs through being alert, aware, growing in maturity, being reliable, responsible and inter-dependent.

“Until you see fear for what it is, you’ll remain unable to get your priorities in life straight. Everything else will suffer.”
-Dr. Kasmin Boswell

Monday, March 1, 2010

Love…A New End In Mind

“Love is like a river. And it flows between the banks of truth and discernment. However when it floods and leaves those banks it becomes a dangerous thing.” - Charles Ryrie

What do you love about yourself? If you’re like most, you keep, preserve and protect aspects about yourself, which no longer serve you. You protect these aspects as trusted friends you cannot see yourself without.

Ryrie’s quote is key to each of our lives because we pursue what we love. We must become better at making decisions. Decisions navigate us to destruction or triumph. It’s time that we position ourselves like a thermostat, rather than a thermometer.

Of all of the people alive in the ENTIRE WORLD only .01% of these individuals know why they believe what they believe. This means that the majority of us live our days doing whatever we feel like doing without knowing why. For far too many of us our moral compass is no longer calibrated for strategic success. How many times have you fallen prey to “if it feels good do it” and “there’s no right or wrong” even if it means horrific consequences to countless lives.

Put your thinking cap on…

How did this love affair with self-indulgence begin and what may each of us do so that we can begin anew?

A) Determine what you value? Identify what no longer serves you and practice the theory of replacement. Replace counterproductive values with those, which serve you personally, professionally, emotionally and physically.
B) Establish realistic expectations. Don’t expect the temptations of reverting to former behavior to automatically disappear. If you valued being a workaholic, taking shortcuts, were prone to jealousy, depression, being the victim, a chronic procrastinator, et al opportunities will consistently re-emerge. You merely have to know the battles you’re in for and proactively re-align your emotions, finances, and stick to your newly formed value system until it becomes an ingrained habit.
C) Don’t expect instant change, forgiveness or reconciliation with yourself and others. Whatever you’ve done/haven’t done has REAL impact and has to be faced. So if you are obese, you won’t instantly become skinny just because of deciding you’ll no longer binge on food when you’re stressed. If you’ve treated several people in your life incorrectly, just because you apologize doesn’t mean that these individuals will instantly trust you. It is truly a process you’ll have to actively pursue and repeatedly demonstrate to others.
D) Practice The LAW of First Mention. In the legal system, it’s commonplace for attorneys to reference former cases to establish/set the standard for the case they’re bringing before the court. Essentially, gather mentors to pattern yourself after. It’s a MUST to select individuals you admire. Remain clear of anyone you resent or who’s missed their moment-a HAS BEEN. Remember you won’t learn from anyone you’re jealous of or RESENT. You’ll never give your all when harboring hidden agenda’s or if engaged in a secret competition with someone who can enrich your life (or vice versa).
E) Make it a habit to reflect upon your behavior to assure proper perspective is maintained. When you’re cognizant of the horror and pain you’ve caused within your life and in the lives of others, it enables you to remain the course with strategic OBEDIENCE! Imagine every aspect of your life being synchronized to such a degree you never find yourself living a life of defeat. Even in the midst of setbacks, you’ll quickly rebound because your discernment is synchronized enabling you to always know what to do &/or what resource to tap into. CS Lewis states this premise succinctly “when 1st things are first, 1st things aren’t suppressed and actually increase.”
F) Communicate strategically. I used to rehearse setbacks to whomever I could get to listen numerous times without getting much closer to a feasible solution. Now I practice ‘3xsharing.’ This principle allows me to share a circumstance I’m facing no more than three times. So I usually share the first time with someone who’ll empathize, the second time with a couple people simultaneously who can provide some ideas for favorable resolution and the third time with someone who can help me put my plan in working order. This ultimately enables me to resolve several challenges, which previously eluded aspects of my life.

These suggestions create and anchor-personally, professionally, emotionally and physically before engaging life’s setbacks and growth opportunities. You are officially ready to win the war within! Protect your right to WIN this peculiar thing called LIFE!

You will either be forced to live in the potential of your faith or with the consequences of your doubt.

"You are the only being in the universe that can cause defeat in your life."
- Larry Tomczak

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Are you invincible?

Invincible is defined as incapable of being overcome or defeated; unconquerable. Harry Truman, whose name is often confused with the president’s name, lived on Mount St. Helens with his family for years. Officials warned Harry that the mountain was going to erupt, however he refused to leave his residence.

Truman's unwillingness to leave the mountain had more to do with protecting his property than making a statement.
Truman was in a Catch-22 situation. Truman felt he would be able to see lava start to ooze down and a news helicopter would come in and scoop him up at the last minute preserving his life.
Nature had other ideas. The searing blast of Mount St. Helens came at 300 mph. This blast buried Truman 150 feet under the (present) lake along with his treasured pink Cadillac, 16 cats, with the lodge safe packed with over a million dollars.
"There's no way to get to it," Truman’s niece, Rosen said. "He took it all with him -- not a lot of people can say that.”

Truman’s life isn’t too different from our lives. We often tell ourselves we have time to lose the extra pounds the doctor has urged us to lose…for the past 5 years, that we really can wait to have those difficult conversations with our children and establish proper boundaries, or that we always will be given the benefit of doubt by our spouse or significant other we often neglect because we have to get that raise or corner office. We forget to get back to the basics. Never think the basics are TOO BASIC.

The truth is, nothing is promised to any of us. A certain socio-economic status, gender or race doesn’t insulate you or your possessions from loss or setbacks. The recession has caused each of us to re-think our entire existence.
Things we once thought were imperative are now things we readily pass on.

Essentially each of us require Extreme Makeovers…

These shows showcase individuals with serious physical issues that are transformed using plastic surgery, dentistry, cosmetology, and other treatments to "makeover" their appearance. The spin-off program is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. That's where they take a home and totally convert it into a beautiful house that is completely changed by going down to the studs.
We too can have an "extreme makeover" by continually CONCURRENTLY examining our personal, professional, emotional and physical lives. Just like the contestants on these television programs, we have to give up our agenda’s, and relinquish control, if we are to receive an extreme makeover in our lives.
Do you want an extreme makeover in your life? Do you want a life filled with balance, peace, joy, abundance, proper boundaries and deliverance? Do you want your weary and arduous life to be redeemed and transformed into life anew? An extreme makeover is available to each of us by practicing discernment and adopting accountability into every aspect of your life.

This causes CHANGE, which takes place from the inside and automatically metamorphoses the outside aspects of your life.

You can’t do this in your OWN strength. Enlist your troops…It’s a battle out there!

Remain phenomenal

Monday, January 11, 2010

When was your last Metamorphosis…or current hiding place?

“I want you to get excited about who you are, what you are, what you have, and what can still be for you. I want to inspire you to see that you can go far beyond where you are now.” –Virginia Satir

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever uncovers them finds mercy and prospers. Proverbs 28:13
Have you ever played a game of hide and seek? As a child, I regularly played this game with my father. My brother and I would hide when we heard our father opening the door. My brother would hide in the identical places and would go so far as to beckon attention to the area he was hiding when my father acted as though he couldn’t find us.
I on the other hand was strategic. I made it my priority to stake out places to hide so never to be “discovered.”
Hide and seek is ok for children, yet as adults its an ENTIRELY different matter. Adults in hiding subconsciously perceive themselves as “know-it alls” or suffer from low self-esteem.

Adults in hiding have faced a series of unmet expectations, causing a paralysis of metamorphosis in an effort to ward off all future pain or disappointment. You most likely suffer from this if you either 1) think you have everyone figured out, 2) serially pre-judge others motives, or 3) love the saying “if you don’t expect anything good to happen you won’t be disappointed.”
Those who are wrestling with the residue of unmet expectations-in one or more aspects of their life have forgotten the end of a season or era, no matter how dramatic or downright wrong or cruel it may be, doesn’t mean they must cease trusting the process of life.

Left unchallenged, this individual will find themselves cynical, prone to incessantly blame others, huddle with other “victims” while judging others as inferior to them, vehemently refuse to accept any responsibility for their actions/inaction and hide from anything which remotely seeks intimacy. The worst part for this person is an unconscious inability to genuinely GIVE or RECEIVE grace-undeserved, unearned favor, forgiveness, love and kindness. This intricate tango is oxygen to any viable relationship-with oneself or otherwise.

None of us are immune!
As I was thinking of how horrible it must be to hide in anger, fear, apathy or low self-esteem it became apparent that none of us are above the game of adult hide and seek.
If every aspect of our lives isn’t continuously being examined, we inadvertently join the ranks of those who hide, cutting ourselves off from living our best life-personally, professionally, spiritually and physically.
After listening to a compelling conversation on New Years Resolutions, I composed two lists-what to do or keep doing if hiding remains an appealing option versus what’s truly necessary for those desirous to CHANGE and grow in intimacy and grace toward oneself and strategically with others.

The absolute foolproof method to experience a miserable 2010 is:

1. Worry incessantly about anything and everything i.e. aging, job security, relationships, your children, and your bodyweight.
2. Pre-occupy yourself with getting rich. i.e. fall for a too good to be true get rich scheme. Covet everything the rich and famous have; the desirable stuff only, without taking into account the hard work, the responsibility, et al of being “rich.”
3. Compare yourself to others. It’s guaranteed you’ll always come out worse because you’ll likely namely feel compelled to compare yourself with those you’ve deemed “better” than yourself.
4. Add to your list of enemies. Now you’ll have a head start on being increasingly bitter and pessimistic about life and people will definitely begin (or continue) avoiding you.
5. Set and cling to unrealistic expectations/predictions i.e. compare yourself to the rock hard abs infomercial that comes on at 2:30am in the morning using people that probably never had bodies like the 95% of the world they’re selling the machines to.

The ideal path to sustainable CHANGE 2010 and beyond is:

1. Remember everyone’ll watch you. Consistently purify your motives. People see through us, so make sure that we advertise in the storefront, that which is in the storehouse.
2. Remember you’ll encounter unreasonable situations and people. Unfair, dishonest, backward treatment will happen to even the best of us. Our human tendency is toward a desire for retribution; especially the types that no one else will see you’ve carried out.
3. Remember, you’ll have some setbacks. However daunting they may be, you must get over them.
4. Remember, you’ll require unusual patience and will need to extend unusual grace. When you do what is right and suffer for it, you’ll find favor with God and others. When you maintain a course of action during intense opposition, you will win. Remember that nothing stays the same.
5. Remember you’ll consistently need to restore your HOPE. You’ll need to make it a priority to trust in more than just yourself.

Review this list bi-weekly to keep yourself mindful of the necessity to live an authentic life. Further, enlist the support of others who will hold you accountable and enthusiastic about your goals.
No one can change or sustain momentum alone. None of us are as smart as all of us!