Vision stretchers

One of the things that I’ve learned on my journey through this life, is that success is a balance; and there are many areas that I have to intentionally focus on if I want to grow.  I have also learned the impact that relationships have on our thinking and our decision making.  We cannot drift into excellence, and therefore we need a plan to get better results.  The book, Resolved 13 Resolutions for Life, by Orrin Woodward, has stimulated my thinking in so many areas; and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite books.  It explores our lives from many different angles, and challenges us to resolve to live to a higher standard.

Recently, I’ve enjoyed playing basketball with a group of guys at the YMCA in my town.  Not only has it helped me with my physical goals, but it is a lot of fun.  The guys that come to play are very diverse in age, profession, background, etc.  From a very fit 59-year old retired government employee, to a judge…business owners, a variety of professionals, and a group of college kids, we play full court basketball for over an hour–three times a week.  As always when interacting with folks, it’s amazing to see the maturity (or lack of) that is exhibited when there is conflict.  To their credit, most of our games are competitive and fun, and very few incidents occur.  I found myself analyzing the different guys, and wondering what circumstances and relationships led them to their current place in life.  It is somewhat obvious to see that some have learned many success principles, have a good attitude, sport good people skills, and have confidence in themselves.  Then, there are those who lack in these areas and seem to feel that they have something to prove.  They get offended easily, and react negatively when things aren’t going their way.  Looking back, I used to be the guy who needed to prove something, because I didn’t see the big picture or realize my purpose for living. That was when God led people into my life that believed in me, and introduced me to information that changed my perspective.  Now, I am on a journey to continue to learn truths and discover what exciting adventures are ahead.  As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a great adventure, or nothing”.

What kind of circumstances and relationships have led you to where you are in life?  Is your life a great adventure?  As I look around and continue to meet people and build communities, I realize that just like the guys at the gym; the difference between people so often comes down to the relationships that they have, and if someone has taught them truths–or more importantly where to find the truth.  It is exciting to think that we have the opportunity to impact people by how we live our lives.  It is also important that we realize the ripple effect of our actions and attitudes on all those that we influence.  It’s a very negative world out there, and a smile, kind word of encouragement, or any positive affirmation does make a difference. As John Maxwell says, ” Those closest to you will stretch your vision, or choke your dreams”.  Let’s be vision stretchers.

God bless! Dean


Work ethic

I have enjoyed building communities with the Team, and learned lots about people in the process. Recently I was  listening to a CD by Chris Brady in which he was discussing the importance of working hard as a beginning step to achievement. Why is it that in our culture today, we want to get great results without putting in the effort? If we are honest with ourselves, we know that everything worthwhile demands that a price be paid. All of our easy new diets, lotteries, and get-rich-quick schemes attract many with the illusion that success is “easy”. Success is well-protected because many are simply unwilling to do the work. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s book, Outliers, he gives many examples of people who have achieved mastery in a specific area due to devoting 10,000 hours to it. For all of you who are not afraid to work hard, this is great news! The question is: Do you have something that you want bad enough to devote the time to master it?

I grew up in a home in which my parents placed a high value on developing  a strong work ethic. When I was old enough to lift a splitting maul and throw firewood on a truck, I was expected to do my share of the work.  We also raised some animals; and now looking back, I think the purpose was more to teach us responsibility and work ethic than actually any benefit that the animals gave us. When I was 12 and the summer break from school had begun, my dad got me a ride to a friend’s produce farm about 5 hours away. I woke up early with the family before light and picked sweet corn, and then other vegetables throughout the day. We worked a 10-12 hour day–every day–with the exception of Sunday, when we relaxed and recovered. I earned the money to buy my first car and some other things, as I worked on that farm every summer until I was 16. Looking back I remember dreading some of the long days and the heat of the summer, and wishing I could be having fun swimming and playing around like my friends from school were. However it was my choice; and if I wanted to have my own car when I got old enough, as well as some spending money, this was the price I had to pay. I realize now how many great lessons I learned, and how comparatively easy so many other ventures have been for me because of those summer experiences. I also learned the value of money, and have been frugal (Teresa, my wife, says “cheap”) ever since. I am so grateful that my parents, as well as the wonderful couple that I lived and worked with, taught me to work and take pride in the quality of the job I did.

What a tremendous advantage we give our children and our teams, when we expect them to learn to work hard for their success. When my children were small, I gave them a summer assignment that they had to work together to accomplish. We have a 3/4-acre, spring-fed pond behind our house that we enjoy swimming in. I had a small beach that led into the pond, and it was in need of some more sand. I ordered 12 tons of sand and had it dumped in front of the house. The kids’ assignment was to fill their little red wagon and pull/push it around the house, and dump it on the beach. Because they were all pretty small, none of them could do it by himself/herself; and therefore they had to work as a team. The stipulation was to take 10 loads a day before they could play or swim. If they did 20 in a day, they earned ice cream as an incentive. When the whole pile was finished, we went and bought a four-wheeler as the ultimate reward. As I recall, it did take them all summer; but when they finished their new beach, they wanted to show everyone because of their great sense of accomplishment.

So, whether you learned the work ethic at a young age, or you are having to learn it later in life; realize that it is a simple, vital part of every success story. John Maxwell says, “there is no success without sacrifice”. Orrin Woodward says, “success leaves clues”.  Keep studying successful people; and you will discover, woven through their journey, a love affair with the effort it requires to win big. As you set big goals and envision the life that you desire, understand that there will be a price tag attached…but the price is worth it.

Dream big! God bless! Dean