Moving…again.

In the past eight and a half years, I have moved to a new living space four times. Considering I own well over two thousand books (and counting,) this consists of a Herculean task. My former roommate Chris calls my library “The Wrath that is Scotty Ray’s Books.” He has the sore back to prove it. I’ve been no stranger to packing and unpacking boxes and boxes of books, and for that matter, keeping boxes of books stacked in corners of the apartments for lack of shelving space.

I posted a few days ago that two of my dearest friends lost a parent, each. Richard, whom I’ve known since I was twelve, lived with his father, primarily because his father needed a caretaker. (I was in a similar arrangement 10 years ago with my dad.) It was also a mutually beneficial arrangement, for Richard’s income wasn’t and isn’t optimal, so having a “no rent” arrangement allowed him (and I can say us, ten years ago, with my dad,) to survive. Alas, that is no longer the situation for my friend.

The night before his dad passed, Richard breached the subject first. And I would be lying if I said the idea hadn’t crossed my mind. Over the past year, it was clear that Rich’s dad’s health was deteriorating. We were all hoping for the best, praying for healing. But after certain decisions were made, it was a matter of time. Days, perhaps hours. Upon coming to terms with that, Richard asked if I would move in to the house. It would once again be a mutually beneficial arrangement. He would get support with paying utilities, I would have no rent to pay, no longer have to have a storage unit to pay rent on, and I could reduce my phone’s internet usage, drastically saving about $700.00+ per month. Of course, I’m sure my electricity and other utilities would go up, and the addition of cable would also eat in a bit to those savings, but in the end there will still be a hefty savings.

All in all, it was very serendipitous. Now, please understand, I love Richard Sr., Rich’s dad, very much. He was in some ways a surrogate father to me. I would gladly trade the situation for him to still be here with us, healed and pain free. In no way am I trying to be an opportunist, because Rich did breach the subject first and extend the invitation. This mutually beneficial arrangement will help us both out financially.

About one month ago, I “resolved” that 2017 was going to be the year that I get my finances in order. I’m going to use the freed up finances to build an emergency fund, pay off some outstanding debt, save for and purchase a car, save some more, learn to invest, and save some more. It’s not so much about pursuing and accumulating riches as it is building wealth. Riches come and go. Usually, they go. Wealth is beyond money. It’s about resources. It would now seem that I am on a reasonable path to pursue that kind of peace that comes from getting your house in order. Five years ago, I did not have the self discipline to resolve this issue. I’m thankful that over the past few months, I’ve been nurturing self discipline over several habits. I can now reach inwardly to summon that same kind of self discipline to not impulsively overspend, in order to build something of lasting value. It does indeed take financial resources to invest in opportunities to further build wealth. I truly see this as a way to honor Mr. Pate and his example by pursuing this opportunity.

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No Complaining, Please…

No complaining, please…

I began reading a book on January 1st titled The No Complaining Rule, by Joe Gordon. It’s a small book, 131 pages long, with 31 chapters, each about 3-5 pages in length. I’m reading 2 chapters a day, the one I read yesterday, and the one for today (today’s chapter being today’s date.) Since I’m only on day 5/chapter 5, I’ve barely scratched about 16 pages. What I’m hoping this book will do is give me a continued encouragement about keeping a positive mindset.

Morale is low at my current workplace. Without going into details, it’s not uncommon for brief, little huddle sessions that includes much rolling of the eyes and airing of grievances to be a common occurrence, and I hate to admit that I’ve participated in my fair share of them. It gives a quick boost to the ego to rattle off our rants about what’s wrong with who or what’s not working today. (Wow! How’s that for alliteration!)

And I’m trying to put a stop to my participation in it. But it’s hard. Sometimes we feel that injustice have been done, not on a large social scale, but just the slights and wrongs and oversights enacted by a few of the “powers that be”. So it’s natural to want to vent. But the problem is….that stuff is contagious! If I complain, then you want to complain, maybe even one up me (or vice versa.) Sometimes I’ve noticed that my and other folk’s grievances are indeed over-reactions. Emotions are worn on sleeves. We can’t take it, but we sure can dish it out. Sometimes we are as much to blame as the offending party.

Sometimes we “complainers” need to stop and contemplate human nature for a while. Not just our nature to complain, but the nature of others to goof up, mess up, or otherwise be just plain ol’ nasty. I’ve noticed that a lot of the lower level “powers that be” aren’t given much to work with, and are only doing what they can with what they got. Just as the “schtuff” flows down hill, we can see the slime trail from where it came before. I’m sure that that upper level “powers that be” aren’t given much to work with, either.

We are prone to miss the mark, and we are prone to cry out against our grievances. There is a remedy that I know of. Take the time and be grateful for what you do have. You do have something. Even if it’s just a breath. A bed to sleep in. A shirt on your back. Be mindful that there are those in the world without even that, and I hope with that realization some compassion towards others is nurtured. But taking some measured, quality time to stop and be grateful really does change one’s immediate attitude. It’s a great end of the day practice, as well as a practice one can do when one feels slighted or tempted to vent.

If our grievances are indeed justified, then there are proper ways to see that they are addressed. And it might be very well that some of them are never resolved properly. That can bring us to other decisions and choices. But we need to major on the majors, and minor on the minors. And for some of the minors, giving a benefit of the doubt and acting with forbearance saves a lot of emotional energy and smooths out the rough edges that low morale has brought to the surface.

I know I’m not going to be perfect in this endeavor. But I’m going to give it my best shot. Negativity takes a toll on our psyches and physical health. I’m learning that at my age, my mental, emotional, and spiritual health is just too precious to squander on minor breakouts of complaint.

Now, excuse me as I go scream into my pillow…

Intention vs Resolutions – an Addendum to Goals Setting

[This is a little add on to my January 1 post on goal setting that I believe complements that material.]

It is January 3rd….if you have not declared your Resolutions, might as well give up. You are a loser. It’s gotta be done on January 1st, at the first second after midnight, or it won’t work. And everything must be carried out perfectly. No leftover Christmas goodies for you, Bub. Don’t you dare overspend on your grocery budget. Had an exasperated thought toward your kids? You blew it. Might as well wait for December 31st to begin again. Can’t tarnish your perfect record, now, can we?

Heard this before? This is part of why resolutions don’t work. An All or Nothing mindset. It totally goes against human nature. We are dependent upon the idea of taking actions to fix us. I do believe that creating healthy habits in our daily lives contribute to our success and well being. I’ve been working on a handful of habits daily since August 1st of 2016, and have seen a lot of success. I’ve started small, and have added to each habit, little by little. And I have had added habits over time. I haven’t been perfect with them, and I don’t beat myself up when I’ve botched it. However, even more important than the effort put into the habit, is the intention behind the habit. But we need to bring a kind of filter to our actions, a kind of gentle spark. And that spark is Intention.

Intentions have a compassionate energy behind them. They are not tied into the success of an outcome. They ask that we bring some mindfulness to our actions and make efforts to do our best. We can have a plan and work the plan. But when we get off track or take a misstep, or outright fail, we forgive ourselves….AND START AGAIN. We can even show some forbearance toward ourselves. We can know that this action is not part of the plan, and we can not muck around in the guilt and shame that comes with it. The next moment is brand new. Start again. Socrates said, “The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

When you walk with intention. You have a subdued focus that filters your actions. It’s good at the beginning of goal setting to harness some of that passion and determination that comes with the initial thrill of carving out your intentions. The key word is harness. A harness is gear that is used for controlling an animal. Have the passion. It’s good and necessary. It’s a kind of fuel. But, keep it in check. And don’t let it run rampart over your confidence when you get off track.

And guess what?

You’re gonna get off track. You’re gonna misstep here and there. Unless you are an alien. I’m pretty sure my target audience is human. Therefore, be kind to yourself when you sway, or outright fail. Start again. Keep your head, and start again. It’s okay. You are allowed to do that. Really, you are. If you are concerned about what others might think, it’s not their fight. It’s yours. Actually, think of it as a walk, a journey. You are going to a different place than they are. You might have a similar goal or desire a similar outcome, but you’re going to have a different route to get there. Own up to your meanderings, and get back on the track, and resume walking. One step at a time. Drip.Drip.Drip.

Disclosure: today’s post was inspired from the app Calm. Today’s Daily Calm session (January 3,2017) was titled Intention, and I definitely borrowed some of the quotes and phrasing from it. I wholeheartedly recommend this app for mindfulness practice. I gladly pay $39.99 for the yearly subscription, it’s worth every penny.

Mentoring – A Leader’s Investment in the Future

Most leaders have a concern about the future. In fact, if they don’t have a concern for the future, I would really hesitate to call them a leader. If a leader is trying to uphold the status quo, then I seriously doubt they are worth following.

With an eye on the future, a leader will also come to some sobering truths, one being that he or she can’t do this leading responsibility alone. It’s an “all hands on deck” kind of thing. Of course, not “all hands” will be leading in the same capacity. But teamwork is essential for the ship to move forward.

With this in mind, a leader should be on the alert for opportunities to serve his or her fellow shipmates. A team consists of individuals, each who have, in addition to a loyalty to the vision and mission of their organization (or at least we hope,) aspirations and dreams of their own. Your fellow ship hands won’t be on your ship all their lives. Some of them will move on to other endeavors. Some will stay and serve faithfully for many years. Regardless, it is your responsibility as a leader to help them navigate their lives. Not only are you navigating for your organization, you are assisting others in their growth.

Having said this, it is not your responsibility to chart a course out for every detail of their lives. Nor do you invade their sense of autonomy, offering unwanted counsel. But, in the context of a relationship of trust, respect, and love, be aware of those moments when your colleagues are open to encouragement. Look for ways you can offer assistance. Humbly ask them if you can show them some guidance. If they are willing, then share, and then pay attention. If they respond with openness and appreciation, take that as a signal of them being available for further discussions down the road. If you sense they are closed, then you are better off waiting for other signals later on. Let them take the initiative in approaching you. In fact, anytime a constituent comes to you for assistance, that is a great opportunity to begin planting the seeds of a mentoring relationship. Just don’t make this “mentoring” relationship an “official” thing.

It’s also important to note that you do not navigate for others in arenas in which you have no competence. Help them find the appropriate resources, then point the way. But steer clear of rocky areas where you have no experience.

It’s also necessary to point out that you do have authority to discuss with your people matters to which they are directly responsible for in the organization in which you are their superior. This is not an option for them. Of course, you do it with kindness and respect, but firmness. Even in these moments you have great opportunities to invest in their lives.

All of this also depends on the idea that you are a growing individual yourself. If you are not pouring fresh water into yourself every day, then you have nothing of value to offer others. You need to develop your own inner resources, and have a collection of external resources to offer as well.

The people you lead are your future. You need to help shape the next generation to take the helm once you move on. This is part of the legacy of a leader. Navigate the ship’s mission, and your crew. Help them find the North Star.

Zig and Seth’s Goals Program (and mine)

Well, it’s that time of the year again…

Resolutions! (Ugggghhh….I hate resolutions!)

Guess what? I don’t make resolutions. I set goals. Why, you ask? Well when you resolve to do something, you are resolving to DO something. DO implies acting (which is important, you can’t resolve something without action.) However, if you aren’t taking the right actions, what you “resolve” to do might not matter to begin with. If, instead, you to choose a target, rather than just acting with the same ol’ same ol’. (Going to the gym, getting out of debt, etc.) How are you going to know when you’ve reached your goal unless you’ve defined it clearly? Don’t be a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific. That’s a quote from Zig Ziglar, and it’s his goals program that I want to highlight today.

I was introduced to Zig’s program through Seth Godin’s Pick Four book. Seth listened to and listened to over and over again Zig’s motivational tapes during a rough patch in his early adult years, to the point where he wrote down Zig’s goals process and began implementing it. And it worked. About four years ago, Seth reformatted it and tweaked it in a small spiral bound book that is intended to be used in a 90 day period. It is something I’ve been using, and I’m going to review it here.

1.) Setting goals works. First of all, you must choose something, and in doing so, you are not choosing the others. One possibility out of others. And in doing so, you are saying “this is something I care about, this is something I will devote my energy to.” So….choose wisely. (I think I’ve mentioned that before elsewhere.)

2.) Become like a child sitting on Santa’s lap. Take about a half day and just dream. Dream big. It’s okay. Write. Down. EVERYTHING. Even silly stuff. Then sleep on it. Take another half day. Do it again. Sleep on it. Then take a look at your list. Eliminate anything that is obviously beyond the laws of physics or that can’t be supported by science. Then eliminate anything that, well, just clearly isn’t plausible. (Ok, the Queen of England is NOT going to call you up and ask you to go on a secret mission….dreaming big is ok. Unmitigated fantasy is not.) List them into these categories: Career, Family, Financial, Mental, Physical, Social/Emotional, Spiritual. If one category is out of balance over the others, dream up a few more goals. “Let’s assume that the overriding purpose of your goals is to live a life that benefits others, one that you’re proud of, one that allows you to reach your potential – does your list reflect that?” For each item ask “What happens to me and the people I care about if I reach this goal?” If you can’t come up with an answer that satisfies you, eliminate this goal. A goal you don’t care about isn’t a goal you are going to be able to work hard to achieve. If there are contradictions in the list, you’re going to have to make some choices to whittle down the list a bit more.

3.) Choose from your categorized list four goals. Only four for now. Start out this quarter small, and after a few wins under your belt, add more goals to your list of actively pursued goals.
For each goal, ask these questions:

A.) What will this goal look like when it’s completed? How will I actually know when I’ve completed my goal?

B.) What are the benefits from reaching this goal?

C.) What skills or knowledge are required to reach this goal?

D.) What are the major obstacles to overcome and mountains to climb in order to reach this goal?

E.) Who are the individuals and organizations I need to partner with to help me reach this goal?

F.) What is the plan for reaching this goal? (Write it out; tell it like a story.)
4.) After fleshing your goals out, it’s time to get started. Get a notebook or journal, and for each day, Monday through Friday, (you get Saturdays off,) follow the following format:
Goal_______________
Steps I took today to achieve this goal: ______________________(use as much space as needed.)
Is this enough? YES NO

If you didn’t do anything toward reaching a goal, write “NOTHING” in the blank space. Not to shame you, but you do need to feel a bit of negative stimulus if you are not consistently putting out effort.

On Sunday, you have a week in review. This is important. Ask these questions and write the answers:
Highlights from last week:__________________________
What got in the way/What didn’t work?:________________
What I learned from what didn’t work: _________________
You need the honest reflection so you can make mid course corrections. If something isn’t working, do something else. If you find a bunch of “NOTHING” s in your daily steps, then maybe you need to re-evaluate if you really want this goal.

As Seth writes, “Drip, drip, drip, things get done, progress is made, and goals are accomplished.”

Goals require effort, as resolutions do. The up front passion and determination of resolutions are great, but without a workable plan, then the envisioned glory fades quickly when friction and push back hits. Taking the time to define clearly and FEEL strongly at a core, even a spiritual level are both necessary to make significant progress. And the daily drip of accumulation will spur you on if you track it and record it.

Here’s to a prosperous and productive 2017!

2016 My Year in Review

I had some difficulty deciding what to write today. I didn’t want to write anything in one of the series I’ve already started. Since today is New Years Eve I thought I’d do a year in review kind of thing, but, since I really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to current events, it might be kind of lame. So, here we go…

The beginning of 2016 met me with trying to manage my hip pain, which in February, the steroid injection I received in December of 2015, began to wear off. Luckily, the pain I experienced was minor, however I began to also experience the pain in my left hip as well. Walking to work seems to actually help relieve the pain. As does regular walking and exercise. However, I’m not going to take up running until I meet a target weight, because I’m pretty sure my knees and ankles won’t be able to handle it. Anywho, the pain has been managed fairly well all year long.

Big movies this year…Batman v Superman:Dawn of Justice, Zootopia, Jungle Book, Captain America:Civil War, X-Men:Apocalypse, Sully, Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, Jack Reacher:Never Go Back, Star Trek:Beyond, Ghostbusters, Arrival, and Rogue One have been my favorites of the year. (I have yet to see Passengers and Assassin’s Creed, I’ll add them by proxy.) I believe Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. (And I love ALL the Star Wars movies. ALL of them.)

I decide sometime in June that I was going to begin the Andy Andrews Seven Decisions Readings on August 1st. Every morning, every evening, for five months, I read the appropriate reading. And it slowly rubbed off. It’s still rubbing off, and I’ll begin again this Monday, January 2nd. As a result, I began meditating and having quiet times in God’s Word and prayer. I’ve been getting up early, reading multiple books, multiple times….and seeing results as I’ve applied what I’ve learned. I guess I decided to do the New Year’s resolution thing five months early, and as a result I have some awesome momentum going into 2017.

Of course, there was the election. We got trumped. That’s all I got to say about that.

Lot’s of celebrity passings this year, too many to list here, with the exception of three I’ll mention here. David Bowie….even as a guy who listens to hard rock, metal, and progressive rock, this guy always had my endearing respect. My favorite song of his wasn’t actually his, it was a corroboration with Queen, Under Pressure. And who could forget his performance a The Goblin King in Labyrinth?

I could say same about Prince. I became a fan of his in 1982 with his album 1999, and in 1984 with Purple Rain. The guy was a phenomenal guitar player. Seriously, one of the most underrated guitar players ever. He manifested Jimi every time he played.

And lastly, Carrie Fisher, my Princess. This one hurt. They all do, but this one is a punch in the gut. I’m a Star Wars fan, and with my fellow fans, this is gonna leave a gap that can’t be filled. Add to the fact that her mother Debbie Reynolds tragically passed the day after, and you can just feel the shared heartbreak. So we lost a King (goblin), Prince, and Princess all in the same year, along with many others.

For me, personally, I also have two best friends who lost their parents within a week of each other, right before Christmas. I will be moving in with one of them, and this new living arrangement will provide a good symbiotic relationship between the two of us. He has a paid for house, and I have a consistent income. Bills paid for him, no rent for me. We’ve known each other for 35 years, so this should be interesting. We will overcome.

My Christmas flight to Lexington got diverted to Columbus due to poor visibility from low fog at Bluegrass Airport so I had a 17 hour unexpected layover, with a flight to Charlotte the next morning, and connecting there to Lexington. 26 hours with my family, and I’m back on a plane to DFW.

The past few days I’ve began packing and moving into Rich’s home. Have until Feb 28, but I’m gonna stretch it out over 2 months.

Well, there we go. It was kind of a blur, but those are the high points. I had a lot of growing moments throughout the year. How was your 2016?

Mourning

I am having a difficult few days. Today I attended a funeral of the mother of one of my dearest friends, Steve. Three weeks ago she was diagnosed with cancer and was given a timetable of about Christmas. She passed away 23 days later. She was a healthy woman all of her life, only being sick 2 or 3 months prior. Obviously, it was a shock to Steve and his family.

When my father passed, Steve was the first person at my house the next day, with tears in his eyes. He exemplified what the bible commands us to do when it says to mourn with those who are mourning. I asked him to play trumpet at my dads funeral. He played two stanzas of Amazing Grace, the first verse being played traditionally, the second verse done in a jazz style, honoring my father’s jazz trumpeting days. I was honored by Steve’s honor to my dad.

That very same week, one of my best friends from junior high and high school days, who I still keep very close contact with, Richard, lost his mother to heart disease complications. I attended my second funeral in less than a week. Rich and I and our other best mutual friend Dwight mourned together, and a week later took a trip to Beaver’s Bend to get away from it all.

This week Richard’s father is in his last moments. He’s been diagnosed with congestive heart failure from some time now, but this year he’s been battling it full on. A week ago things turned for the worst. The family is bracing itself for the inevitable, and Mr. P is facing this with peace and dignity. The medical staff has made him as comfortable as possible in these last few moments. It could be within hours or a few days.

Another family relation is on dialysis, and recently had a bout with internal bleeding that hospitalized her for a few days. This is on top of other medical complications. She’s pulled through, but is fighting to gain her strength back.

Earlier last week I saw another friend from church whose husband nearly died from leukemia. After a second opinion from another doctor and medical institution, and after several procedure, he’s bounced back. He still has a long battle ahead of him, but his and his wife’s faith are pulling them through.

Another childhood friend who has suffered many heart attacks, strokes, and a bout with cancer has a small blood clot in his brain. He’s functional and is living life day to day, even out and about. But a small shift in that blood clot could mean the end of his life.

Another good friend lost his nephew to suicide after a bout with depression onset by a painful divorce.

Stressful, painful overwhelming circumstances that are really not my own, but I own them anyway. These are people I care about, and I will suffer along with them.

But you know what? God is still Good. I believe that wholeheartedly. We live in a fallen world. Much is out of our control. And the things that are in control yet we falter anyway, we can know we are forgiven. We can receive that forgiveness and move on. We can heal and recover. Life can move on. We can mourn and grieve, and take our time and process it. I would hope we won’t settle there and that we would have the hope to move on at a reasonable time. But we can enjoy the right to grieve on our terms. As I have said multiple times over the past few days, we can choose our response. I’m choosing to mourn, process it, learn from it, and move forward.

Addendum: Richard’s father passed away hours after writing this, on December 15th. We had the funeral on December 18th, with Graveside services on the 20th with military honors. Dwight joined us again for the services.