Planning to win

Imagine you are standing at the end of a washed out bridge with people blindly driving your way all unaware of the fate that will behold them if they do not change their direction right away. You would, at the best of your ability, do all you could to get them to stop and go another way.
 
As a 50+-year-old genX-debt free-cancer survivor, I feel this way about many topics. Marriage, parenting, health, career, finances are all areas that by this point in life I have learned many lessons. Some through my own great mistakes and many through educated hard work successes.
 
My strongest obsession now for several years is a desire to retire without want. The journey began early in my working life when I first read The Millionaire Next Door. I was at the time single and making less than $25,000. It was amazing to learn at my young age that there is a path to wealth even for the average person. 

That seed of hope was small and at the time did not take full root other than to get me started on a low level of 401K saving.
 
I went on to live a normal life of spending and debt just like most people. Then in the spring of 1998 cancer came in another effort to wake me up. Now I had a fear of possible unmet family needs. Would we have memory building experiences? How would the son afford college? If I were to die, would my wife be left with financial security? Along the way, I also experienced job insecurity with layoffs occurring around me on average about every 12-18 months. Thinking of retirement was not a priority in part because I was unsure really if I would have a job or live that long.    
 
This little stew of experiences in some ways has left me pretty messed up.
 
So here I am soon to turn 52 and looking back while at the same time looking forward to a new stage of life. Retirement seems like an old man word but it looms as a possibility in just a few short years. Time does fly indeed and every day counts. 
 
According to this source, the median savings of someone my age is $117,000. Twenty-five year old me would have considered that to be a lot of money. Fifty-two year old me understands it to be terribly out of whack compared to what will be needed by most people to retire at a reasonable age with dignity. The person with $117,000 most likely does not realize that to have even $48,000 in income at retirement a nest egg of 1.2 million is recommended. That is a slap you in the face keep you up at night big number. Of course, you have to be aware of the number and care about it for the hand to be motivated enough to give yourself a whack.
 
Dear people wake up and realize the end of the bridge is coming and there is no reason to keep driving towards it. You know what to do. Get out of debt, live below your means and start saving now for a future that is many years away for some and just around the corner for others.
 
Whys and whats are easy to dream about. It is in the hows that we get hung up but the reality is that with the plethora of resources available to us today there no excuse not to win. Those who do not are doing so by either conscious or unconscious choice.
 
I plan to win. Just as importantly to me, I want you to win too. Here some resources to get you started. Join me and we will win together. 
 
 
 

Hyperconnected and still alone

The way we connect to information and to each other has been revolutionized over the last several years. This has come about thanks to the advance of mobile communication devices and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Blogger, Periscope and on and on. 
We are socially connected more than ever before in history with our fancy devices fundamentally changing the way we communicate. The sad part is that social automation and other technologies are in many cases not bringing people together. For many, it is instead creating an inverse effect with possible “friends” in the thousands but in reality no real relationships.
I am a man. You may be one as well. As men, we are especially at risk to fall into the trap of loneliness and isolation. We are manly men and we are not expected to ever express feelings, show pain or step away from our role of responsibility leading our family from the front into the battles of life. Sure times have changed to soften much of this for many but the reality is that most of us are just hard wired to be closed emotionally and to press on no matter what we are facing.
The results can be devastating as men struggle and find unhealthy outlets for their disconnected loneliness. Emotional detachment from family, affairs, addictions to porn, and alcohol abuse are just a few of the unfortunate outcomes.
Even less talked about is suicide rates among men. Men commit suicide at a rate that is 4X higher than woman and in the US men account for 79% of all suicides. These numbers do not include unreported attempts.
As men what can we learn from all of this? I believe that we must recognize the importance of having a male confidant in our lives. A person that we can have a meaningful and still masculine relationship that allows for openness and sharing. It can be uncomfortable to have truly deep and meaningful conversations with another dude and that is why for most of us this needs to happen while also doing manly things. 
Think being in the outdoors hiking, hunting, chopping wood, building something or just plain doing manly stuff. We are not sit around a smelly candle sipping wine kind of people.
Men let me challenge you to reach out and make a change. You just might save a marriage or even save a life. 

Hello Senior Year

Well here we go. It is the start of the senior year for Conner and of course I know it will go by fast. It is almost cliché to talk about how time flies but these 17 years have gone by in a blink of an eye.
I am little reflective now thinking back to the parent I have been for him. Regrets? Yes I do have some and can think of many ways I could have been a better father.
I do not regret for a moment the choices we made to live our lives centered around being as good of parents we could and supporting our child with time together. Sure, Michelle and I could have thrown everything at climbing the corporate ladder and chasing stuff. The result may have been a bigger house, fancier vacations and newer cars. But at what price for these things? 
They mean nothing if it leads to a debt of regret for missed opportunities in the short 18 years we got to spend time with this great guy. 
Having lost our father’s at young ages, Michelle and I both have fully understood the privilege of being mom and dad.  
I know in my heart that Conner has the foundation he needs to be a success. I am not talking success in career necessarily. Yes he has big dreams in that area. I am talking the area that really counts and that is success as a man of integrity and as a servant of God.

Thank you Conner for bringing so much joy to our lives. Your future is bright no matter where it is going to lead you. 

The Power of Encouragement

One of the things you hear marathon runners talk about is “the wall”. This is the moment around mile 20 or so when many people reach that critical point where a physical and mental choice is made. The choice revolves around continuing to run, walking, or for some just plain quitting.
I can remember hitting this moment during my fist marathon several years ago.
It was somewhere around mile 22 and after three and a half hours of running. It seemed most of the people around me at this point were walking or doing a little run/walk combo. To say we were running at this point was a bit of stretch.
Oh how I longed for the pain end and to join the comfort of those who were walking.
One cool thing at the Dallas White Rock Marathon is that if you are a first time marathoner you have a different number you wear so that anyone will know you are a first timer.  
Here back at the end of the pack there were several of us first timers.
As my desire to stop was reaching a crescendo, a first timer that was slightly ahead of me had started walking. There on the corner standing alone was a friendly spectator that saw this and shouted, “Hey first timer! Come on! You are almost there and looking good! Don’t start walking! Go for the finish!”
These words were not intended for me. 
The person of intention kept on walking.
 
But for me it made a difference.

Her words right at that moment encouraged me to keep moving and to reach the goal I had spent so many months working towards. I was just four miles from completing my dream to run a marathon and I was not about to stop running now thanks to some kindness that was not even intended for me.

The lesson I learned from this moment is that we can never really know the power of our positive attitude. We may miss the mark with the person we intend to help at the time but may be setting an example unknowingly to help someone else. Part of me also hopes that walker soaked in the encouragement and later crossed the line in triumph.

Don’t give up. It just takes a small step to move forward.

Hello My Name Is…..

Hello my name is…..
Regret, stupid, mistake, loser, ugly, fat, defeat
For many people the labels we wear in our hearts about who or what we think we really are can be completely debilitating. Many are self-created for no real reason at all while others are the result of false assessments placed on us through the ignorance and meanness of others.
I am 46 yet in my head on bad day I can see very clearly the time as a second or third grader when in a moment of self defeat I etched “dummie” on  a brick outside the west side of our house. That moment and that word haunted me for years as not only did it continue to echo in my head but later I realized it would not come off the brick. I had created a false label. 
I think we all do this. We etch labels so deeply in our hearts that we just can’t seem to remove them. Then for some to feel better they transfer these labels to others in an effort to feel better.  I know way too many people that hate themselves and then in turn spend too much time pulling down the world around them.
I will be taller by making those around me smaller.
As Matthew West so successfully reminds us in his song we are not in many cases who we might think. Do not believe the lies. You (and I) have been placed on this world for a reason.
You can and will make a difference for your future. You can leave your past behind.
Hello
Person of influence
Successful employee
Go getter
Loving parent
Devoted spouse
Faithful servant of God

It is wonderful to meet you. 
What is your label?  

Thinking of texting and porn

Thanks to smart phones and tablets, our society is quickly moving through a technology motivated transformation with broad impacts. Most of these are positive with hyper-networking opening doors to community and innovation that would not have been possible even just a few years ago. I think most of us now take for granted the amount of information that is available at any given time right in the palm of our hand.

But with these changes have also come pitfalls as well and we should be ever on guard to ensure we embrace the positive side of technology rather than fall into a technological hole that will destroy us. Truly there is danger for it to take our lives, darken our souls, and destroy our families.

Am I being over dramatic?

Check out these facts about texting and driving. It seems more and more common to hear of accidents due to distracted drivers. Thankfully the wireless industry recognizes this problem and companies like Sprint are now offering tools to help.

Sprint Customers may now download a free app that blocks texting while driving and provides other great safety features. From the manufacturers,some devices like the new Motorola X also come with features to improve safety while driving with inherent options.

There is another danger that is less talked about but also potentially just as impactful. Porn

Are you aware that your device allows access to any website no matter what the content? It is pretty easy to set filters and view browsing history on home computers and laptops since families tend to share these resources. Phones and tablets on the other hand tend to be more individual and therefore less observed. Sure there are in browser settings that can block content but these are easily modified and a lot of people do not know they exist or how to set them.

Sprint thankfully offers a couple of easy options to ensure your device and your family’s devices are temptation protected.

Sprint Mobile Controls is a subscription based service at $4.99 a month that provides a wide range options for parents including a web-based dashboard that shows phone usage and texting usage reports. It also allows customized settings for blocking usage during set hours and with set people. Use of such a tool to me would depend a lot on your family culture and child behavior patterns as most teens I know would see this level of control as punishment or an invasion of their perceived privacy.

Consumer account holders can also set controls for free that will block; apps, downloads, texts from specific numbers, pictures and videos.

It is easy to set these controls up online by accessing your account. Once logged in go to My Preferences and you will see a wide range of options listed under limits and permissions.

The must have setting to me is the content filter. The Content Filter helps protect your Sprint devices against adult content and malware while web browsing on the Sprint network. It allows the account holder to control access to sites or content determined inappropriate in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).”

The content filter has been around for a long time but is now being expanded from just feature phones to all devices and Sprint is sending out an awareness e-mail to let customers know about this enhancement.
The huge benefit here is that this content filter setting works no matter what settings may be selected on the phone browser. A critical difference for sure. The only drawback is that this blocking does not work when browsing off the Sprint nextwork via WiFi. As a result, it is still important to ensure web browser settings are set to strict.

I have activated the filter on all my devices and now have a comfort knowing that my entire family including myself has a certain level of temptation protection. We are all human and I am glad to add any layer of added accountability that I can find.

What about you?

Have you protected yourself and your family with the addition of controls to prevent texting and driving?

Have you protected yourself and your family from temptation by modifying the browser settings on your devices to block content?

Want to go a little deeper? Check out this recent sermon from Craig Groeshel

Catching the right attitude

“The world is what we think it is. If we can change our thoughts we can change the world” H.M. Tomlison

A funny thing about attitudes is that they are as contagious as colds. We truly tend to catch whichever one we surround ourselves with most. No one is immune.

I have often found myself in a circle of negativity fully participating in the downtrodden conversation about how terrible this or that or him or she is. Soon thereafter upon reflection, I often end up feeling a genuine sense of shame that I chose to take part and more importantly chose to enable.

There was a day during my chemotherapy that served as perhaps the best reminder. I was sitting quietly in the waiting room before the start of my treatments when the nurse came in to get the gentleman sitting next to me. This guy was in obvious pain, poor health and was well advanced in age.
The nurse asked, “How are you today?” Without missing a beat he replied, “Wonderful! My eyes opened this morning and the Lord has blessed me with another day.” His little comment turned me around for that day.

How great it would be if we could all see our lives this way? What if we could just jump out of bed every morning praising God for the new opportunity to honor Him through our actions and our thoughts? What if we could just move forward with positive passion through every challenge? How different life be as a result of a change as simple as how we look at the world.

These questions have challenged me today and forced me to look deep into my heart. I hope the same for you. I am praying today that we can and some small way be sick on attitude together. Who knows, you just might start an epidemic.

S.T.O.P

In my role as a Scout volunteer, I recently had chance to learn a little about techniques to use in a crises situation as part of the Wilderness Survival merit badge. There was something about the STOP model in the training that struck me as valuable for my personal life as well.

The point of the discussion was that often when people get lost there is panic which in turn ends up making the situation worse. There are many examples of people that in crises decided to blaze a way out of danger situations by panicking and running through the woods. These folks soon find themselves in even more despair, lost and alone.

I realize now that I often make this same error as a parent, husband and manager. Like many others, I see a problem and I want to immediately jump to a solution. Men are notorious about solution jumping when our wives bring a problem.

How different might the outcome be however if I simply followed this model instead.

Sit=Find some time alone in a quiet place to…

Think=What really is the issue here? Sometimes the mind can race so quickly with a fight or flight response that we need to consciously slow things down so that we can….

Observe=Many of the problems we face are simply situational and temporary. They could also be indicators of something deeper that needs to be examined.

This might be a good time to break out a pen and paper (yes they do still make these) and write down what you are feeling about problem. Have you felt this way before? What has worked in the past? How have others handled a similar problem? It is highly unlikely that you will experience any issues in life that someone else has not experienced and found a way to overcome.

Plan=Now finally with all of your facts straight and your situation assessed it is time to map out a plan for survival.

Next time you are in crises just STOP and perhaps you will find a better result!

Failing Forward

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to…failure.”
― John Maxwell
One of the key traits of successful people is a willingness to fail. There are many people out there that have never failed due to having never taken a risk. They have instead chosen the low road in life. The higher you try to climb the further you may fall after all.
The risk taker steps out in front of the crowd to try. She takes the risk, fails, learns and then goes at it again with a new and improved strategy.
This concept is known as failing forward and only a few have this great capacity. No one wants to be a failure but there are those who see missteps merely as chances to find new ways to win. Far too many people unfortunately use the fear of failure as an excuse not to try.
Perhaps they were a poor student before so the thought of spending money to go back to school brings memories of emotions felt when that “F” arrived.  Maybe there was love in the past that ended in heartbreak so the thought of the pain is just too much to risk again. There was the diet that went so well only to find the weight back just a few months later. The project we dove into with gusto and passion but found out quickly no one else was on board or willing to try something new and out of the box.
I say the heck with it.
What is the point of living if we are not pushing forward with a bet the farm; give it all everyday kind of attitude.
With just a few days away to the start of 2013, it is a great time to find some new ways to thumb the past and fail forward into the future. Take as stand and let the world know you are not afraid. You are willing fail because you understand that nothing really worth having was every obtained without some risk and some passion.
And if you do—2013 might just be the start of the best season of your life ever. It is worth a try at least huh?