Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When was the last time you said...

"Today was the best day of my life!"?

I would have to say it has been a while for me. When Joseph got home from his second day of school and Mom& Dad asked him how his day was, we got the typical response "Good." Then, I told Joseph that the Lego he ordered came in the mail. All of a sudden, it was "The best day of my entire life!". His elation was genuine and spontaneous.

Those are the little things in life that make for the best days of my life!

What would it take for you to say that it was the "BEST day of your life" with genuine enthusiasm. What is your 'lego'? Even better, what would it take for us to wake up every morning and say "This is GOING to be the BEST day of my life!"

Or, are our expectations so out of whack that it would take a small miracle rather than making someone else smile, having someone tell you 'thank you' or 'I appreciate you'.

Better yet, why don't you make it someone else's BEST day of their life by doing one of the things above. Give 'em a Lego Separatist Spider Droid!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

First day of school!!

Every new beginning come from some other beginning's end!

School began today and summer officially ended for the boys & us. Brendan is in 6th grade and Joseph 4th. I have had a small tradition of staying home and making them a special breakfast for first day back to school. Send them off with Pancakes! Well, Brendan just wanted a breakfast drink, Joseph said he ate too much at dinner last night...You know the rest of the story.

As always, summer flew by. We went to Myrtle Beach a few times, went fishing, spent the 4th of July with my parents at Myrtle Beach, helped move my brother to Virginia, went to Salem Avalanche baseball games, had cookouts in the new neighborhood.

As the kids start a new year, it is my prayer that God protects them, gives them wisdom to do the right things, and gives their parents patience and guidance.

So, how did you all invest your summer this year?!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Book review - The Faith of Barack Obama

Those of you who know me well know that I like to read books on leadership. I was given the opportunity to receive a copy of Stephen Mansfield's book, The Faith of Barack Obama. The timing of reading this book coincided well with the recent Saddleback Civil Forum where our two presidential candidates were questioned by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. (On a side note, I thought that it was the best format ever for a presidential 'debate' of sorts. Both candidates did well. )

In Stephen Mansfield's book, I find that he does a nice job of detailing the story of Barack Obama's faith from his birth to today. As a man of faith myself, I found the book to be an easy read. The author states right up front that he is not a Barack Obama supporter, but the book is fair in it's presentation. In the first few chapters, Senator Obama's faith history growing up is described and later in the book, the author does a nice job of drawing comparisons to other Presidents and presidential candidates including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and George W. Bush.

What I really appreciate about the book is that it provides us with the information needed to make a choice about Senator Obama's faith journey. For example, the author invests a lot of the book on the relationship of Obama and his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. It asks the right questions: "Why did Obama Stay at Trinity United Church of Christ, not just for some twenty years, but even after his pastor's radical views became public?"

Anyone unsure of the positions of Senator Obama on faith-based initiatives, as well as the life he lived growing up should read this book prior to making their choice for the next President of the United States.

This book did not change my view on who my choice for next President for me. It did; however, answer some questions for me, while generating a few new ones as well.

I want to thank Thomas Nelson publishing for the opportunity to read this book. If you get a chance, take a look at Michael Hyatt's blog. He is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Setting Expectations...for kids!

My two sons, Brendan (11) and Joseph(9) are blessings to me. I enjoy watching them grow and they are growing up too fast!

I have to admit that teaching them the value of managing their resources(time, especially!) has been a challenge for me. One of the tools I have used in my personal life is called the 'Time Block' where I outline where I need to invest my 'time' and then 'block' it out on my weekly calendar. I use Outlook for this. Each block of time is broken into 30-minute intervals on a daily basis and I try to plan my 'perfect' week. It includes activities for the key areas of my life: 1) Faith, 2) Those closest to me - Chris & the boys, 3) Family & Friends, 4) Self (physical & personal development), and 5) Finances.

My kids needed something similar, but nothing I tried seemed to work. They had their goals & they were simple - allowance & time to do things THEY wanted to do. To achieve the goals, there were certain basic expectations we had as parents, but at the end of each week, the lines were blurred. So, I set about to set up a 'visual control' for the kids as well. If a time block worked for me, why wouldn't it work for the kids? In fact, how better to get them to manage their priorities in life, but to get them to block their time at a young age?

I needed the time block to be simple and colorful to keep their interest, and visual for me to check up on their expectations and 3M graciously obliged by introducing a post-it weekly planner. Those who know me well know that sticky notes are a necessity of mylife! In fact, my brother-in-law saw this at my house and said "Staples saw you coming when they brought this out!"

I set the example and outlined my week on the post-it calendar and used it to model for the kids development of their own. The process was fun and painful at the same time. The kids enjoyed the cutting & pasting, but didn't really like that they had to write down when they needed to do it. They also wanted to create 'shortcuts' - "Dad, can't I just write this down on Monday and they write 'every day' on one sticky, instead of making 5?" Nope...Every day. Below is the outcome of the exercise...

Purple = family time

Green = Basic expectations (make bed, put away clothes)

Orange = Projects - These items are allowance earners(clean garage, vacuum basement, READ BOOKS)!!

We posted these in the garage right by the entry door to the house. Now, I am not naive enough to think that everything will not be perfect and the kids will NOW do things without being asked. Even I don't hit my time block 100% and I have been doing it for years! However, in the first two weeks, the boys are much more aware of their responsibilities.

So, tell me, what tools do you use to manage your priorities? What about your children - how do or did you set their expectations?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I love Sunday Mornings!

Sunday morning for me is very relaxing. I set an alarm to get up so that I can enjoy 'my time' for a couple hours. As I reflect on what I do, it still is a practice of continuous improvement...of managing my priorities...

'Standard Work' for Sunday Morning

1) 6:18 get up after hitting the snooze twice because there is just no reason someone should get up at 6:00 on Sunday if they don't 'have to'...

2) Put on a pot of coffee

3) Walk out to get the paper - What a beautiful day it is today! About 60 degrees & sunny.

4) 'Organize' the paper for reading - Pull out all the junk ads and put them aside. Does Dick's Sporting Goods really EVER have a sale, or are they just trying to fool everyone with this ad?

a. Homes section first (need to review my ad for accuracy & other realtor ads for ideas!)

b. Main reading section - Sports first, of course!

c. 'Extra' section last as it has the Sudoku puzzle...Even after the comics (yes, I still read the

comics! Lots of good stuff in the Dilbert strip)

d. Then the ads - Target (pronounced tar-jhay here in the South!), and of course, the Staples ad. Free Glue today!! Showing my age here as I have evolved from Best Buy to Dick's to Sears to now Staples as my favorite ad!!

e. Skim Parade magazine - Of course, the best issue is the how much people make issue. Also, found a new number puzzle in the Ask Marilyn section that is pretty cool called Numbrix.

f. Tear out Sudoku puzzle and mess up the Extra session for Chris (she is still sleeping peacefully, though. She'll never know. I digress. I love to watch her sleep. She is at peace...More on that in the future...)

g. Hopefully, I finish just in time to watch Ed Young Television.

h. 8:30 now. Time to get ready for church...Day gets hectic from here as it really isn't enough time to get ready. But, I love those first 2.5 hours...My Time...Church, lunch with the family, Open House, and today...Leave for the beach for a few days. Sneak in a couple more days before the kids go back to school..

OK. my Sunday morning has just been thrown for a spin. Instead of Ed Young being on, it is replaced with the Olympics. Phelps going for 8 golds..1 down and 7 to go...Have you all read how much he will actually swim in the next 10 days or so? What a machine!

Tell me about how YOU spend YOUR Sunday mornings.

Have a great week


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Church Soup

So, I get up this morning and I am looking at different churches on line. Trying to find a church to visit with some contemporary flair. We decide to go to our home church...Covenant Presbyterian in Roanoke. Today is Youth Sunday and they did a fabulous job. They playeda clip audibly in church today that they had heard it at their youth trip in the last week. I am so glad we decided to go to church today at Covenant. The youth did a great job and this 'Church Soup' spoke to me!!!

Click on the link to listen in. It is humorous and very poignant as well. Don't worry about where you go to church...just love each other!!

Church Soup

Have a great week y'all. Don't let opportunities pass you by this week to add value to someone's life!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lessons of the Square Watermelon

A friend recently shared an article with me about the paradigms we have and the infamous quote "If you think you can, or you think you can't,...you're probably right!"

Toyota Production System at work! If you haven’t read this before, it is a great read. Great lesson that challenges paradigms we all probably have. My guess is that we all have one of these things that someone has told us "We've always done it this way" and I believe them without challenging the assumption!! My most recent one is in building homes. I was told "It is more expensive to build a story-and-a-half then it is a two story...Then, I go around quoting it!!! I am in the process of challenging that assumption right now. I will let you know how it comes out.

Lessons of the Square Watermelon

Japanese grocery stores had a problem. They are much smaller than shops in the USA and therefore don't have room to waste. Watermelons, big and round, wasted a lot of space. Most people would simply tell the grocery stores that watermelons grow round and there is nothing that can be done about it.

That is how majority of people would respond. But some Japanese farmers took a different approach. If the supermarkets wanted a square watermelon, they asked themselves, "How can we provide one?" It wasn't long before they invented the square watermelon.
The solution to the problem of round watermelons was not too hard to solve as the farmers did not assume it was impossible - and simply asked how it could be done.
They found out that if you put the watermelon in a square box when they are growing, the watermelon will take on the shape of the box - and grow into a square fruit.
This made the grocery stores happy and had the added benefit that it was much easier and cost effective to ship the watermelons. Consumers also loved them because they took less space in their refrigerators which are much smaller than those in the US meaning that the growers could charge a premium price for them.

There are a few lessons that can you can take away from this story which may help you:
Don't Assume: The major problem was that most people had always seen round watermelons so they automatically assumed that square watermelons were impossible before even thinking about the question. Things that you have been doing a certain way your entire life have taken on the aura of the round watermelon and you likely don't even take the time to consider if there is another way to do it. Breaking yourself from assuming this way can greatly improve your overall life as you are constantly looking for new and better ways to do things. This was one of the most difficult things for me to do because most of the assumptions I make, I don't even realize that I'm making them. They seem perfectly logical on the surface, so I have to constantly make an effort to question them.

Question habits: The best way to tackle these assumptions is to question your habits. If you can make an effort to question the way you do things on a consistent basis, you will find that you can continually improve the way that you work. Forming habits when they have been well thought out is usually a positive thing, but most of us have adopted our habits from various people and places without even thinking about them. It's a never ending process, but by doing this, you can consistently strive toward making all aspects of your life more enjoyable instead of defaulting to what you have now.
Be creative: When faced with a problem, be creative in looking for a solution. This often requires thinking outside the box. Most people who viewed this question likely thought they were being asked how they could genetically alter water melons to grow square which would be a much more difficult process to accomplish. By looking at the question from an alternative perspective, however, the solution was quite simple. Being creative and looking at things in different ways in all portions of your live will help you find solutions to many problems where others can't see them. I am not a creative person, but I've found that the more that you look at things from different perspectives, the more creative I have become. It's a learned art and builds upon itself.
Look for a better way: The square watermelon question was simply seeking a better and more convenient way to do something. The stores had flagged a problem they were having and asked if a solution was possible. It's impossible to find a better way if you are never asking the question in the first place. Try to ask if there is a better way of doing the things that you do and constantly write down the things you wish you could do (but currently can't) since these are usually hints about steps you need to change. Get into the habit of asking yourself, "Is there a better way I could be doing this?" and you will find there often is.
Impossibilities often aren't: If you begin with the notion that something is impossible, then it obviously will be for you. If, on the other hand, you decide to see if something is possible or not, you will find out through trial and error. Take away the lessons from the square watermelons and apply them to all areas in your life (work, finances, relationships, etc) and you will find that by consistently applying them, you will constantly be improving all aspects of your life.