Clarity; Purchased with Euros. Lesson 1- Teamwork

23 Jul

Geramnu4

There is nothing quite like a vacation and some downtime to give you a chance to take a step back and think big picture.

Am I were I need to be?
Am I focused on the right things?
Doing them the right way?

I recently had the good fortune to spend two weeks in Europe with the love of my life.  I embarked on the trip seeking a chance to recharge the batteries and re-connect with my wife, not out of a desperate need for any soul-searching.

That’s the thing about vacation though; if you are doing it right your soul-searching tends to find you.  This is the first of several posts – Five Life Lessons my EuroTrip Taught Me

Lesson 1- Teamwork Trumps All

Who knew that a bunch of flopping European soccer players had anything to teach me?  Yet there I was in a beer garden in Munich for a public viewing of the World Cup Final.  I have never cared for soccer, in my opinion it is fun to play but brutal to watch.  Yet on this night I found myself intoxicated, not by the beer, but by the local’s love of their team.  Shockingly, a 0-0 tie after regulation not only maintained my interest, but actually drew me in.  Big time players in a big time moment, dripping with drama as we headed for extra time.

I figured overtime was a trap, the entry point to an inevitable Vikings moment for the Deutsch.  I hoped I was wrong but it seemed I was getting emotionally invested just moments before a figurative kick to the groin.  After all, Germany’s team was devoid of any stars and facing the greatest player in the world in Lionel Messi of Argentina.  Surely that dude would find a way to will his team to victory.   I half expected Gary Anderson or Naufahu Tahi to trot on to the pitch.

(What is happening  to me, did I just say pitch?)

Well there is really no Paul Harvey needed in this story, because you already know the rest of it.  Despite injuries and substitutions an unlikely scene unfolded.

A bit player came up huge, scored an improbable goal, and led the Rhinelanders to the cup, and a night of partying and nationalism for a country that’s great at the former and uncomfortable with the latter.  It truly was a site to behold– and in some small way to share.

It was great because even though I was thousands of miles from home, I got to see a universal truth validated.  One that is as true in Brazil as it is in Bavaria or Bemidji;  Teamwork Trumps All.

It made me hearken back to 1999.

Thinking back 15 years, I’ve certainly come a long way.  I’ve grown, I’ve adapted,  I’ve balded, and maybe I have even matured, but I’ve definitely changed.  If I am honest, I’m not sure I’d have a heckuva lot in common with my 1999 self.

Yet I thank that simple SOB every single day for assembling the most important team of all, my marriage.   Two weeks in Europe were just the latest validation of that decision almost 15 years later.  The rare decision I have never doubted for a second.

How many decisions that you made 15 years ago still stand the test of time?   I can’t think of too many more for me, but that one stands out.  It turns out every once in a while the Mize man comes through, it’s too bad it took sitting through a soccer game to remind me.

 

Ditch those Clogs; Four Steps to a Spiritual Legacy

26 May

The Scots have a saying, “there’s nobbut three generations atween a clog and clog.  The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs”

Italians similarly say “dalle stalle alle stelle alle stalle” “from stalls to stars to stalls”

The Spanish version is, “quien no lo tiene, lo hance; y quien lo tiene, lo deshance” “who doesn’t have it, does it, and who has it, misuses it”.

To Americans it’s “From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”

Clogs, stalls, and shirtsleeves; the analogies are varied by geography but human nature remains consistent.  All describe a familiar pattern charting the demise of wealth that is as well known in financial circles as it is culturally universal.

The first generation builds the wealth, the following generation successfully transitions the wealth and the third generation dissipates the wealth.

But why?  In four words, “Easy come, easy go”.

Generation one worked hard to earn the money.  This likely involved tremendous sacrifice to build a small business or excel at a vocation, no doubt fueled by a desire to build a better life and pass it on.

In so doing, hard work was modeled to generation number two who maybe dealt with a parent frequently gone, or one who struggled to find balance between business and family life.  Having experienced this, generation two sees the value and feels the responsibility to honor that sacrifice.

To generation three the money was just there.  It was never earned, and likely not respected.  What develops in that third generation is at best a spendthrift nature, at worst a drug habit or death.  Easy come meets easy go, as a generation that never had to work for any of it seeks meaning in “external pursuits”.

Interestingly enough, there is an exception to the shirtsleeve saga. Families that share a strong purpose across generations can consistently buck the trend and transition wealth generation over generation.  Philanthropic engagement, a family foundation or strong participation in a family business, can all help build accountability and ownership and construct a lasting legacy.

Your spiritual legacy is much more valuable than money.  How much effort have you put into passing it along?  Enough to span three generations?

Do you pray with your children?  Discuss the bible?  Model a Life consistent with the teachings of Christ?

If you aren’t, if you think dropping them off at church one or two nights a week for a few hours to hear the good news from someone else is enough, you could be dooming your children or grandchildren to spiritual shirtsleeves.

The book Raising Your Kids to Love The Lord lays out several key steps to instill spiritual discipline that can reach across generations.  Many of which you may likely be doing, all of which should be deliberate.

1. Consistent Living- your example in victories and challenges, forgiveness and accountability, successes and struggles should model your faith.

2.Prayer-  Take ownership of modeling prayer for your kids; praying with them and for them. Prayer shouldn’t be a last resort in desperate times, or a pathetic substitute for action.  Prayer should be a conscious habit built over time.

3.  Give spiritual direction to your family.  Statistical analysis indicates a father is the single biggest influence on the spiritual life of his children.  If a mother is the first in a home to become Christian, there is a 17% chance the rest of the household will follow.  If a dad is, it jumps to 93%.  Moms are incredibly important, but dads need to take ownership and accountability on this.  Get active. Sleep in on Saturday.  Golf after church.

4. Service- writing checks to nonprofits is great, but the act is largely lost on our kids.  Packing food for the third world, serving the homeless or doing other activities WITH your kids is the opposite.  Modeling service speaks volumes to where your priorities lie.  A heart for service isn’t inherent, it needs to be built, modeled, and nurtured.

Dave Stone’s book contains additional nuggets of wisdom, too numerous to chronicle in this forum.  I encourage you to pick it up.  It is a quick read and can offer a guidebook to leaving a spiritual legacy that will resonate for generations to come.

You want your kids and grandkids to know God?
Introduce them.

Golf, Syria & Stamp Collecting: Why I’m Not Religious- Guest Post

3 Apr

Editor Note: A friend of mine (and published author no less) offers his two cents on religion in our first ever guest post.

Why I’m Not Religious

It should be an easy question to answer, right?

Is it because after my baptism and excluding my attendance at weddings, my parents took me to Church exactly zero times? Perhaps it’s my logical and analytical mind that finds it easy to poke holes in most religions’ core beliefs. Then again, it might simply be that I prefer spending Sunday morning bonding with my spiritual self out on the golf course.

 

jesus_golfsm1

 

The real answer is D; all of the above. That along with continued negative portrayal of religion in the news. From religious-based violence in Syria and other areas of the world to further reports of priest-involved child abuse cases across the country. Unless you pay close attention, it’s hard to find the positives in religion as someone who sits well beyond the reach of religious gospel today. Could I be swayed otherwise to embrace religion in my lifetime? Perhaps. Let’s explore three foundational aspects of religion.

Religion provides an answer for what lies beyond our physical death

You know, I’m ok just living my life in the current world and making the best of it. I anticipate that I won’t fear or embrace death any differently due to my lack of belief in the after-world. What if there is something waiting for me beyond this life? Well, I’ll accept that as bonus time after living a complete and satisfying life here on earth.

Religion guides our moral compass, helping us to live righteous lives

I don’t need the bible to tell me if a choice I’m about to make is morally right or wrong. And if I make a mistake along the way, I still have to forgive myself whether or not I choose to ask God’s forgiveness. Plus, the cynical side of me can quickly point to all the believers out there that are breaking the law, or otherwise choosing to ignore their religious teachings.

Religion creates a sense of community

Hmm…this one has potential. I don’t know any of my neighbors beyond a quick hello and a brief synopsis of the week’s weather. I rarely find myself talking on the phone anymore in the world of email and text messages. My network consists of Facebook and LinkedIn, where meaningful conversation is nonexistent. And I don’t belong to local Rotary or stamp collectors club. While I have a great relationship with family and a strong core group of friends, maybe there is something missing here. Stating that I’m not religious is perhaps an incorrect statement. It might be more accurate to say that I’m approaching my 40th birthday and I’ve yet to find the religion for me.

Questions:

  • Will people like me ever accept religion in its current form? If not, how can religious groups evolve to become more attractive to people in my shoes?
  • What risks are there for religions that stick to their traditional beliefs and don’t evolve?

You Got a Tribe?

1 Apr

How many friends do you have?

In the social media age that word friend gets watered down a lot. Facebook allows you a maximum of 5000, while a recent scientific study indicates the most you can realistically have is 150.

Personally I’d aim even lower.

I don’t need 150 or even 50 friends, I need a tribe.

“You get yourself three or four good pals; then you’ve got yourself a tribe. And there ain’t nothing stronger than that… we gotta stick together fellas. That’s the only way I see it” — William H Bonney, Young Guns 1988

A wise man once said “your enemies may stab you in the back, but your best friends stab you in the front.”

His point was that a true friend can serve as an accountability coach; someone to take you to task. Are you walking the walk? Investing in your family? Your marriage? Glorifying God in all you do?

Surround yourself with yes-men or less-men and you may never know. A friend may have your back, but a tribe has your front.

It is a tough conversation, but if your best friend or your spouse can’t convict you, who can? We all have our blind spots; working together we can close some of them. I for one, want those kinds of friends. I *need* those kinds of friends.

The bible simply says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

It is incumbent upon us to be deliberate in cultivating the friendships that sharpen us. And drop those that don’t. And occasionally be willing to have (and receive) those difficult conversations.

It is all a part of life in a tribe.

Seven Things They Won’t Tell You

19 Mar

aplane

A civilized society would have figured all of this out already. Since ours is struggling, here is a list.

Seven things you need to hear but no one is saying.

1. If you are looking for a reason the world is against you, you can probably find one. Adapt.

2. Republicans are all heartless monsters and Democrats are all spendthrift statists. Arguing about it won’t help, so stop.

3. Drive on the right, pass on the left.

4. Total number of Facebook “friends” is inversely proportional to number of actual friends. Invest your time in real relationships.

5. A participation trophy belittles accomplishment and incents mediocrity. We aren’t fooling anyone, the kids still keep score.

6. If you recline your seat on an airplane you are selfish.

7. Very few souls are saved via twitter

All pretty basic advice, yet very little of it is heeded.

Few on the freeway know how to drive and social media is still rife with bible-beaters carpet bombing the internet with Proverbs.

Sharing scripture over social media may feel good, but it is less effective than a Jehovah’s Witness. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t seen too many Jehovah’s Witness mega churches around town.

Case in point is the last witness who stopped by my place. He accomplished two things. First he informed me that they have rebranded and call it JW now– wow, that’s hip! Secondly he invited me to a big JW meeting in my area. It turns out that “in my area” is Rochester (a scant 95-mile donkey ride away).

Why would I mock people trying to make good on the great commission?

First, you could argue it’s because I’m a sarcastic curmudgeon who hates uninvited guests at my door. You’d be about half right. But there is another reason. It’s because I think they are wasting their time.

We’ve likely all been handed a book of Mormon, or a copy of the Watchtower, yet none of us have converted. There is a good reason for that.

It is because Evangelism in 2014 requires more of a rifle than a shotgun.

If you think 100 doors slamming in your face is worth it to get one meaningful conversation out of the owner of the 101st, then JW.org is just a click away. Check it out, and then lose my address.

No, evangelism isn’t about beating the virtual or actual pavement; it is about living your life in a way that clearly has a different focus. Are you going to tell people, or are you going to show them? God did a lot of telling in the Old Testament and the results were pretty mixed. So He decided to go the other direction.

Bethlehem was the Missouri of bible times.

God wants you to follow suit. Faith may be a noun, but we need to convert it into an active verb. It isn’t something you have, it is something you DO. Do so and you will stand in sharp contrast to the world today and it will afford you an entry point to start a conversation.

This is meaningful Evangelism.

It’s hard and I suck at it, but it is important so we need to double down. The world is broken and needs a Savior. People are hungry for it. The key to sharing God is to become the salt and the light. If you get good at that, Evangelism won’t be something you do, but something you become.

Be the salt.

And stop reclining those airplane seats.

Going Going Gone… Or is it?

17 Jan

bud

“The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually nonexistent. The so-called ‘steroid era’ is clearly a thing of the past.”–

Bud Selig- Major League Baseball Commissioner,
January 2010

Since this statement was uttered, a full 19 Major League Baseball players have been suspended for steroids.

Three of those players were former league MVPs…and that’s just since 2010.

Is my point to rip on Bud Selig and A-Rod? Only partly.

The more important part is to make a simple point.

We are never done.

Unless we are diligent, constantly checking ourselves and striving to be better, our past tends to catch up to us. As much as we’d love to leave it behind, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

We can make pronouncements, resolutions and turn over countless new leaves. And yet we still remain one bad decision from a relapse.

Am I talking about drugs, adultery, gambling or cheeseburgers?

You tell me.

Just know that making progress takes work, constant attention, engagement and support.

Getting your shit together may take work.
Keeping it together takes more.

***
What part of your past is dead and gone?
How can you keep it that way?
Who can you ask for help?

Why? Why? White Trash

8 Jan

Where were you twenty years ago?

If your name is Tonya Harding you were on top of the world.

Not only were you kicking tail on the ice at the ’94 National Championship, but your biggest rival was just violently knee-capped by a “mystery” assailant. This left you the clear frontrunner to achieve your lifelong dream; a berth on the 1994 Olympic team.

Nancy

It was truly the best of times. It would soon become the worst, as a conspiracy was uncovered implicating you in the assault.

The rise and fall of Tonya Harding took approximately one month. From relative anonymity to public enemy number one.

And things only got worse. Tonya went on to…

• An 8th place finish in the Olympics

• A lifetime ban from competitive skating, a fine and community service

• A starring role in a sex tape

• A job as a professional wrestling manager

• A failed boxing career

• An odd encounter where she saved an octogenarian with CPR

• A land speed record for vintage cars

• Countless police encounters involving many ex-husbands

You can’t make it up. She’s a modern day Forrest Gump. That is if Forrest Gump lived in a trailer park and free-based opiates.

So why did I lead you on this trip down memory lane recounting 20 years of bad choices?

Because it didn’t have to be this way.

In a brilliant piece written for Bloomberg, Kavitha Davidson recounts the story of what could have been.

We could be recounting the feel good story of a hard-working blue collar girl’s rise from an abusive home. How that girl not only dominated figure skating but also revolutionized it along the way. Tonya could have been that girl.

Davidson reminds us just how good Harding was. She remains to his day one of only two women who have successfully landed a triple axel in competition. This earned Harding a perfect score of 6.0

She was not a good skater, she was great.

You don’t get great by sleeping in, or taking shortcuts or being the “loser” that the media portrayed. So why does her story end the way it does? What led her from perfection to punch line?

Two key things

Accountability and the expectations of others

Harding failed to take the former and in the process lived down to the latter. Her own choices doomed her to be the white trash villain, rather than the persevering champion. Sadly, as recounted in Ms Davidson’s piece, Harding can’t, or *won’t* see that even to this very day.

It is the story as old as time. Adam only ate the fruit because Eve told him to and Eve in turn because of the serpent.

Pointing fingers is always easier than introspection.

But the result can mean the difference between playing down to expectations or meeting our full potential. We have all fallen short and failed. The question is, are you going to take ownership and seek forgiveness, or are you going to blame others?

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