The month of May is upon us which means that summer is right around the corner. It’s a time of road trips, baseball games, cookouts, family and friends. No longer burning the midnight oil, the sun stays out just long enough to see us in for the night. It’s a wonderful season that allows us to settle down, rest, and refocus our lives on what’s important.
But how often does this really happen? How often do you find yourself expecting a summer of relaxation, only to find it has come and gone in the blink of an eye?
Since this happens to me every year, I’ve decided to break the cycle and try something different this summer: I’m finding the off switch. I have all these gadgets in my life that at any time of the day, allow me access to news, information, entertainment, emails, books, and work. They’re always online, always working, always there for me to use. But just because I can access these things, does that mean I should access them?
When we constantly emerge ourselves in technology, we rob ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys. Rest and relaxation are a crucial part of our existence and we will burn out if we don’t take the proper amount of time to unplug, unwind, and refocus our lives on what’s important. Life is full of busy seasons in which we need to put down our head and work hard, as well as peaceful seasons where we need to slow down, get away, and refocus (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22). Surprisingly, being able to slow down and refocus sometimes requires taking a break from beneficial things that you enjoy, and that’s what this post is really about.
I love writing this blog and being able to share my thoughts, ideas, and life lessons with you. It’s been a blessing to me and many of you have shared how it’s been a blessing to you as well. However, in light of this recent revelation, this will be my last blog post for the summer. I am going to take a personal vacation, find the off switch, take time to refocus and work on my book entitled 10/10/80 Living which will hopefully be released sometime before January 2013. As of now, nothing is going to change long-term. I’m still going to live life, record what I learn, and pursue my vocation each day I live, but this break will allow me the time I need to produce the highest quality book that I can. However, I will post an update sometime this summer informing you of my progress and further explaining the details of the book and its purpose, and I fully intend on continuing to write posts again this fall.
But since I can’t write a post without providing at least some practical advice, here are four simple ways to help you find the off switch this summer:
Check email once per day – Not surprisingly, email is one of the most addictive technologies we use. In fact, it has been shown that we receive a shot of dopamine in our brains each time we compulsively check our email, which can literally make us addicted. Try resisting the email habit by establishing 1-3 scheduled times per day to sit down and reply to all the emails in your inbox, and avoid leaving your email up all day waiting for someone to send you something. I’m as guilty as the rest of us, but it is a freeing sensation when you’re not constantly checking your email throughout the day.
Eliminate what’s not important – I’m still working on this one. I love reading books, articles, magazines, blogs, and anything else I can get my hands on. Is everything I read important or beneficial? Hardly so. But do I make it seem that way? Absolutely. I waste a great deal of time reading things that I don’t even enjoy, only to gratify a feeling that I’m somehow being left behind for not knowing about the latest news or technology. It’s time for me to get rid of things in my life that may be beneficial, but require more work than they’re worth. I need to pursue things that I actually enjoy instead of things I am expected to enjoy.
Take a real vacation – We love taking technology with us on vacation. We feel like we will be left out or miss something if we don’t have our gadgets with us, but this habit is quickly costing us the ability to take a true vacation from ourselves. Researchers from the University of Glasgow discovered that an astounding 83 percent of people check their email every day on vacation. If this is true than what’s the point of a vacation? If we can’t unplug and unwind, we might as well stay home. This isn’t to say don’t take your laptop or phone with you, it simply means that we should break free from their bonds for a period of time and remember what real life is like.
Find a non-technology hobby – It’s easy to spend all of our time in front of a TV or computer, but try picking up a hobby this summer that doesn’t involve a screen. Get active, try something new, and learn a skill that you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time to accomplish. Try hiking, fishing, playing music, creating art, playing sports, or anything else that will get you away from the norm and get you out of your comfort zone. You will likely find that it not only provides an outlet of rest and relaxation, but it will improve your skills in other areas and make you a more well-rounded individual.
On November 17th, I’ll finally be tying the knot with the woman that God intended for me to marry. I know He’s wanted me to marry Dana for a long time, but I never made it easy for Him – or her for that matter. It took a long time for me to wake up and realize how much I need her in my life, but by the grace of God I finally did.
Dana continually makes me a better man, softening my heart and challenging me to become a more faithful follower of Jesus. She makes me wise beyond my years and humbles me on a daily basis with her loving and gracious heart, and makes me care more and love more than I ever thought possible. But as incredible as all these things are about her, one of my favorite things is that she’s a teacher.
In honor of her birthday next month, I’ve decided to list the reasons I’m thankful my future wife has chosen to become a teacher.
She shares the same vocation as me.
Nothing makes a man feel more alive than when a woman understands and buys into his calling in life. The only thing that can make it better is sharing that vision together. I believe I was born to teach and communicate life-changing ideas in a simple way, and to share this vision with another person is one of the most incredible feelings in the world. I love being able to bounce ideas off of her and share what I’m working on, as well as hearing about the successes, challenges, and life lessons she encounters along the way.
She’s a perfectionist.
We need dedicated teachers who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure their students understand what is being taught. Dana continually works long hours, crafting her lesson plans to impact each student in a unique and special way. She always takes the extra time and attention to make sure that no student is left behind, and does everything in her power to ensure that her students are prepared to succeed at the next level.
She teaches for the outcome, not the income.
I couldn’t stop smiling when she first told me this. It frustrates me when people look down on teachers and ask why they’re willing to do such a difficult job for such little pay. What better response can you give? If only everyone performed their jobs for the outcome and not the income, imagine how different the world would be. Her dedication and passion continually humble me and remind me that work is about the people, not the paycheck.
She teaches me how to invest in others.
This is where she really amazes me. Not only does Dana go the extra mile in ensuring that each student is taught according to the way they learn best, but she also is willing to spend the time with each student to get to know them on a personal level outside the classroom. She has only been a student-teacher to this point, but Dana loves talking about what she plans on doing when she finally gets a classroom of her own. She’s going to be the teacher always bringing in snacks, making learning fun, meeting with the parents in their homes, and attending her student’s soccer games and other activities (I guess this means I’m going too).
I know she’s going to be embarrassed by this post which is certainly part of the fun, but when you get to marry the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you, you just want to tell everyone about it. I love you Dana Mayfield and thank you for being a continual blessing in my life.
How do you know when you have outgrown formal education?
In 11 days I will be taking the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to begin the process of pursuing an MBA. This is no surprise considering that ever since I was young, I planned on getting a graduate degree. I always assumed I would go to college, get an engineering degree, graduate, get an MBA, then have a successful career making lots of money. And that was about it.
But time has a funny way of changing things.
Over the past few years, I have started a company, spoken to groups of college students on personal finance, helped start a ministry, traveled for work, and I’m currently in the process of writing a book. Honestly, I’m having way too much fun right now for it to stop. I have grown more over the past five years than I have over the previous 18, and I literally wake up each morning feeling like I can change the world. My motivations no longer come from earning a paycheck, but instead come from seeing life change in people. I have big visions for the future, and I’m still deciding if an MBA will be the catalyst to get me there.
So if I pursue an MBA in the future, who would I really be pursuing it for? For me? For others? For pride? For my career?
This thought never occurred to me until I came across a short book entitled The Personal MBA. Recently, a discussion has arisen around the topic of rising education costs. Graduate school has always been seen as “the next step” in the corporate world, but considering it can cost you $40,000 over a two year span at a slightly above-average MBA program, does the cost really justify the benefit?
Think about the purpose of education for a second. Our goal is not to memorize a bunch of facts and theories, but instead our goal is to learn how to learn. As we enter an age where information is becoming ubiquitous and a Masai warrior in Africa with a cell phone has access to more information than the president of the United States did 15 years ago, our creativity and ability to innovate will be what set us apart.
And how to do we grow these abilities? Does it happen in the classroom, or is it the continual process of experience and self-study that mold us into the person we desire to become? For example, if I wanted to become a better public speaker, should I read about it for hours on end or should I start speaking? If I want to start a business, should I study the theory of entrepreneurship, or should I go out and start a business? We have so many resources available to us these days such as books, libraries, podcasts, the internet, and people that will provide us with the essential knowledge we need. But ultimately it’s the act of getting out there and doing something that makes our learning concrete, and it’s never been easier to do so. Think about how quickly we can start a company or website to get our idea off the ground. Take this website for example; it took less than a day to have a complete platform for expressing my thoughts and ideas up and running and you can do the same just as easily.
Since work and education have made so many recent advancements, it would be short-sighted to think we have to keep doing things the same way they have been done in the past. This isn’t to say that education doesn’t play an important role in our development, I simply want to convey that we have so many resources available to us that don’t carry the expensive B-school price tag and can be just as effective. Obviously, some careers require PhDs, graduate programs, or formal training, but in this age where entrepreneurship and innovation are booming, is it really worth the cost?
It’s a tough question to answer and honestly I still don’t know.
I am still thinking through the decision, but I’ve decided to move forward with taking the GMAT since my score lasts for five years, and I figure this will be the easiest it will ever be to take the test. I’ve been away from school long enough to grow and expand my thinking, but not so long that I forgot what sugar-infused all nighters feel like. But that could certainly change. What do you think? How beneficial is it to pursue an MBA in today’s changing work environment? Everyone will ultimately take a different career path, so what will yours be?
Think of the hardest workers you know. Picture the people in your life who stay the latest, produce the highest quality work, and are continually on the move throughout the day.
Now how many of those people are Christians?
I often see Christians who defend their half-hearted efforts at work because it’s not what God “called them to do”. On the contrary, as Christians, we are called to work wholeheartedly in all we do, regardless of our current profession (Colossians 3:23-24). It’s not always easy, and it certainly can’t be done without the proper perspective, but we must understand that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be for the given time. Even if you have been led to a job because of sin or not seeking God in prayer, you are still in the right place at the right time (Romans 8:28).
But before you ready your arguments, I want you to understand that I am just as guilty of this sin as everyone else. Each post is written from personal experience and is typically an outpouring of a topic that is weighing heavily on my mind at the time. In the past I have been unfaithful, I have not given my all, and I have repented of this sin and am now seeking to glorify God in the work I’ve been given. Despite my past failures, they have been a blessing as they have allowed me to learn the Biblical view of work.
Here are three key principles for shaping your Biblical view of work.
Work is Biblical. Retirement isn’t.
The very first image we have of God is one of Him working (Genesis 1:1). The rest of the Bible follows suit, and God continually uses people who are tax collectors, government officials, shepherds, military leaders, bankers, and fisherman, all for the glory of His kingdom. It’s interesting to note, however, that none of these great stories from the Bible happened during retirement. Most people believe that retirement is a Biblical concept, yet retirement isn’t mentioned in the Bible a single time. From the beginning of creation, God created us to work our entire lives. When Adam and Eve sinned, work was not given as a curse, but instead was made harder than originally intended (Genesis 3:17-19). This is why work can be tough sometimes. Not because work is a curse, but because it’s a gift that has been marred by sin.
Work is an extension of our walk with Christ.
Work doesn’t define who we are as a person, but it certainly reflects our walk with Christ. Each of us has been given a unique vocation and skill set that God specifically crafted in us to complete before the world began (Ephesians 2:10). As Christians, we are accountable to this vocation. A vocation gives us a higher view of work that allows us to wake up with vigor each day, and serves as a roadmap along the way. By walking closely with Christ, our vocation becomes clearer and we have a better understanding of the work that He has prepared for us to carry out. However, until this vocation is fully revealed, we are simply practicing in the meantime. Our current work is just a part of the journey that gets us to our destination. Without work, we don’t progress.
If you don’t like where you’re at, change it, don’t cheat it.
It’s easy to justify a poor work effort when you’re in a job you don’t enjoy. It’s even worse when you know your vocation, but your current job just isn’t fitting the bill. I’ve been in those jobs before and it’s not fun. It’s easy to become impatient and begin pursuing your vocation before the proper time, but remember that God’s timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He brings us exactly where we need to be for the given season in our lives. Until God opens a door for you to leave, your home is exactly where you are right now. Instead of becoming frustrated, try something different today; stop looking for ways to leave your current job, and use this time as a training ground to prepare yourself so that you will be fully ready when God finally calls you to something different.
Despite what phase of life you’re currently experiencing, in the end it’s all about glorifying Christ with your work. No matter what phase of life you’re in, God calls us to be ambassadors in the workplace and set the tone for other people to follow. Set an example in the workplace and start honoring God today with your work today.
It’s almost the end of January, which means we’re about a month into the new year. Sounds like a great time for a check-up. How are your resolutions for 2012 coming? Already checked off some items? About to get started? Forgot about them completely?
I considered publishing this post last month along with the flood of articles on New Year’s resolutions that come out each December. However, I decided this year should be different. I’ve always been an avid goal setter, typically to the point where I have so many things I’d like to accomplish that I actually accomplish very little. It’s easy for me to lose focus and get caught up in the daily demands of life, so I know how hard the end of January can be. On January 1, we’re like a heroic visionary out to save the world, but come January 31, we’ve quickly transformed into that painfully familiar image of ourselves that we tried so hard to change.
In light of this trend, this year will be about setting goals that last. Goals you will actually accomplish. But before we can set goals for the year, we first have to ask the question, “Why do we set goals?”
We set goals for two primary reasons:
- To provide a sense of priority and purpose for the decisions you make
- To become the ideal version of yourself
Ultimately, goals provide us with a roadmap. Since we have so many directions we can go in life, we sometimes end up going nowhere because we have the inability to choose. Goals prevent this from happening. Instead of listing out goals in the traditional sense, goals that you’ll actually accomplish are separated into two parts – a Most Important list, and a Life Statements list.
The Most Important list is a short list of things you want to accomplish in the upcoming year. It’s a list that, if accomplished in its entirety, will qualify your year as successful. In fact, these goals are so important that if you accomplish nothing else the entire year except for the things on your Most Important list, then you would consider your year a success.
The purpose of this list is to help with the first reason we set goals – by providing priority and purpose for the decisions you make. This prevents you from pursuing too many things or experiencing decision paralysis, in which you have so many options you don’t know where to begin, so instead you do nothing.
The second list is a list of Life Statements. These Life Statements fulfill the other reason we set goals – by pushing us to become the ideal version of ourselves. Life Statements essentially answer the question, “What do you want to be known for when you die?” These Life Statements relate to the seven areas that are mentioned in Dan Miller’s book 48 Days to the Work You Love. These are powerful, short statements that describe the kind of person you want to be. The truth is that you will be known for something in each of the seven areas, whether you choose to or not. By developing these Life Statements, you will have a purpose and direction that you are constantly pursuing.
As humans, we naturally wear out and lose focus on what’s important. We begin with the best of intentions each year, but we quickly fall back into our old habits. Change that this year. Make a difference. Get active. Determine what goals are most important to you this year and complete them. Create Life Statements that become a part of you, and help you make the right decisions when times are tough. Don’t let your past dictate your future, and make something big happen in 2012, because what you do in 2012 will set you up for the years to come. Just like the famous quote says, “Everyone ends up somewhere; why not end up somewhere on purpose.”
At 5 A.M. on Thanksgiving morning I was doing the worst thing imaginable – waking up. Not only was I waking up early, but I was waking up to run, which is only fun if you’re crazy or incapable of feeling pain. After cursing past John for signing me up for this competition, I decided to get out of bed and make this thing happen. After all, there was a huge turkey waiting for me when I got home so at least there was a worthwhile motivation to finish. After getting on Marta with my friend and thousands of other ambitious and starry-eyed runners, we had finally arrived. This was no longer a figment of our imagination that we had spent the past six months training for, this was actually happening. Here are the lessons I learned from the Atlanta Half Marathon.
People love running, and I’m not one of them.
Thousands of people paid $70 to run 13 miles. Think about that for a second. There aren’t many things I would pay $70 for, and running is certainly not one of them. But here I was, showing up at the starting line with thousands of other faithful runners to accomplish a goal we had set out for ourselves, either because someone tricked us or we really do care about this whole running thing.
13 miles is longer than it sounds.
13 miles is a REALLY long way. The farthest I ever ran before the race was 10 miles and it wasn’t even on purpose – my friend and I got lost during an 8 mile run and we accidentally ran two miles more than we originally intended. Although it wasn’t my proudest moment, I thought running 10 miles would fully prepare me for the 13 miles of a half marathon. Wrong. Completing miles 10, 11, and 12 was like trying to climb over a three story wall without a rope while watching a Bob Ross re-run – boring, pointless, and definitely not easy.
I empathize with ReluctantRunners.com.
ReluctantRunners.com has the tagline, We love running – just not while we’re doing it. I couldn’t describe it any better myself. Training for the half marathon is a miserable experience in which every week, you’re dedicating 6-7 hours to inflicting massive amounts of pain on yourself. But the sense of victory you get after finishing a race makes all the training worth it. Running is a sport that brings a lot of satisfaction in the end, but it’s making it through the daily grind that makes it difficult.
Wearing a costume makes you funnier, but not a better runner.
Before the race, people dressed up as pilgrims, Indians, turkeys, and basically every other Thanksgiving related costume you can think of. Apparently it’s only fun at the beginning though, because about a mile or two in the race, I started seeing pilgrim hats, turkey feathers, sweatshirts, and gloves all thrown to the sidewalk. But it wasn’t until the final few miles that true chaos broke out. Pilgrims were gasping for air, Indians had slowed to a crawl, and turkeys had shed their beaks and feathers and were hobbling to the finish line.
Running is more than just exercise.
Despite my slight aversion to running, I’ll have to admit it isn’t always bad. As painful as running is every day, the benefits you get from a lifestyle of running are incredible. Not only did I feel healthier, but I had more energy throughout the day, was conscious about my diet, didn’t get as stressed, and slept like a baby most nights. It’s a small commitment that has lead to a significant lifestyle change for the better.
With the dawn of each day come new goals, achievements, and the ever increasing problem of more. Although we are lauded for our over-booked schedules in a margin less society, scripture informs us we are to be content in any and every situation (Phil 4:12). The thought of contentment sounds like a great idea, especially considering the increasing amount of busyness in our lives. Yet, very few of us actually understand what contentment looks like. As a society, we typically confront the following paradox when learning about contentment:
- Become too content and we become complacent.
- Become too discontent and we run ourselves into the ground physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I’ve always been a definition guy. It may not always be the most enlightening way to convey a point, but definitions provide insights that otherwise may have been initially overlooked. After looking up the definitions for “contentment” and “complacency” I noticed they look surprisingly similar:
Contentment: a feeling of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation
Complacency: a feeling of self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
Did you notice the difference? It’s the reality of the situation that causes the two separate definitions. To put it simply, contentment is a sincere feeling of satisfaction based on truth, whereas complacency is a counterfeit image of contentment based on a false sense of security. How true does this ring in your own life? How often are you truly satisfied because of truth alone regardless of your circumstances?
As Christians, we have a reason to be content in any and every situation. Why? Because the gospel is our hope. Since Christ died and conquered death to give us His righteousness, we have victory despite our circumstances. Our circumstances are not our reason for contentment, but as Christians, we are content despite our circumstances. That’s why Paul had the ability to write these words from the middle of a prison cell in arguably the darkest days of his life.
What does this mean for you?
It’s important to understand that we naturally wear out as human beings. Just like a car needs to be re-aligned from being driven over a period time, we too need to be re-aligned on a regular basis. It is this principle that causes us to become complacent or dissatisfied over time, even though we begin with the intention of remaining content. For those of you who are pursuing a God’s vision for your life, I would ask you to do one thing each morning when you wake up: test your focus.
Ultimately contentment is a matter of focus. It’s a matter of where you are going to fix your vision. Is your focus set on Christ, or is it on yourself?
Until you truly set your focus on Christ, you cannot unlock the key to contentment. Becoming too dissatisfied with your life? Focus on the abundant hope we have in the gospel. Becoming complacent in your circumstances? Focus on His commands for us to be faithful disciples until the very end. God has prepared a good work for each of us who are in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10) and it is our responsibility to steward this work for His glory. Honor God today with your contentment.