Cooking up Ideas

Thinking into the future

You disagree? I must hate you now!

I’ve been really intrigued at the response over the last month or so to the passing of two political/social icons – Justice Antonin Scalia and former First Lady, Nancy Reagan. In today’s world it seems to be an oxymoron.

How can it be that people who couldn’t have disagreed with the positions of either more are saying wonderful things about the people they were.  Is it possible for Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsberg to be really good friends?

How can that be?

If you disagree with someone you’re supposed to destroy their personhood, aren’t you? Isn’t that our social and political culture? Friendship with someone we disagree with is an oxymoron. It is our responsibility to put them in their place. To force them to see the error of their ways. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work?

I wonder.scorched earth

Why is it we often feel the need to practice a scorched earth policy when it comes to ideas and disagreements?  I watched this play out recently at my alma mater, Wheaton College.

The entire episode didn’t make me angry, it made me very sad. I can only think of one person in the entire conversation who consistently advocated a position of civility. Everyone’s motives were questioned.  By everyone.

Every. Single. One.

By the way posting a piece on facebook as “information” – even without comment – doesn’t earn you a pass. You’re still party to the lack of civility.

But sadly this isn’t something new. I’ve been very frustrated at watching the Wheaton College community act over the years. Now you can feel free to disagree with me but I think that the change of mascots may have been an omen of things to come. I’m not at all suggesting that the Crusader mascot should have been kept.

It just seemed to me at the time – and now – that the choice of mascots now is just a bit curious and perhaps a sad statement on where the evangelical community is moving (all of them — liberal and conservative).

Perhaps to give you a little insight into my perspective I heard about it listening to the Bob & Tom show on my way to work (not really the most uplifting of radio shows). It made for a great joke on the show. So … what did the college choose?


It’s a loud noise that does absolutely nothing. Ok it may scare small children. It may knock a few things off the wall at times but it really doesn’t do anything at all. Talk about inspirational. (Please feel free to insert your own image of thunder here, I couldn’t find one.)

What I find so ironic is that is exactly what we become when we can’t agree and can’t be name callingfriends. When we resort to name calling. When we base our responses on people’s motives (because we obviously know what’s in their hearts!).

In this most recent “controversy” there are valid arguments and positions on both sides. But maybe it’s deeper than that.

It seems to me that we don’t know what to do with our faith if we’re not “right.” I’ve seen fathers and sons not speak to each other for years because their position on eschatology didn’t match. I’ve seen friendships fall apart because one had a young earth view and the other had an old earth view.


Is our need to be right all that important? More important than our need to be kind? More important than our need to be a light into a dark world? Please don’t hear this as a call for “anything goes” or that there isn’t absolute truth.

I think one of the biggest challenges for Christians is how to be “in the world but not of the world.” Too often we’re afraid that the two are the same. So we retreat back behind the walls of our churches to keep the world at bay.

Even if that were a good thing (and I don’t think it is) that also means walling out other Christians who don’t believe exactly how we believe. After all they’re wrong and we’re right so we “can’t associate together or my friends will think I’m one of them.”

I have to say that throughout the whole recent debacle at Wheaton College, I was tempted to unfriend many people. Not because I didn’t agree with their point of view (some I did, others I didn’t) but because their tone and approach was so unkind. Because they assumed they knew the hearts and motives of the other side.

But, how would I be any different if I did that?

I still want to be your friend whether we agree or not. Frankly, I’d love to engage with many of you more. I enjoy healthy debate – it’s fun for me especially when it’s a bit controversial. But I feel as though people are painting my portrait with a 12-inch roller. I guess that might be ok if it’s on the side of a building (though who would really want that?) but not if it’s going to fit in my living room.

Maybe that’s why I’m such a big fan of the artist Georges Suerat. His painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte” is hanging in The Art Institute in Chicago. It’s from a style called pointillism. I think that’s a great way to see each person.

Georges_Seurat_-_Un_dimanche_après-midi_à_l'île_de_la_Grande_JatteI think, perhaps, that is how God sees us. He sees the whole but he sees all that makes up the whole, too. Maybe I ought to start looking at people that way.

I’d love to make a difference in peoples’ lives. I’d love for every one of them to see Jesus in me – even if it’s not as perfect as I’d like it to be.

I know that’s not always the case.

I wish it were. When I look back over life I see too many relationships that have been left along the side of life’s road. I hope that’s not you. If it is, I’m sorry for letting a valuable friendship drop because we didn’t agree. I’m in a much different place now. I hope it’s better for everyone. I may not agree with you but I still would like to be a friend.

I hope you still want to be my friend, too.

How Can I Be the Salt of the Earth?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged his followers to be the “salt of the earth.” He said that if we lost our saltiness that we should be “thrown out and trampled underfoot.” What if find intriguing is that he never said how the salt should be used.salt

So how should we read this? Is Jesus talking about all of the characteristics of salt or only one? Why did he use salt as an analogy of how we should interact with the world?

What’s even more challenging is that if it ever stops being useful it should be thrown on the path to be trampled. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like something I want happening to me. In order to understand his meaning I began looking at how we actually use salt.

So how do we use salt?

It seems to me that there are primarily four ways in which it is used. Forgive me if I move to cooking analogies but sometimes I can’t help myself.

  1. It provides seasoning;
  2. It preserves;
  3. It can insulate; and,
  4. It makes it possible to churn ice cream at home by lowering the temperature of ice. (Though I’m not sure Jesus was thinking of that when he said this.)

I have often been intrigued by the unique characteristics of salt. Just last night I was at a dinner at Del Frisco’s 6a00d8341cad8253ef013488cdb097970c-320wiDouble Eagle Steakhouse. I had a ribeye that was perfectly seasoned and then grilled to a perfect medium rare. Every single bite lit up my taste buds like the Fourth of July.

Time and time again as I watch various cooking challenges, contestants are often dinged because they under-seasoned something and it came out bland. I think that’s how we often view our role in the world – we have to provide more seasoning.

But …

Sometimes a chef takes things a bit too far and the food is overwhelmed by the salt. It reminds me of a Saturday morning many, many (many, many, many) years ago. I think I was maybe four years old. We lived with my grandfather at the time and he made me eggs for breakfast. Those who know me well know two things: I love butter and I love salt.

I sometimes get very odd looks when I’m salting my watermelon or cantaloupe. On this particular morning I grabbed my eggs, a fork and the salt shaker and headed towards the living room to watch the Saturday morning cartoons. On my way out of the kitchen my grandfather said to me:

Be careful that you don’t salt it too much. Whatever you do, you’ll have to eat it.

ItUse-of-Excess-Salt-ssl probably won’t be a stretch to realize that is exactly what I did. It might as well have been a salt lick. I tasted absolutely nothing but the salt. It obviously made an impression on me that a half century later the memory is as clear as if it were yesterday.

In light of Jesus’ statement, this raises an interesting question in my mind. Is it possible to be too salty? That’s a sobering thought. The more I think about it the more it seems to me that the overuse of salt can actually cause a lot of damage.

Not only does it ruin the taste of the food, it can be bad for you. According to my doctor salt is one of the causes of high blood pressure.  Not good. Just the other day I was trying to get some salt on the ice on my driveway. I didn’t realize I had a paper cut until I reached into the bag for more salt.  It was more than a little painful. I don’t know if salt is good I’m not a doctor.

Salt can also preserve foods.  I wonder how the first person thought to salt the food and found that it didn’t go bad. How it works is quite interesting. The salt draws out the moisture from the meat – and from the bacteria – creating IMG_0409an environment that makes it difficult for the bad stuff to grow.

You could probably salt something to the point that it would never go bad but it is likely that it would be completely inedible, too.

But salt isn’t just used to flavor or preserve. It can be used to increase the boiling point of water and lower the freezing point. And that’s just what’s necessary in Chicago from December through February. (Ok for those of you who live in Chicago you know snow can arrive at any time before Mother’s Day.)

Having lived in both Chicago and Northern Virginia, I have to say that I prefer how Chicago handles the snow.  They use something called salt. Northern Virginia apparently just goes to Virginia Beach and grabs a bunch of sand. It doesn’t work.

new081411churningIceCream2It’s also true that sand won’t reduce the temperature of ice thereby making it possible to churn your own ice cream. While Jesus may not have ever tasted ice cream in his years on earth, I’m sure he would approve this heavenly concoction (and salt’s use in the process)!

But …

One of the big problems with salt is that it destroys the metal on cars (I guess it’s good that they aren’t using as much metal these days on cars!). Too much of a good thing can be damaging. I guess it’s just like over-salting your food.

All of these incredible qualities of this magical mineral called salt. Which brings me back to Jesus giving his Sermon on the Mount. What exactly did he mean when he said that we were the salt of the earth? I

I’m sure he had a reason not to be specific.  I think it’s because we need to be all of those characteristics.  As I interpret this I think that there are four things that he intended that I should be paying attention to.

  1. I have to be engaged. Salt can’t do anything if it’s locked away in warehouses. That means that I have to take a risk and step beyond my comfort zone and go to those places where I can deliver all of the benefits of salt to a world in need of flavor, preserving, insulating, well you get the point.
  2. I have to discern how to be salt in every situation. This means understanding when to preserve and when to flavor. Every situation is different. How you salt a two-inch ribeye is a lot different than how you salt a couple of sunny-side up eggs which is very, very different from how you cure bacon.
  3. I have to continue to be salt. That means being connected to the source of salt – Jesus. Without that connection I am likely to lose the very nature of salt that he called us to be. And,
  4. I have to be careful in how much salt I introduce to every situation. It’s easy to over-season something. Believe me I know. From that very first time when I was four until today I’ve been guilty of over-seasoning (and not just my food!).

If I am to have an impact on those around me – to change, to preserve my community – I have to be careful in how this flavor is introduced. Just the right amount and people will be drawn to the hope that is within us. Too much and they’ll be repelled.

Believe me when I say that I don’t have the answers.  The older I get the fewer answers I have. The more I must rely on Jesus to teach me how to be his instrument every day. I do want to become that perfectly flavored steak that points people in the right direction.

The Easy Way Isn’t

Staples office supplies has suggested that there is such a thing as an Easy Button.  You can press it and all of a sudden your messy desk is clean . . . you have brand new ink cartridges . . . well you get the idea.  If you’ve seen my desks (both at work and at home) you won’t be the least surprised that I wish the easy button existed.

The problem is . . . well the easy button just isn’t.

There’s really no easy way to get organized other than take the time to organize properly.  Without it, you’re back to a mess in no time. Yep. If you’ve seen my desk and back room you know this is true.  Why? Because it takes time and I would rather be doing something else. Maybe it’s in our nature to want to always take the easy way but so often it leaves us wanting.

I’m reminded of something from one of my favorite books Beyond the Summit by Todd Skinner.  Todd was a world class climber who free-climbed some of the most difficult rock faces around the world.  He wrote about completing a climb once and was left with an empty feeling. He accomplished his goal to climb the particular face but took a known route . . . something that was done before.

It was easy for him.  He and his climbing partner took the easy route and came away feeling empty.  Skinner writes that it was because he didn’t learn something  . . . he wasn’t stretched.

Have you ever accomplished something and felt a similar empty feeling?

I have. Skinner’s right when he says that we’re constantly preparing for the next thing. Something more difficult than we’ve tried before. The result when we always take the easy way is often failure because we’re not prepared. I probably ought to remember that the next time I’m dealing with something difficult. It’s just preparation for the next important thing.

The best wine never comes from grapes grown on vines that are constantly watered and provided the best of conditions. The best wine comes from vines that are stressed. Perhaps it’s necessary for us to be stressed, or stretched, in order to produce the best we have to offer.

It’s your choice. It’s my choice.

Or maybe it’s just a simple decision as Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption: “It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.”

Words Have Meaning?

Have you ever thought about the how we use words?

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to relationships can be found in how we use words.  Perhaps you’re a lot smarter than me and are already thinking that this is a penetrating look into the totally obvious.  Obvious for you, maybe, but it took me a long time to understand that in order to effectively communicate we have to understand how the other person uses words.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably thought that all words had a particular meaning.  I say: ‘Nay, Nay.’ Remember a few years ago when our then President debated the use of the word “is.” He’s not alone.  I was once told that the conjunctions “and,” “but” and “or” were interchangeable.


Those words aren’t interchangeable. They have very unique and specific meanings.  We’ve seen two of them played out in a recent commercial series for the Ford cars — I like And better.  You know the ones I mean . . . where the person gets sour chicken in a Chinese restaurant instead of sweet and sour. Watch the commercial here.

While I think most words should have common understanding, there’s one that we typically use that carries with it a whole host of meanings.  And it’s critical to understand how it’s being used in order to fully understand the conversation. The word?


Think about it. What do you mean when you say: “You didn’t listen to me?” I might be off base but I’m pretty sure you don’t mean they didn’t listen to you. I’d be willing to bet a dozen donuts that what you’re really saying is “You didn’t do what I wanted you to do.” I want to use the word based on the understanding that I’m hearing you but you may be thinking that listening has to do with obeying. Those are two radically different ideas.

Am I close?

I was reminded of this again by my friend Paul Carter when he posted this link on facebook. Be sure to watch this.

See what I mean. It hits really close to home. It’s a funny little section but it speaks to why so often we miss the boat in our communication. So the next time you’re in the midst of a kerfuffle, perhaps you should do what I’m trying to do — take a step back and try to come to a common understanding of the words we’re using. Perhaps the whole thing can be resolved by agreeing to one common definition.

Let me know what you think.

The Gift of Being Yourself

Have you ever wanted to be someone else?

I wonder if the concept of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence isn’t just true for things. Could it be that you are secretly wishing you were someone else? Anyone else?

As we begin to approach Christmas, I’m reminded of the great Christmas tale “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This is the story of a man who believes that he’s not all he should have been and when things get tough he wants to end his life.  He looks back over his many years of life and only sees those things that he didn’t do.  He got a picture of how he impacted others through his life.

So, what about you? What about me?

I often look in the mirror and see those things about me that I don’t like.  Those things that I wish were different.  I look back over the last 30 years and think about all the time I wasted.  But more importantly, I think I’ve learned from those times.

One of the things I’ve learned is that God created me to be who I am. That means the things that I’m good at, my personality, the things I love aren’t bad things.  They aren’t things that need to be “knocked out of me” but things that I should be honing.  That’s not to say that I have any illusions about perfection.  Only that I don’t fundamentally need to try to be someone else.

For a lot of years I thought otherwise . . . I was told otherwise.

The essence of who I am, I was told (and believed), was wrong and needed to be fixed.  The problem was that the more I tried to be someone else, the more difficult it was.  For me and for everyone around me.

Today I’m still learning and growing. I make a ton of mistakes.  But I’m finding that I’m much more relaxed about life — and those mistakes. And, I’m finding that people actually enjoy being around me more. I don’t have to be Hugh Jackman or John Candy. I don’t have to be anyone other than myself. But more than that, I am actually enjoying the gifts that other people give to me just by being themselves.

I have a friend, I won’t mention him by name, but he’s in a completely different place in life than I am (read much younger) who constantly energizes me.  I just like being around him.  Most of the time it’s when he’s just being himself.  He has a crazy, west Texas sense of humor and even likes country music. There are lots of things I don’t understand about him, just that I appreciate him and the gift that he is to others around him — especially me.

I am a reflection of all of the unique influences I have in my life.  I have a lot of friends.  All of them are different.  All of them play a unique role in my life.  I’d never wish that any of them were someone different. So to my many friends, new and old(er), thank you for giving the world the gift of who you are. It makes all the difference.

The Risk of Following Your Dreams

What’s your dream?  You know the one I’m talking about — it’s the one you haven’t mentioned to anyone else because you’re afraid that they’ll look at you like you’re from another planet.  It’s the big dream that could be the defining moment of your life.

We all have dreams.  Some of us dream of climbing tall mountains. Some of us dream of becoming the next Steve Jobs.  Some of us dream of more simple things like traveling after retirement. Whatever the dream, most of us are hoping someday to fulfill that dream.

Too often, though, the dream is treated more like a lottery ticket.  You buy it on the off chance that you’ll get struck by lightening twice on the same day. It’s more of a wish than a dream.

But have you ever thought about the greatest risk of your dream? I’ve been thinking of that lately. Some people might suggest that the biggest risk that anyone faces is that you might fail in achieving your dreams. That’s why most dreams remain just that — dreams.  But I don’t think it’s because we fear failure that we don’t chase our dreams.

It’s easy to talk about your dream … or to wish on a star and hope for the best. Achieving your dreams is hard work and it sometimes has failure lurking around every corner.  I know.  I have dreamed of launching my own business. And I did. Only to see it fail a couple of years later. And while it wasn’t a great success as I had hoped, I learned an awful lot from it.

Perhaps what I learned most is that what I feared most wasn’t failure but success. There are plenty of people sitting at the top of some mountain having achieved their dreams who now have nothing else to do.  There’s plenty they could be doing but they’re not.

I’m wondering if more of us wouldn’t be following our dreams if we didn’t fear achieving our goals. Perhaps it’s time to start dreaming again.

Ready to Give Up?

Sometimes the challenges that life throws your way can seem overwhelming. It seems that nothing you do is moving you in the right direction. Are you, like me, ready to throw in the towel?

There’s a well-worn quote from Edmund Burke, the great Irish politician from the 1700s, that says “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” But I think that sometimes we should consider repeating history.

I have always had a desire to study the larger than life people from the past.  People like Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Maximillian I (who for a brief time my father and cousin were convinced could be an ancestor).  But perhaps my favorite has to be Winston Churchill.

He obviously spent time looking backwards and learning from history but he learned what should be repeated and what shouldn’t be repeated.  My favorite quote of his is:

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

I wish that I could say that I have always followed that example.  I think sometimes we’re too concerned of what others may think of us that we give up the fight and sacrifice our convictions of honor and good sense.  I think today we probably call that peer pressure.

So if you’re going through hell right now, perhaps you should be encouraged by another of his quotes:

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

I think that perhaps I’ll spend some more time reading from Edmund Burke as well. Let’s not only learn what not to do from history but what I should be doing.

When Reality Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype

I have a friend who loves to walk.  Who loves to count her steps every day but it’s not always convenient to carry a pedometer. So when a friend suggested that Indiegogo had a product I might be interested in I jumped right on it.  That was before Christmas.

Delivery was scheduled for March. Then it was scheduled for June. Now it’s going to be sometime this summer but it won’t have adaptability to Android. Here’s the thing.

I’m not disappointed.

I’ll eagerly await this new device because, while the original expectations weren’t met, the company has been delivering updates all along the way. They’ve acknowledged where they’ve missed the boat . . . where what they thought would work just plain didn’t work. I’ve been given opportunities to get my money back but I’m not going to because the team is working hard to resolve the problems.  Here’s what he wrote:

Hi everyone,

We know that yesterday’s announcement of our shipping delay to mid-July and not having Android support at launch was a big disappointment for our supporters and I am really sorry. We messed up and I take responsibility for this. Shine has been a much tougher product to make, without compromising quality and in the quantities demanded, than we had envisioned. We are indeed at the final stages of getting it out the door for you and don’t think there will be another delay now that we’ve got some of the key processes nailed down. We look forward to shipping it in July and hope the $25 gift certificate we’re giving to supporters who stick with us through to the launch in a small way makes up for the delay. We would of course understand if you can’t wait until then and would be more than happy to refund 100% of the money you entrusted to us.

To answer the burning question of when we’re going to support Android, I can only say “early next year.” There are a lot of different devices and screen sizes to support on Android and we want to get the user experience right. Although Shine can work on its own out of the box, the experience is obviously not the same without connectivity.

For those of you who want a refund, just email and she’ll make sure you’ll get a refund ASAP. Again, we feel horrible about the delays. For those who are standing by us, a giant thank you for your patience and graciousness.


What a great example of owning the situation and working with his customers. Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced the opposite.

You’re like the pre-teen boy that buys the X-Ray glasses from the back of a comic book. You anxiously await that package, checking the mailbox every day waiting for them to arrive. And when they do, you can’t see through your skin at all.  In fact, if you read the fine print you’d know there was no such thing.

We were sold on the headline. I mean . . . a friend was sold on the headline.

And it was the last thing “he” bought from the back of a comic book.  But the disappointments don’t end there.  If you’re like me, you watch the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as for the game.  Since my beloved Bears haven’t won in two decades, I’m usually not enjoying the game as much. But every year I see commercial after commercial that certainly are, at best, forgettable.

Some are funny. But at the end of the day I’m not really sure who ran the commercial and what they wanted me to do.  I leave every Super Bowl disappointed that the commercials I thought would be so entertaining and brilliant weren’t even close. I think there are a lot of companies

Or perhaps, like me, your marriage has failed and ended in divorce.  Reality certainly wasn’t connected to the hype there. Over and over again we’re confronted with a reality that doesn’t match the hype. But what happens when the reality of you doesn’t match the hype?

What happens when the promises you make don’t match the reality of what you deliver?

Ar you like Sonny, who addressed the issue head on? Or do you make excuses or worse yet place blame?  I work in a service business that requires me, and my team, to meet deadlines. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we don’t deliver on our promises.

Often times there are extenuating circumstances. But, at the end of the day, we didn’t deliver.  I’ve found that the best answer at those times is a simple response:

I’m sorry. We screwed up. What will it take to make this right?

Isn’t that what we’re looking for? Someone to take responsibility and ask what we want to make it right. What if we all responded differently, too? I travel a  lot for business (and pleasure) and things don’t always go smoothly.  Those of you who travel a lot will recognize the understatement. But I’ve found that just getting upset at the gate agent isn’t going to solve your problem.  In fact, it’s likely to make it worse.

I’m not the most patient guy in the world. (Perhaps another understatement) but I’m learning to accept the disappointments of life a little easier.  And it’s making life a little better for me and a lot better for the people around me.

How about you? How do you handle it when reality doesn’t match the hype?

Motivated or Inspired?

What motivates you to do your very best at something?

That’s a question that’s been haunting me for the last several months. I’ve noticed that there are a number of ways to motivate people. I know that I’m motivated in a number of ways. But as I thought about it I realized that motivation only goes so far.  At the end of the day there’s only one way that continues in the face of every adversary. Let me explain.


Fear is often used as a motivator.  Fear of losing your job. Fear of losing money. Fear of … well fear of anything can motivate you to do something. But I’ve found that fear is not a great motivator.  It isn’t lasting. Fear only takes you so far but when the going gets tough, those who are motivated by fear only do what they have to do. They do the bare minimum or less. Just enough to keep the feared outcome away.

Is that really going to get someone’s best work?


Hope can be a great motivator. It’s certainly a lot more positive than fear. Yet, at the end of the day, hope, like fear, doesn’t carry you through when the outcomes aren’t what you expect. I’ve seen it all too many times. After hoping against hope and we still don’t get what we’re hoping for, we give up. I’ve done this. I’ve tried and tried and hoped that a situation would change yet it never does. The result is I walk away . . . either physically or emotionally or both.


Sometimes we think that if we reward someone’s behavior we’ll get more of the same. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes we forget that we’re not all looking for the same thing. We’re all different. What drives you doesn’t drive me and vice versa. Sometimes we get exactly the opposite of what we wanted. We promote someone who was happy being where they were but not where you want them. They walk away and we’re left wondering what went wrong.


It’ll get you started but anger soon burns itself out. It’s certainly not a positive emotion but we’ve all seen anger work for a short period of time. At the end of the day even a righteous anger doesn’t get us through the difficult times . . . the times when it seems as though no one’s on our side and we’re fighting this battle all alone. We burn out. We end up like Jonah in the Bible.

After his time in the whale’s belly you’d think he’d learned his lesson. But he hadn’t.  He was still angry.  He went to the town of Ninevah and delivered God’s message and then, for good measure, he climbed a surrounding hill and waited for the destruction to occur. The longer he sat, the angrier he got . . . especially since the town was not turned into a pile of rubble.

At the end of the day only one thing gets us beyond the troubles of the moment.

I guess I gave it away in the title.  It’s inspiration.  Inspired behavior is much more effective than motivated behavior. Wondering if this isn’t some symantic game? It isn’t. It’s not even subtle. Inspiration beats motivation every single time.

Why is that?

I think it’s because inspiration connects with us at  a very different level than motivation. It connects at the core of our being. Lately I’ve been reading a lot on the subject from Simon Sinek. One of my friends and clients, Jack Wharfield, from Holt International sent me a link to his TED talk and I was intrigued enough to buy his book: Start with Why.

This is a book I recommend that anyone (and everyone) read. It defines the difference between Apple people and the rest of the world.  You know what I’m talking about. Apple doesn’t have customers . . .  they have rabid fans. I mean rabid in every sense of the word. These are people are truly inspired by the company and the products they create.

Nobody has to pay them a dime to sell for the company. They do it just as naturally as they order a cup of coffee from Starbucks. That’s because Apple starts from the center — the why — of what they do. It’s what defines the great politicians from those we have today. I have yet to see a politician today truly inspire people to act differently.

Martin Luther King did not give his “I have a plan” speech but his “I have a dream” speech. (Thank you Simen Sinek!) Notice the difference? Look at the great politicians and how they connected with their constituencies. They inspired people rather than motivated them. And when they did, they got people to behave in ways that weren’t only in the individual’s best interest.

People who are inspired will overcome their fears, they will hope in the face of overwhelming objections, they will not be expecting a reward and will not let anger drive them. These are the people who change the world.

So what about you?

Are you focused on motivating people to do what you want them to do or are you focused on inspiring people to join your cause? Perhaps even more importantly, do you have a cause that people want to join?

Think about it and then tell me.

I’m going to be looking for ways to inspire those around me to want to join with me in whatever great cause I’m leading.

When Trouble Comes Calling

Do you ever feel like the three little pigs with the

big …

      bad …

         …wolf trying to get you?

It sure can feel that way.  The question I have for you is: what kind of house do you have?  When trouble strikes — and believe me no one is immune — have you created an environment where you’ll be safe? As I reflect on about half a life (I hope) I’ve had more than my fair share of difficulties. Most of the time I’ve been able to weather the hot air

Of course there’s always insurance for the big disasters (though I’m not sure that the little pig with the straw house and the little pig with the stick house were insured. But that’s not really the point.  It isn’t the physical impacts that are the most dangerous, it’s the emotional and psychological ones that can do the most damage.  Sometimes the wolf at the door steals our sense of security.

Depending on your generation, you’ll know exactly what was going on during those moments like President Kennedy’s assassination, the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11 and, sadly the tragic events surrounding the Boston Marathon in 2013.

Those of you who know me well, know that I’m not really a glass half full type of guy. I tend to assume that the worst possible impact is what’s going to happen. I don’t think it’s any better (or worse) than looking at the world through rose colored glasses.  Well, actually I think it is but that’s only because I’m never surprised when something really bad happens. Unfortunately, my position can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Even though I’m a pessimist, that I’m able to find hope most often is nothing short of a miracle.  But when I think about it, it’s because my house — me really — is mostly constructed of brick rather than of hay or sticks (there are a few additions that were hastily added that are made of sticks and hay). So when I think about the brick part of my house, I think of three common elements.  Maybe you’ll find them helpful when weathering your angry (and hungry) wolf at the door.


I think the key to any of this can be summed up by my faith.  I believe that God is in control of everything and that not only is he real but he is actively engaged in what happens to each and every one of us.  I don’t think that he’s responsible for the bad things that happen but he is not only aware but active. Does this mean I understand everything (or really anything)? No. But I can live with ambiguity. I certainly don’t have any idea as to why events like Boston just the other day or the Newtown school shootings happen. I understand that there are bad people who do bad things. I don’t need to know all the answers.


One of my friends is fond of saying “It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse.” While it sure feels that way sometimes, that approach to life doesn’t ultimately lead to safety in times of trouble.  Oh, I know I’ve been accused of being Eeyore but in some of the most difficult circumstances in life I have dealt with (and am still dealing with) I don’t believe that things will change but I still have hope that they will. Seems a little inconsistent doesn’t it? But isn’t that really the nature of faith? Acting in a way consistent with your beliefs even though you don’t really have proof.


This is perhaps something that I’ve learned late in life.  I’ve found that when you have the unconditional love and acceptance of at least one other person, it’s like building a brick house around your soul … around the core of your being. Now that doesn’t mean that the other person always agrees with you or thinks you can do no wrong — heavens knows I need someone in my life to tell me I’m full of it — but it means that they know who you are and the accept you. Warts and all.  I’ve found it makes all the difference!

Those are my thoughts. But what about yours? How do you deal with life when the wolf’s at the door? I’d love to hear from you as to how you deal with life’s challenges.

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