What Are You Doing With Your Life

December 3, 2018

A young man lives his teenage fantasy for ten years. Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll. Beautiful models in his bedroom. A contact list of thousands of the “beautiful people.” New York City night club life. Six-figure income.

Then one day (actually a period of time) he changes. Following a couple of years of searching, he finds focus.

Next ten years? He brought clean water to tens of millions of people who had none before. The biggest cause of hospitalization in many parts of the world? Water-borne disease. These people saved from terrible illness.

The next book you should read. And the next charity you should support–charity: water.

Go and Do and Avoid Being Merely a Critic

November 30, 2018

This is a long quote. But we need to hear it often. I just heard a long interview with LeBron James on the Tim Ferriss podcast. He has this quote in his locker. (He’s a basketball player in the NBA, if you don’t know.)

The quote is from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

The world is full of the critic. With social media, their voices are amplified. Thanks LeBron for reminding me.

Be the other person.

First Serve Others

November 29, 2018

If you serve others, you serve yourself in the end.

We are told to be like a light on a hill during a dark, desert night. That light will shine for miles. Like a lighthouse guiding people.

If you are trying to build a business, first serve others. If you have structured your finances correctly, focus on serving others results in a profitable business.

The same with a non-profit organization. And with churches. How many churches or non-profits are focused on themselves and lose their way?

How about you? Are you a light on a hill serving others? Or are you adrift in life looking for the lighthouse for guidance? Or maybe even unaware of the existence of a lighthouse and drifting dangerously close to breaking up on the rocks.

Individually or corporately, first serve others. The rest follows.

Why Did I Do That

November 28, 2018

Sometimes I do things or say things and a little later wonder exactly why.

Understanding our motivations before we act leads to a giant step in maturity.

Maybe we react from our fears or our greed or our pride or our appetites.

The moment between thought and action is the most important moment of life.

In that moment we have the opportunity to be mature or not.

In that moment breath is the most important thing. The exhale changes our body, emotions, attitude.

In the breath we return to the spirit.

We Are All Interconnected

November 27, 2018

Once in meditation, I was brought to a room. Then suddenly appeared all different peoples. People of different races, cultures, genders. And I was given the realization that we are all connected. And we are all in this thing called life together.

The Roman emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote a reminder to himself, “Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe.” 

Travel brings wonderful things into consciousness if we but open our eyes. We get out of our tribe. We see that other people have the same joys and struggles. Within our tribes it is easy to impugn the motives of others. When we realize how interconnected and alike we all are, we are convicted of our own motives.

[Note: If you notice posts this week are a little early, it is because I am in Germany.]

We are placed here to help others and do good. I must remind the technologists to whom I write professionally that the purpose of developing and implementing technology is to help people. To be more like Scott Harrison who founded Charity Water using technology to bring safe drinking water to millions. (Link is to his new book.) Not to be like Mark Zuckerberg who uses and manipulates us in order to become a billionaire.

Jesus told us God is Love and that we should channel that love to all of our neighbors. Meditate often on how all of God’s creation is interconnected and interdependent.

Working On Our Lives

November 26, 2018

Robert Pirsig introduced us to the subject matter of his story, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, saying, “The real motorcycle is your life.”

I have been studying the Stoics for the past several months. They have much to teach us about maintaining that “motorcycle” that is our lives.

Epictetus once said, “the subject matter of the art of living is one’s own life.”

It is now the end of November. We humans usually mark life by a calendar year. Last January we had hopes for the year. We may have detailed some spiritual and daily living practices we hoped to follow in order to become closer to our ideal self this year.

It is the beginning of time to reflect on how we’ve done this year.

How are we doing in the art of living?

What practices have we neglected?

It’s not too late to pick up those practices. Thirty days of bringing those practices into our lives will give us a good start heading into a new year.

Black Friday

November 23, 2018

It’s finally here. Not Thanksgiving, but Black Friday.

The build up has been intense. My email inbox has been at least half Black Friday promotions. Some even talk of Black Friday week, as though Thanksgiving doesn’t even exist.

I guess that we can bless four-day holiday weekends. If you don’t have to go to work, you can shop for Christmas presents–oh, and pick up something for yourself while you’re at it.

This is of course not a new phenomenon. Since the rise of retailers in the 19th Century, they’ve needed Christmas sales to boost the year’s income statement from red (a loss) to black (a profit).

Christkindlesmarkt begun in Nuremberg in 1545 has much more charm as a Christmas celebration and retail experience.

We’ll visit the one in Chicago which squeezes the Nuremberg experience into one plaza with people packed so tightly that you can’t find the end of the queue for mulled wine. But there are also interesting things from much of Europe on display.

Maybe we get the rush of Black Friday week, Cyber Monday (which was really Cyber Wednesday and Thursday this year), and minds filled with Christmas shopping behind us, so that we can pause a little each day to reflect on a greater purpose. Make that part of the daily discipline.

Thankful

November 22, 2018

Jesus once healed 10 men. Two returned to thank him after they discovered they had been healed. The other eight? Who knows?

Not everyone will thank you for the work you do.

But all will be blessed.

If you are doing work according to your call and your gifts. And if you do work to serve others.

Maybe you build a product. Or maybe you offer a service or give advice.

In America we set aside a special day originally to thank God and those who provided a bountiful harvest so that we may live another year.

But making every day a thanksgiving day increases our health and well-being. And those around us.

Thinking Clearly

November 21, 2018

I saw a translator’s note in the writings of Epictetus the ancient Roman Stoic philosopher.

He said Epictetus was a joy to translate because he used short sentences. The sentences were clearly thought out.

Try reading philosophers and scholars of the last 50 years or more. They use many phrases and dependent clauses. They pile thought on top of thought. Until you discover you are spending more time deciphering their idea than the value of the thought.

A writer once said, I don’t have time to write a short piece.

Physicists Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman both said if you cannot write the idea out simply, then you don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Teachers, please use whatever class you lead to provoke your students to think clearly and express themselves as simply as possible.

Demand the same from employees.

Don’t be like the majority of business books written over the last 20 years. When you have made your point–stop.

Justice for the Poor

November 20, 2018

“Let the poor say, ‘I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us.’ ”

From Give Thanks by Henry Smith.

We sang that song last Sunday as part of a Thanksgiving service. (Thursday is the American Thanksgiving Day holiday.)

The social movement of 19th Century Europe (and later in America) was farm workers flocking to the cities to get jobs in the new industrial manufacturing plants. Only, they discovered very low wages and terribly unsafe working conditions.

And the owners of the factories? They lived like the kings and princes they had displaced in the social hierarchy.

The Christian church in Europe where most of this was going on responded by saying, “Let the poor rejoice in the kingdom to come.”

Reaction to this attitude was predictable. The workers rebelled when they could. Philosophers and political thinkers rejected the church. These “preacher’s kids” started writing atheist tracts about justice for the poor–now, not in some future when they are dead.

Residue from these attitudes on each side affect the Christian church in Europe, and to a degree in America, even to today.

Jesus and his followers talk often about justice, mercy, and giving to the poor. Think of the story of Ruth and Naomi and how they were destitute and shown mercy by a wealthy kinsman.

As we thank God for our blessings, let us show mercy and compassion as Jesus commanded and give to the poor for their blessing.