After A Long Hiatus….

6 12 2015

After A Long HiatusI’ve taken quite a long sabbatical from writing regularly on this blog.  One post in the past sixteen months has been it.  I now intend to return to at least semi-regular, if not regular, contributions to this page.

Much has happened in the past year and a half.  Our eldest daughter married a fine man from the Plains.  Both are now happily ensconced in the Deep South, surrounded by salt water and palm trees.  My wife, Kath, and I visited them a month ago.  A great trip.  They are well.

Our youngest daughter, happily married for the past two years, has moved with her husband, another son of the Plains, thousands of miles away to new tasks.  They, too, are surrounded by palm trees and salt water.

Our vacations will be superb!

Here in northern New York, we recently sold our one hundred and one year-old Victorian farm house and have a smaller apartment close to work.  We are content.  Our home of fourteen years served us well but, with our two daughters married, it was more house than we needed.  So we sold to a fine young family with adorable children.

Candidly, sheer busyness accounts for my writing hiatus, a good bit of it anyways.  But more than that, I’ve learned some things over the past year and a half.  My reading has increased in breadth and depth.  I’ve had the good fortune to be mentored skillfully and have been forced to reevaluate many of my cherished prior commitments about life, human accomplishment and foible, God, reality, and lots of other things.

I hope to share the fine authors and thinkers who’ve helped me grow.  They’ve not been easy on me.  And won’t be easy on you either.  But then again, as a mentor recently admonished me, “Do not be seduced by low-hanging fruit.”  What has value must be extricated at cost and time.

Or, as Sara Groves sings on her newest record Floodplain, “Love is a diamond hidden in mountains, covered in danger and dirt.”

Let’s do this.  Thanks for reading!

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Putting In Your Time and Paces

31 07 2014

Putting In Your PacesJim Rohn is one of my favorite self-development teachers.  I’ve been mentored by him over the past few years through his writings and recorded seminars.  I have never met him.  He died in 2009 after a full life.

Some time ago, I heard him dispense this nugget, worthy of wrapping one’s head around:

“Make rest a necessity, not an objective.”

Now that’s a new and powerful way of highlighting the importance of working hard.

Rest is something we earn.  This sounds foreign to American ears.  We are used to the “standard” of a forty-hour work week.  But forty hours of labor over a seven day period—as enough to get ahead–is distinctly Western and recent.  Our grandparents didn’t think like this.

I’ve heard it said that if you’re only working forty hours a week, it’s not likely you’ll get ahead–certainly not as far ahead as your dreams, goals, and ambitions.

Even God worked six days out of seven when He created the cosmos.  He wasn’t done on Friday afternoon at 5:00.

I have family members who are doctors, attorneys, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, Federal officials, and much more.  They’ve all gotten where they’re at the old-fashioned way:  They worked their tails off.  Nobody handed any of them anything.

Here are just a few benefits that will return to you with greater effort and longer hours, as you create a life:

  • You will certainly grow in your chosen fields of vocation and avocation.
  • Your sense of accomplishment will increase as you tackle and master more skills and meet goals.
  • You will run far ahead of the pack simply because many, if not most, are content to put their expected time in, satisfied with “working their forty hours.”
  • Your earning potential will undoubtedly increase, especially if the extra effort is focused and you strive for greater levels of excellence at all to which you put your hands to.

This isn’t a paean of praise to workaholism, far from it.  But in a culture that lives for the weekend, for partying, for good times and leisure, one tends to get an unrealistic picture of what it takes to win at life and realize your full potential.  It’s simply a matter of adjusting your perspective to accord with reality.

So my advice is this:  See work and labor not as a curse, but as a blessing.  Some of the most successful people in recent memory got that way, in sizeable measure, because they love working:  Donald Trump, Gene Simmons, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.  Look for lots of increases in many different ways as you likewise work harder toward fulfilling your destiny.

And, when you have striven and exerted and are tired, then rest.

You’ve earned it.

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True Friends…Rarer Than You Think

14 07 2014

True FriendsThere is a proverb in the Bible that goes like this: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

We all survive and thrive on the comfort of those who know us best, who get us back on our feet and help us to carry on when the going gets tough.

I am continually challenged to take my ability to be a friend to another level.  My wife and I have made some strategic decisions for the next year and are laying out goals for our personal and professional development.  Often, in my desire to offer comfort I sabotage her by offering a way out of difficulty rather than challenge in the pursuit of her goals and dreams.  She’s told me, “I really need you to be a friend to me and not let me out of these goals when things are not easy.”

I have to admit, it’s far easier for me to soothe when I should be urging her on to hit the marks she has set, with affection and encouragement.

How about you?

As a friend, you are able to speak in love to those closest to you and help them become the best they can be.  In fact, it’s your love and commitment that makes such direct challenges palatable.

Here’s some starters to help be a better friend:

  • “You’re overextending yourself.  Why don’t you get to bed a little earlier? You need sleep—not more movies.”
  • “Come on.  You’re better than that!”
  • “Do you really need that second bowl of ice cream or can of beer?”
  • “There’s a trend I’m seeing in your attitudes.  Let’s talk about it.  I’ll walk with you through this and stick with you.”
  • “You need to take better care of yourself.  Why don’t you make an appointment to see a doctor?”
  • “Be a class act.  Don’t descend to the level of petty gossip and malice over what [insert name] has disappointed you with.”

Being a friend surely means offering solace and empathy.  But it also has the character of a good coach—you help those you love to win.  Be that friend.

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Passion: A Stallion’s Default Setting

13 07 2014

Passion StallionDo you know what gelding is?  It is a stallion that has been neutered.  Testicles removed.  Castrated.  No stones.

Those who raise horses geld stallions for lots of reasons.  One of them is to make the horse more sedate.  Well-behaved.  Easier to manage.

There is one considerable drawback.  Geldings cannot stud.  They are sterile.  Unable to reproduce.  But they’re nicer, I suppose.

In his book The Journey of Desire, John Eldredge recounts an unsuccessful counseling experience he had with a guy named Gary.  Gary was nice.  Well-behaved.  Easy to manage.  His wife was worried because he had no passion for anything.  He was a “nice Christian boy.”  Did all the right things.  But not out of any deep sense of conviction.

A gelding.

Eldredge was unable to help a man who’d lost all drive for anything in life.  A good deal of this hemorrhage of basic testosterone was no doubt rooted in a distorted idea of what the ideal Christian male is.  “Gentle Jesus–meek and mild.”  You get the picture.  Not the type of person who drives thieves from the sanctuary with a whip and uses strong, impolite language with religious bullies.

Passivity, especially in males, is the bane of our age.  It sours marriages.  It produces mediocre job performance.  Is often sedentary and unambitious.  It leaves those who count on us without a leader.

Geldings don’t change the world.  Sorry, but it’s true.

When I read about heroes in history, I find they were possessed with passion for whatever their mission was in life.  Teddy Roosevelt.  King David.  Richard Branson.  Judas Maccabeus.  Steve Jobs.  And Jesus Christ.  True, they made mistakes (Jesus excepted).  And when they screwed up, it was a disaster.  But when they triumphed, it made history.

Your wife wants you to be passionate.  So do your kids.  Your friends and colleagues too.

In fact, the whole world wants it.

This is your time to be all there.  Find something—anything—worth doing and do it with all your might.

Suggestions:

  • Get out of your chair at night and get moving.  Exercise, do extra work, take on a new project demanding effort and adrenaline.  You don’t want to end up like so many poor souls whom you see at the discount stores, grossly overweight, listless and unhappy.  Too many cheap carbs and time in front of a television or computer screen.  It doesn’t have to be you.
  • Start a blog.  I did and so have countless others.  This one is sticking and having the net effect of making me get off my duff and practice what I preach to my readers.
  • Repeat after me: “I matter.  I can do this.  I am not a nobody.  And the world is counting on me being fully there in whatever I am doing.”  Again, if it isn’t worth doing with all your might, it probably isn’t worth doing.  You be the judge.

You’re called to be a stallion.  Don’t sell yourself short.  Go and produce life!

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Personality, Uniqueness and Boundaries

12 07 2014

boundaries“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (William Shakespeare)

Some time ago, I found myself thinking about what motivates the decisions we make in life.  There are numerous perceived and imperceptible influences that guide us in our decisions.  Some are healthy.  Others are not.

For example, you may have made decisions about where to make your home and your living out of a desire to please others, even those close to you.  You may have taken on burdens simply because you were afraid that if you declined—a boundary mechanism—you would lose favor with somebody.  And then you live with regret and varied degrees of toxic self-disdain and recrimination.

Seven years ago, a pastoral colleague of mine shared something with me over lunch.  He told me that the most important book he’d ever read, outside of the Bible, was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  In fact, he refused to marry any couple who came to him for premarital counseling and would not read the book, a requirement for him to solemnize the nuptials.  Yes, it’s that important.

Long and short of the message of Boundaries is this: The most important boundary marker you have at your disposal is the word no.  You simply have to use it.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and a little ornery; maybe because I’ve hit the half century mark, complete with health concerns; but I now realize that the person I have to live with until I die—every waking and unconscious moment—is me.  Christian Fahey.  And when, to paraphrase Shakespeare, I’m not true to myself…I don’t walk in integrity…I’m not true to my calling, my wiring, my passions for life and vocation, I have to live with me.  My conscience.  My memories.  My misgivings.

All of a sudden, pleasing other people at the expense of doing what I know is right and valid seems hollow indeed.  Life’s too short to be somebody else.

So here’s to moving forward, living in such a way that minimizes regrets and self-doubt.  Here’s to being true to the God-given vision for yours and my life.  Here’s to being true to oneself.

And it will surely follow that we’ll all be more true to others.

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Giving People A Superior Experience

8 07 2014

3 day Uyuni trip San Pedro to Uyuni, salt flat photos locosA few years ago, I read something from renowned editer and author Sol Stein in his excellent book, Stein On Writing. He wrote that the correct intention for a writer was “to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in everyday life.” I was really struck by that because, like many others who write and enjoy it, I do so “because I have something to say” or “need to get something off my chest” or “have a passion for this or that.” Stein’s point is that the focus of our writing is to enhance the life of the reader, give him or her something better than the predictable, workaday experience they currently enjoy or endure. It’s not about me.

I had to ask myself, “How do people experience my place in their lives?” Being honest I had to admit that at times my involvement in the lives of the people I live and work with have energized them. And at other times—being brutally honest—I’ve drained them. Usually the drain part comes when it’s all about me. And the energizing quality comes when I forget me and seek to “provide (name) with an experience that is superior to the experience (name) encounters in everyday life.”

Be honest. How do people experience you?

The world was changed and moved in a seismic way by the work and thinking of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers. When Steve passed away, I happened to be reading Leander Kahney’s excellent book Inside Steve’s Brain. The one thing that emerged very quickly from my reading was that the experience of the user was one of the absolute core values of Steve Jobs and Apple. Still is. Millions of dollars and countless thousands of work hours were and are spent to provide Apple customers with a superior experience in their interaction with modern technology. Jobs examined every aspect of the experience of an Apple customer and, with his outstanding team, honed it endlessly to ensure that the complex was simplified and that the experience of the buyer—even down to the opening and assembly of a new computer—was superior to anything else out there. Jobs’ solution to the problem of pirating of music (through illegal downloading) was to provide such a superior experience for one visiting the iTunes Store, that one would be willing to pay for the tunes and files they wanted, rather than pirate them. A superior experience as a curative for a moral and economic problem. Brilliant.

Challenge for the day: Ask yourself how people experience your presence in daily life. Be honest and willing to make adjustments, shifts in thinking, learn new stuff, whatever. You may be surprised how people jump out of the woodwork when they see how their lives are enhanced just by being with you—a superior experience.

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Larry Bird’s Hall of Fame Habit

6 07 2014

The Work Ethic of Larry BirdIn 1979, Larry Joe Bird, “the hick from French Lick (Indiana)”, first broke into the NBA, the beginning of a long and spectacular career with the Boston Celtics.  Larry had a practice regimen that he faithfully observed throughout his career.  He would arrive at the venue at least two hours before game time and, with the help of a ball boy, shoot baskets.  Over and over.  Before every single game.  Larry said that through hard work and self-discipline, he was able to go farther in his career than other guys who had better natural gifts but didn’t work hard developing their talents.  Though Bird was tall (6’9”), he couldn’t run or jump well.  But he could outshoot and outthink his opponents.  This he did time and time again.

We all come into life with certain aptitudes, advantages and challenges.  What we do with what we’ve been given determine the kinds of lives we make for ourselves.  Quality and success in life do not come automatically.  You may have superior intelligence, even brilliance.  But if you neglect the hard work of study, learning, practice and productivity, your potential will remain unfulfilled.  That software developer, entrepeneur, author, cardiologist or Grammy Award-winning musician inside you does not emerge automatically.

Some years ago a friend of mine was working on his Ph.D (in education).  When asked what types of students earn their doctorates (versus those who don’t), he remarked, “The Einsteins wash out.” Why? “Because you can’t outsmart the work.”  That was the secret of Thomas Edison’s genius.  “It’s plain hard work that does it.”

Similarly, you may have come into life with health problems in your family tree.  Those challenges do not have to define or limit your life.  You may have obesity, heart disease or high blood pressure in your family line but their effects are not necessarily inevitable.  Again, it takes work—the hard but fruitful work of exercising, eating carefully, avoiding unhealthy behaviors and stuff.

Life is what we make it.  It’s a canvas to paint on.  Like Larry Bird, with hard work and self-discipline, we can take modest giftings, even disadvantages and turn them into a Hall of Fame life.

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