Alex Hoffer

The Power of Stepping into Your Discomfort Zone

Yesterday, I had a frank conversation with our new VP of Operations, where I asked him to provide me with honest feedback — and he delivered. And even though his feedback nudges me outside of my comfort zone, it’s the only thing that will help me become a better person, leader, and even golfer! 

I believe we must be willing to be uncomfortable to truly improve — we have to be willing to actively ask for and receive feedback. And my goal in sharing the feedback I received is to challenge you, the reader, to also step into your discomfort zone so you, too, can improve.  

Example 1: Work and Leadership 

I’m blessed to be developing a deep relationship with our new VP of Operations — we speak to each other openly and with vulnerability, and the honesty in our meetings is refreshing. With that in mind, I felt comfortable asking him to point out my blind spots — what do people perceive about me that I don’t know about myself? And while my ego would rather not share his feedback, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone in the spirit of vulnerability and growth.

  1. I may not be as approachable as I thought: Our VP shared that the people on our production floor recognized that I was very visible and on the floor daily. But outside of the day shift, he noticed that some of our workers were intimidated to talk to me. Others would talk to me but only tell me what they thought I wanted to hear. He shared, “This probably isn’t fair to you because I can see you’re trying to be approachable, but you probably need to go the extra mile in seeking their input.”
  2. I should be firmer in my expectations: My VP’s feedback was that he noticed I could be direct in meetings and then would try to be nice afterward, which could come across as “inauthentic.” This was tough to hear, as authenticity is my goal! He suggested that “…sometimes the team needs to see you are upset. Be respectful, but be direct.” This feedback was a helpful reminder that one of my blind spots is seeking the approval of others, which is why being direct without trying to “soften the blow” can be challenging for me. 
  3. I should give feedback directly to the source: He clarified that he also struggled with this, given that we have nine production plants. For me, he suggested I give plant appearance feedback directly to the specific plant manager rather than lumping my observations into a more general message all plant managers receive. 

Example 2: Golf Lesson 

The evening after my feedback meeting with the VP of Operations, I was taking a golf lesson with a new instructor. This was my second lesson as I attempt to improve my golf game after plateauing at a six handicap for the last few years. After seeing me hit a few shots and filming my swing, my instructor (someone who I specifically sought out due to his status as a “top 100 teacher”) asked me, “How open are you to change?” I responded, “That’s why I’m here.” 

He told me I was doing things well, considering I am a six handicap. However, he can see why I have plateaued. What was wrong? 

  1. My right-hand grip was too weak.
  2. My upper body turn was “nonexistent.” He asked, “Do you work out or do cardio?” I replied that I have been working out with a golf-specific trainer for two-plus years. He said, “Well, I can see you are strong. But you aren’t incorporating mobility into your swing—it’s nonexistent.”
  3. Finally, he pointed out how my right knee sometimes flares out on my backswing. I told him a former golf pro I’d played with had also pointed that out and told me I couldn’t be good until I fixed that.

    “Well, they’re right,” he said.  


Alone with My Thoughts

This instructor is so booked that his lessons only run 30 minutes, so it wasn’t long before I was driving back home alone with my thoughts. 

Is this even worth it, I wondered? 

“No wonder I suck at golf!” was what I blurted out getting back on the highway. 

And even deeper in the recesses of my heart, a faint whisper said, “…And you aren’t that good at work either.” 

The Next Day

I woke up the day after my lesson and my first thought was a personal declaration: 

I am open to feedback, and I want to get better. 

Frankly, the work feedback was much easier to hear than the golf feedback. 

But — and here is the kicker — in the deep recesses of my heart, I know that both the work and golf feedback were accurate. 

Discomfort is Unavoidable

If my goal is to get better, I cannot (and should not) avoid discomfort.

For example, writing this post is uncomfortable, but I find value in documenting the process — and I am inviting you to join — IF you want to improve. 

If you don’t…you don’t have to be open to feedback. 

If you do…welcome to discomfort. 

Welcome to the pursuit of improvement. 

Lessons from My Fall Golf Trip

Earlier this fall, I took a golf trip with a few friends, and I learned a few things in the process. In the spirit of sharing (and giving thanks!), I’m going to share those lessons here; perhaps there’s something that will resonate with you.

Be thankful for the time you have with those you care for: We planned our trip more than a year in advance due to the business of our collective schedules. There was definitely a spirit of thankfulness throughout.  

I don’t need to schedule every day: My friends have a carefree nature about them that I admire. Their relaxed nature was striking to me. There’s something to be said for taking the day as it comes. Ask yourself, when was the last time you had an unscheduled day?  

Slow down: Similar to the last lesson, I noticed how hurried I am as a type-A leader. I always have things to accomplish and don’t want to waste time. On this trip, I learned, however, that it’s good to take the time to stand on the tee and enjoy the sights (insert a picture of the golf course)  

Admire nature: Speaking of enjoying the sights, our trip coincided with the start of fall foliage. On the morning of our departure, I stood outside and simply admired the changing season. 

Feel feelings: I say what I am about to say with absolutely no judgment because I realize every person is on their own journey. During our trip, one of my friends was experiencing grief—and he admitted that he hadn’t yet felt the sadness. My prayer for him is that he does. Feeling our feelings is the first step to healing. 

Keep your eye on the hole: After a season of putting frustration, I started looking at the hole while putting on this trip. The ball started rolling in a way I hadn’t seen in years. I could write an entire post on this, but I will sum it up this way: Sometimes, you have to get out of your own way mentally, trust your ability, and let it roll.  

Home is where the heart is: Throughout the trip, I just wanted to go home. And I realize that saying this may offend my buddies! To be clear, I love them — I really do. I just love being home with the people who are there. The trip would have been complete if Sarah and the kids had been with us. Since they weren’t, my heart was at home. 

A Final Note of Thanksgiving

Certainly, I had a lot of fun on my trip — it’s something I will be thankful for in the future because there are no guarantees that I’ll be able to take another trip with that group. There are no guarantees in life. 

To that end, I want to close with a somber note. As I think about Thanksgiving 2023, I want to publicly say how thankful I am for John Myrna’s impact on my life. He was a subscriber to this blog, a friend, and a coach of mine. John passed away back in September, and he is someone I will miss. In fact, his love for his wife and family is something I will think about this week as I break bread with my loved ones. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are reading this post! 

Health of a Leader, Part 3

You’re on part three of the Health of a Leader blog post series. Check out parts 1 and 2

I began this series by discussing the need to be clear on your mission. With a clear mission, you can catch a vision — something you must do before you can cast it.

In post two, I pivoted to mental resistance — the negative thinking or self-doubt that happens anytime we start a new endeavor. For a leader to be healthy, they have to acknowledge this resistance and battle against it. We cannot do things with and through others if we do not lead ourselves well first. We also cannot lead others if we are unwilling to fight through the resistance and move forward. This is why having a daily declaration is so powerful. 

In today’s post, I’m sharing one last practice that has helped me reduce anxiety and increase focus. I know that’s a bold claim, but I am confident that if you practice what I am about to share, you’ll see the same benefits. 

First, let’s level set. 

Here’s what I know about the people that read this blog. You are people who are extremely active, professionally and personally. You’re go-getters. And you’re the kind of people I respect because you bring your best in whatever you do. 

What’s my point? 

My point is that you have a lot on your to-do list — and I don’t have to see your list to know that. I know that, like me, you get to juggle hundreds of emails every day, countless invitations to jump on a “quick call,” and kids who are in 93 after-school activities.

Simply stated, you cannot do everything. Most of you already know that, yet I don’t think you can be healthy unless you own that. 

I confess that I struggle with owning that! This is why I returned to something I learned some time ago and created a new practice called “Three promises.” 

Three Promises 

The three promises are promises that I make to myself at the start of every single day. I read these promises out loud to myself immediately after reading my daily declaration.

I see my daily declaration as a pep talk from my brain’s “head coach” that helps reorient my psyche. It shares truth and puts the lies in my head in their place.

The three promises move me from the pep talk to the game plan. It reminds me that no matter what I have to accomplish today, I’ll keep these three things at the forefront of my mind and actions. More than intentions, these are promises that I’m making to myself. Period, bottom line, take it to the bank. This is my “line in the sand” moment. 

Here’s the gist of my three promises:

  1. I promise to focus only on today. 
  2. I promise to focus on spreading the Gospel (the Great Commission). 
  3. I promise to give my best effort in everything I do. This is all I can do. I trust God for outcomes. Let His will be done, not mine. 

And here’s why I chose those particular promises:

I constantly struggle with looking both forward and backward. In fact, I would wager that no one up in the middle of the night is thinking about the present; instead, they’re thinking about something in their past or future. My line in the sand moment came when I realized I had no control over either, so I promised to focus on today. 

The second promise is the most powerful because it puts into perspective every issue I read, talk, and worry about. It helps me remember that the best thing I can do is share the love I have experienced through Jesus. Loved people should love people. I have work to do on this end, so this promise reorients me to what matters most. Obviously, you have to find what does that for you. 

Finally, the third promise came after yet another golf failure. I realized that measuring my score wasn’t the best indicator of my performance — it was just one indicator. Is it the indicator I care about most? Yes. But the effort I gave it is the best indicator because it encompasses everything (body, mind, game plan, etc.). I learned that I could accept a bad score if my effort was solid — and the same goes for results at work. 

Am I bringing my best? That is the question. 

A Final Promise

In this series, I’ve shared a few of my leadership processes to inspire you to create your own. We do not drift into improvement; we must be clear on our mission, understand where we’re going, prepare for resistance, and develop a framework that will help us stay focused on what matters.

My last promise is for you. I promise that if you put these things into practice, you will find renewed focus and energy to do what you value most. 

Health of a Leader, Part 2

You’re on part two of the Health of a Leader blog post series. Check out part 1 here.

In my last post, I shared how clarifying my personal mission and vision helps me focus on what matters and prepares me for the inevitable storms that come in life. It creates a clear picture of where I want to go and what I must do to get there. With this knowledge, I can begin moving from the starting line toward my intended destination. 

But starting always brings with it some kind of resistance. And external resistance can be challenging, but I think mental resistance is even more difficult because it happens in your own head. 

Mental resistance often starts with a little voice in your head. It can be the little whisper of doubt you hear when you get rejected on a sales call. But as you get more rejections, this small voice inside your head can become a roar, saying you are not good enough and will never measure up. 

Unchecked, that negative chatter can permeate all aspects of your life. 

If that sounds too dramatic, maybe I am alone on my own island. After all — and this is tough to admit — earlier this year, I told my doctor that “I feel like a failure right now in just about everything.” 

Okay, that may have been a bit dramatic, but it was how I felt at that moment. The mental resistance I faced had infiltrated how I viewed my life as a whole. Thankfully, that moment led to a better thought on the way home — specifically, that I needed to get right mentally because I was not seeing things accurately. I then remembered an excellent book I read two years ago about winning the war in your mind. 

Daily Declaration 

What I am about to share is something I learned from studying Craig Groeschel. Not only do I recommend that you listen to his leadership podcast, but I also recommend every book he has written. I learned so much from his book, Winning the War of Your Mind, that I cannot recommend it enough. 

In the book, Craig shared a “daily declaration.” The first time I read it, I thought about how powerful Craig’s declaration was. I then referred back to it a few times over the next few months but eventually forgot about it as the months passed. 

My Daily Declaration

Fast forward to that doctor’s appointment: When I was leaving, I remembered Craig’s daily declaration. I knew I needed perspective, so I decided to get his book out and take another look at it. 

I realized that I needed to do a better job of leading myself, particularly in mental health. So I decided to create my own daily declaration, then set a reminder on my phone to read it aloud every morning before work. After 30 days, I planned to ask myself if it made any difference. 

I borrowed some lines from Craig’s daily declaration to create my declaration, then added a few of my own. I ended up with something like this:

Jesus is first in my life. I exist to serve and glorify Him. 

I love my wife and will lay down my life to serve her. 

I love people, and I believe the best about other people. 

I am creative, innovative, driven, focused, and blessed beyond measure because the Spirit of God dwells within me. 

With the power of the Holy Spirit, I can stay calm and collected in the midst of the furnace. For God is with me! 

Of course, your daily declaration would look different than mine, and it might not be so closely tied to spiritual truths. The point, however, is to create a declaration that gives you renewed perspective — a perspective that will give you the fight to take on any internal resistance you feel. Remember: we’ll face resistance in anything worth doing. We must lead ourselves first to counter that resistance. 

My Prayer for You

As we come to a close, I pray that you find inner peace. Life is hard. I write these words a few days after two teenagers were killed in a car accident about a mile from Hoffer Plastics. I can’t stop thinking about their family and the horrific loss they are experiencing. Everybody has to grieve and go through the cycle of grief on their own. In fact, I think the most applicable Bible verse in situations like these is simply: 

“Jesus wept.” 

You might wonder what this tragedy has to do with having a daily declaration? I can only share, again, part of my own declaration, and I share it because it has helped me keep perspective as I weep with those who are weeping.  

Pain is my friend. I rejoice in suffering because Jesus suffered for me. 

Jesus frees me from fearing death. He is there waiting. Eternity awaits. 

Therefore, I can smile through any difficult situation or season. 

I would never preach that to someone else. I’ll reiterate that everyone has to go through the grief process in their own way. 

But I preach this to myself. I declare it to myself. It’s my daily declaration. 

I pray that the resistance you face is the kind that I typically face. And as I mourn with our community, I invite you to create a daily declaration that will allow you to speak truth to the lies in your head and weather life’s inevitable storms.

Health of a Leader, Part 1

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “As goes the health of the leader, so goes the health of the organization.” And with the economic twists and turns this year, this topic has been on my mind. 

Over these next three posts, I’ll share three things I’m doing that have helped rejuvenate my mental health as a leader. These things have been extremely helpful for me, and I pray they will help you, too. 

Defining Your Mission and Vision

As a leader, I’ve found that one of the most important things I can do for my mental health is to define my mission and vision. This seems like a natural starting point to me because if you do not know where you are going — and why you are going there — you cannot be healthy as a leader or a person. That is a bold statement, so let’s unpack it. 

I would imagine that most people reading this blog have heard someone share the need to develop a personal mission and vision — I know I have, literally hundreds of times over the years! But I failed to realize just how much clarity is needed for this exercise. Humans can bear just about any “what” if the “why” is compelling enough. Said differently, if you know where you are going and why you are going there, then you can persevere when tough times come. 

And let’s be crystal clear before going further: TOUGH TIMES 


The other insight I have had on this topic is that I need to reverse the order; in other words, put the mission before the vision. I always thought vision came first, but I have discovered that is not true. 

Here’s why.

Personal Mission

Our corporate mission at Hoffer Plastics is to go ALL-IN on people, plastics, and purpose. This statement solidifies what we do and how we do it every single day. 

My personal mission is similar to our corporate mission, but this is not a necessity. What is a necessity is understanding who you are as a person, what matters, and what sorts of things you are willing to pursue sacrificially. To that end, my mission is to go ALL-In on: 

  • Loving God and loving people 
  • Loving my wife and kids 
  • Stewarding the resources God has entrusted me with
  • Extravagantly blessing others
  • Growing life-long relationships 
  • Promoting the dignity of work 
  • Sharing the love of Jesus with ALL 
  • Creating amazing experiences for family and friends 

Initially, I focused my personal mission statement on my work. Then, I realized my mission encompassed ALL aspects of my life. 

Now, I realize that my mission probably doesn’t jibe with what you want for your life — and that’s kind of the point. It is MY mission. 

Your mission needs to be something that inspires you, so start creating one today. 

Personal Vision

As I mentioned, I used to think that leaders could look out over the horizon and know precisely where they must go. They had “vision.” 

While I still think this is partly true, I have come to realize that the ability to do so comes from living within a mission. A vision comes into focus as leaders work day-by-day to pursue their mission. As I have heard from others, visions must be caught before they are cast. 

I think that’s important, so I will repeat it: before we can cast a vision, we have to catch it. 

Given my mission above, what vision am I catching? 

My vision is to live a healthy life — hopefully into my hundreds — loving Jesus, Sarah, my kids, their spouses, their kids, and their kids’ kids. My life will be about doing meaningful work that: 

  • Builds the Church 
  • Builds the family 
  • Builds other people 

But this is a leadership blog, right? I can practically hear some of you asking, “But what about Hoffer Plastics? What about your work? Why the church?” 

Let me be clear: 

  1. I am 1000% in on Hoffer Plastics. In fact, it is the primary space where I do “meaningful work.” In fact, the work enables me to do all three of the things I identified above. It is truly meaningful work to the third power. 
  2. The Church? This is macro for me. I want to devote the best of my time and resources to helping it thrive and giving people hope worldwide. This probably does not make sense to some readers, which is okay. I have been blessed to see how the Church (macro) has come along aside me when I was a twenty-something lost in his way. I have seen how it has lifted up people of different races when no one else included them in their group. And I have seen radical love and acceptance modeled time and time again. Therefore, I am all-in here. 

Before moving forward, I also understand that other people have had very different experiences in their churches. I am sorry. I am not being trite here. That is not how it is supposed to be. This reality that things are not always how they should be is something that motivates, instructs, and inspires my vision for building the Church. 

I know this may sound weird, but I tried running away from working at Hoffer Plastics. Yet, here I am. I feel a calling — a tug on my heart — to use the blessings I’ve been given (and let’s be clear here, they have been plentiful!) to bless other people. Furthermore, I have seen the power of how manufacturing builds more than parts — it builds people. And this is the kind of work I want my life to be about. 

It’s Not About You

Leaders, your leadership is not about you, your pursuits, or your wants and desires. 

Your leadership is about using the gifts God has given you to help others in every way possible. That is what doing things with and through other people means. 

Doing this is what matters. 

So, get crystal clear on your mission and vision. This will help you weather life’s inevitable storms.

What a Leaking Starbucks Lid Taught me About Value

I like to say that I have been tired since my first son, Will, was born in 2011. With three kids, there is a secret formula to sustainability…coffee. 

Okay, it is not so secret. 

Coffee is the starting point of every day. I can’t even hit the gym at 6 a.m. without brewing a little coffee to get the day going. 

I have been an avid customer of Starbucks because of this. I have liked the consistently good coffee I have gotten from there since I started the addiction (what else do you call it?) in the early 2000s. 

Until recently, that is. 

Providing Value

Value is what customers are willing to pay for. As I just admitted above, I have always been willing to pay a little extra for my perception of better coffee (and by that, I mean better quick-serve coffee — I feel like that distinction is necessary for die-hard coffee drinkers!). 

While the product (coffee) has not changed much, other factors have led me to doubt my loyalty to Starbucks: 

First, I have had CONSTANT leakers. Since the start of 2023, I have had so many coffee stains on my pants that I have bought a Tide-to-Go pen for my office. I have also grown tired of wiping coffee stains out of my car. As a manufacturer (who could mold plastic lids, no less), this is infuriating. I do not pay to get hot coffee dumped on me repeatedly. Obviously, there is an issue with the lid and cup fit. 

Second, the location I frequent is not convenient. There is only one way in and one way out. I have dodged several rear-end attempts by other drivers (who are probably too focused on their leaking coffee cups!) 

Third, there is an alternative option (Dunkin Donuts) that is more conveniently located to the office. So, I gave it a try in early June. While I do not think the coffee is as good, I have gone 10+ times and have yet to have a single drop of coffee drip on my pants. I have moved from the “loyal” Starbucks camp to the “free agency” camp — I now frequent both.

Guarding Against Slippage

The point of this post is simple to grasp but hard to live out. The businesses we lead differentiate themselves on various small, subtle value differences. Just as I did not fully realize how much I valued (and was willing to pay for) a coffee cup that does not leak, I suspect some of our customers probably do not even realize what they value from us. 

Our job as leaders is to find out what those things are and ensure no “leakage” on any aspect of our value. Unfortunately, there will always be some. I am sure if I go to Dunkin long enough, they will mess up an order, or I will have a leaking lid. The point is that leaders need to look for and guard against this slippage. When it comes, we have to address it immediately and fix the problem. 

Then, we will hold on to the value and keep the customer. 

P.S.: I now split my time more evenly. Starbucks won me back in the summer with some really good Nitro Cold Brew. Can you say, addict?!?

Mr T., the Wall Street Journal, and Leadership

Earlier this year, I saw an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about how the American worker continues to be ignored by upper management and owners. Ironically, I read this article on a Saturday morning after an awful night’s sleep; I had been up since 3 a.m. thinking about the announcement we’d made that we were pausing wage increases due to slowing business conditions. 

“Slowing business conditions” is the exact kind of phrase this editorial would probably take issue with. But how else should a leader describe things when that is occurring?

**Allow me to be clear on one thing at the start of this post: I was up at 3 a.m. because while “slowing business conditions” was our reality, it was MY job to co-lead the business in and during, those conditions. NO EXCUSES. I was not blaming Obama, Trump, Biden, or anyone else — and I’ll never understand why business leaders blame the President for their crappy performance? I was up at 3 a.m. because I care about the people on our team. I think about their financial needs and the reality of inflation, and I want to be all-in on helping them win. After all, our mission is to be all-in for people first.** 

Leaders Bring People Together

Fast forward to today. This morning, I made the mistake of turning on YouTube TV while finishing my cereal. I listened to some “posers” talk about how business owners do not care about the American worker. I call the people spouting these ideas “posers” because they are “posing” as leaders. They might have positional authority (or what leadership coach John Maxwell describes as Level 1 Leadership – the lowest kind), but outside of their authority, no one would follow them to Dairy Queen for free ice cream. 

Here’s what I think: Anyone who sows discontent between one group and another is not someone worth following. And at the risk of alienating my readers, there is far too much of this kind of behavior being displayed on television by political leaders on both sides of the aisle. “Us vs. Them” sayings do nothing but add to the vitriol most people feel these days. Leaders are worth following because of how they bring diverse groups of people together. 

The next thing I did was turn off the TV, pour some coffee, and head to work. I listened to worship music on my ten-minute commute to recenter my mind. I was reminded that these people “posing” as leaders are treasured children of the most High God. Feel free to disagree, but I re-centered my thinking on their value in Jesus. He died for them and for me. So, as much as I disagreed with their viewpoints, as much as I would like to take them through our facility to show them the specific actions we are taking to help people (even, and especially in, seasons when business conditions are slow), I must remember their worth. The next time they say that plastic is evil and all business owners are in it for themselves, I have to go back to this position of remembering their worth and praying for their best. 

Making the Connection

After getting to work, I did what I try to do at least once a week by walking our night shift before that team left. It was 7 a.m., and I connected with one lady who was celebrating 26 years with the company. Then, I connected with a foreman who was celebrating 43 years. 

Finally, I talked with another team member who always gives it to me straight: “Alex, when are wage increases coming?” After explaining to her where we currently are and sharing some exciting new business that is almost here, she put her hand on my shoulder. She looked at me and thanked me for the explanation. 

I’ll be honest, I almost broke down.  

I am all-in to helping these people. 

I am all-in on helping our customers. 

That’s my why.

That’s my purpose. 

I usually don’t get this blunt, but let me be clear. 

To quote the philosopher Mr. T.: 

I pity the fool who says I don’t care about the American worker. 

Those are fighting words to me. 

Following His Calling

I originally ended the post with the previous line. But now, a week later, I will finish it with this: Despite our revenue and run hours being down, my sisters and I are issuing a cost-of-living increase for every person in the company except ourselves. I am not sharing this to get a bunch of accolades. I am sharing this to point to the true Giver, and publicly say that I trust in His provision. So do my sisters! 

All praise and glory to Him. We unashamedly believe God will provide, so we will be obedient to what we sense He is calling us to do. 

I Will Never FORGET

There are some days in life that I will never forget, and 9/11 was one of them. 

We all have our stories.

I was shaving when my fraternity brother told me what was happening. My sister was living in New York then — was she alright? Were the people stuck in the tower going to get out?

A little while later, I was at my first class of the day, an elective drama class. It was an all-time favorite class! But this day was that day. I will never forget the sound of one of my classmates sobbing — a girl whose name I have somehow forgotten all these years later. “Is my sister alive?” she wailed. Her sister worked near the World Trade Center. 

In our drama class two days later, we learned that her sister was okay. And thankfully, my sister was okay too. 

But for thousands, the answer was different. 

Let’s remember those people today.

Let’s never forget.

If You Look for It, There’s Something Good to Find

On vacation this summer, I learned a valuable lesson about failure and being hard on myself. I’m sharing it, hoping some of you can relate. 

The Quintessential Father/Sons Fishing Trip

I wanted to take my sons Will and Ben out fishing.  I did the appropriate research and landed on a company with great reviews. In my mind, the boys would have the time of their life. I was going to the #bestdadever! 

We were all psyched as we pulled out of the harbor and headed to the fishing spot. I was not concerned until the boat headed to the open ocean. After all, this was not supposed to be “deep sea” fishing, so I did not know what the Captain was up to. Was he just giving us a glimpse of the open water? 

“The Look”

A mile and a half into our journey, Will gave me “the look” that kids give. It is kind of like “the look” my wife gives, the kind that you don’t need to interpret. The kind that you immediately know there is a problem. Onward we went, however, for another 1.5 miles. 

“Here we are at an old shipwreck,” the Captain said. 

How cool is that, I thought? The waves, however, tossed me to the side of the boat like a little crumb falling from the ice cream cone my kids would eat later that day. My next thought was, “How long will this last?” 

Kudos to the Captain regarding the volume of fish at the shipwreck. We caught fish after fish in the ~13 minutes we were there. The Captain even claimed I had a shark on my line for .23 seconds — the best .23 seconds of my life, an admission that would undoubtedly cause my wife to give me “the look.” 

Ben’s “look” came next. “Dad, I don’t feel well.” It was at this moment that I went into sales mode. “Captain,” I said, “we have a problem.” Captain informed me that his experiences are about “reef” fishing, which I admittedly misinterpreted not to be “deep sea fishing.” I can occasionally hit 300-yard drives, but I have a “25” handicap for fishing. However, I don’t care who’s to blame when seasickness is on the line. I owned my mistake and said he was getting paid regardless, but we needed land in a hurry! After looking at Ben’s face, the Captain knew his mission had been redefined. I later learned that he’s happily married and understands “looks” too.  

The Joy of Unexpected Delight

Ten minutes later, we were back in calmer waters, and the seas lessened considerably. The Captain asked Ben if he could fish there. Ben, of course, rebounded. The next few hours, we had fun fishing, although our success rate decreased considerably. And while we saw a small shark, none were hooked, much to my chagrin. 

Then something happened that I did not expect. While moving from one spot to the next, the Captain let both boys have a turn at the helm. Both were legitimately excited, and Ben had us looping around like he wanted us to be sick this time. His smile is something that words simply can’t describe.

What Does this Experience Make Possible?

As I retell this story, however, I have to confess something. During this moment I did not feel like the morning had gone well. I am embarrassed to admit that when Sarah asked how the morning went, I said it was a failure. I felt like I had failed Will, Ben, my father-in-law who had joined us, and even the Captain. Sarah reminded me that the Captain did not care as he was getting paid. 

Isn’t it alarming how negativity prevented me from seeing what was really going on and also led me to think things were much worse than they were? 

Ben, however, had rolled with the punches. He had lived out a credo I learned from Michael Hyatt, “What does this experience make possible?” 

Ben got it. 

I had missed it. 

I learned that I am so hard on myself about parenting, leadership, golf, and just about everything — even planning a once-a-year, 1/2-day fishing experience. It would be like someone who never plays golf getting mad at themselves for hitting bad shots, an occurrence that happens all the time at my local golf course! 

Yet, if I look for it — if you look for it — there is something good to find. 

You have to look for it, not just what you had hoped for. 

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

The video of Ben driving that boat will be something I will think about when I am 80 years old. It never would have happened if we had sea legs and if things had gone to “Dad’s plan.” 

A few days later, as the vacation wrapped up, my in-laws asked all 14 of us what our best moment was. 

Ben’s? “Driving that boat.” 

Writing this post made me realize it was mine, too.

Negative Glasses or Gratitude Glasses?

You get to decide this week which glasses you want to put on — your Negative Glasses or your Gratitude Glasses. But before you choose, let me tell you a little bit more about the unique selling points (and potential pitfalls!) of each of these products: 

Negative Glasses

Product features: These frames help you see everything in the worst possible way. 

Potential side effects: Cynicism, hopelessness, negativity, pessimism, fatigue, stress, and anger. 

Gratitude Glasses Product Features

Product features: These frames help you see everything in the best possible way. You see provision when it rains, wonder when it snows, and bountifulness in the summer. 

Potential side effects: optimism, positivity, energy, peacefulness, joy, and possibly annoying grumpy people.

Your Perspective, Your Choice

Is the sun shining? 

Or is everything bleak? 

It’s your decision. 

You make your choice.