Personal Growth

Forget Balance. Aim for Rest

No human being has ever continually progressed upward and to the right. Yet, if they tell the truth, most leaders expect to. Something inside us expects progress, so we work to that end — even when working to that end hurts us. It would be bad enough if it stopped there, but this hurt usually extends to others, both our followers and loved ones. 

Work/life balance continues to be a hot topic because the “Information Age” has made the cessation of work nearly impossible. So instead, we aim for “balance.” Balance implies that we can somehow manage both work and home stressors in perfect symmetry — but the reality is more a feeling of trying to balance atop a narrow balance beam while simultaneously juggling a child, a laptop, and quite possibly an enormous kettlebell-sized amount of work stress. 

I propose that not only is balance impossible, but it isn’t the solution we need. Instead, the solution is something so simple we miss it. 

The solution is rest. 

As I’ve shared, my family and I went out West this summer. We usually gravitate to summer beach vacations, but we chose something entirely different by going to Yellowstone and Montana this year. Instead of playing golf and sitting on the beach, we hiked and saw wildlife at Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons. It was definitely a more active vacation. Yet, I came home refreshed. This made me ask the question: why?   

Four Types of Fatigue

As I reflected, I realized that not all fatigue is the same. In fact, I think there are four main types of fatigue: 

  • Physical
  • Spiritual 
  • Mental
  • Emotional

I then observed something about myself that you may or may not relate to: I usually characterize my fatigue as being physical because physical fatigue is easily felt. But I rarely consider spiritual, mental, and emotional fatigue as being a culprit. 

In hindsight, it is clear that I went on our vacation with a lot of spiritual, mental, and emotional fatigue. Here are some examples to help clarify the differences: 

Spiritual: My trust in God’s Sovereignty had waned. How do I know? I found myself becoming hopeless regarding the darkness of our modern World. 

Mental: I was becoming angry when the demands of work — legitimate demands — came to my desk. I was becoming someone not to follow! 

Emotional: Inside me, I felt a real sadness about some of the changes that have occurred during the past six months at work. 

Of course, I was also physically tired. My body felt it, but it also felt all the above! 

Every day that passed on our vacation, I found my energy returning, despite often hiking around 7 to 8 miles with three kids, sleeping without air conditioning, and eating National Park food (You can call me a snobby foodie if you like — let’s just say the food wasn’t the highlight of the trip!) This happened because I was immersed in nature, reminded of God’s creation, and freed from Wi-Fi, work email, and work in general. 

It was legitimate rest. 

Suddenly, I could see the sun again, and it was gorgeous. 

Putting Insight Into Action

So what do I do with this knowledge? Admittedly, I can’t go back to Yellowstone whenever I feel like it. I am writing this post about five weeks after returning and already feel the need for another adventure! Here are a few ideas I am considering to help me stay restful. I am sharing in hopes that they spur you on to lead yourself in the pursuit of rest. 

First, I am recommitting to observing the Sabbath. Jesus found time to go away, pray, and rest. I, too, can find time to rest one day out of seven. The Sabbath is a gift because it is the weekly reminder that I am not in control of time, destiny, or even my own progress. Sure, I need to work hard the other six days. But that is not my problem, and if you are reading a blog about leadership, I would imagine it is not yours either! Rather, resting is our problem. I can rest because progress is not up to me. The same can be said of you! 

Second, as I have shared, I am going to do less, better. I do not intend this to become a mantra but rather a reminder that I cannot do it all. I need to clarify what constitutes the best use of my very limited time and energy I have. Often, the problem I face (and I imagine many of you face) is that I try to do enough, good enough. There will always be more to do. So what’s the best use of your time and energy? 

Third, I am going to commit to getting outside this winter. As Chicago winter approaches, I am not going to become a hermit. As I learned during my vacation, a positive return of energy — physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental — comes with being outside in nature. It reminds us of our place in the world and that there is a Power far greater than us behind it. And even though things are not as they are supposed to be, we see glimpses – if we look for them – of how things will inevitably be restored. 

Trust Your Gut and Take Your Shot

A couple of months ago, I played in my local golf club’s member/guest golf invitational. My partner and I were in a tight match on our last hole, a par five. After a good drive, I had about 225 yards left, but the water guarded the green, and the wind blew strongly in my face. My partner and I discussed the pros and cons of going for the green. His shot had put him in relatively good shape, so we determined it was worth the risk for me to go for it. 

That decided, our discussion turned to which club to hit. Two holes prior, I had hit the purest three-iron I had hit in years, reaching a par five in two strokes. I thought if I hit that same shot on this hole, I would carry the green and get into deep trouble. My gut said to opt for a four-iron, but it would have to be a perfect shot. My partner leaned toward a three-iron but encouraged me to go with my gut. 

I pulled the club, took a deep breath, and looked at the target, and my brain filled with thoughts. The previous day on the same hole, I’d hit the worst shot of the season, sending my ball into the water. And a week prior, under different conditions, I’d hit a six-iron that started left of the green before perfectly fading into the middle of it. 

Which memory was I going to fixate on? 

I took another deep breath and another long look at the target. I took my stance and one last look. 

I then executed my best swing of the day. I caught the ball purely and watched it fly directly towards the pin… 

Take Necessary Risks

Someone reading this post is facing a major decision — and if so, this post is for you. The point I am making above is not to take unnecessary risks. In fact, sometimes, in golf, the best play is to lay up — something I should have done the previous day when I was not fully committed to going for the green, leading to my tentative swing and less-than-stellar outcome. 

Sometimes, however, you have to nudge yourself out of your comfort zone and go for it. Sometimes you have to leave the golf course, race home to get the ring and go to her house because you can’t wait a moment longer to get on one knee and ask her to marry you. Sometimes, you have to drop everything and take your child to the activity that you have not had time for. Sometimes you have to fly to Germany on Father’s Day to meet with a potential customer because it will be worth it ten years later. Sometimes you must drive to Evansville to see your Papa because you know there won’t be another chance. 

Hit Your Shot

While you may not have the same experiences as I have, I suspect you can relate to them; in fact, I’d be willing to bet that someone out there is facing something similar right now. 

And if you are, my advice to you is simple: trust your gut, pull out the “club,” and go for it. 

Hit your shot. 

Even if your perfect shot still somehow finds the water like mine did, you will go home realizing you took your shot. 

And there’s no denying that there is something magical, even life-giving, about taking your shot. 

Next Monday, I will share a brief special post on another shot I am taking. 

Until then, take yours. 

The Power of Remembering

Welcome to mid-August and the dog days of summer. If you have lived the year right, this is the time of the year when you wonder whether you can make it through the fall and to the finish line. With this in mind, I want to share the key to renewing your energy. 

Remembering 

This spring, I spent three months studying 1 and 2 Kings in my Bible. These books detail how Israel lost its way by following the ways of culture rather than the Living God. Because of this, it was divided into two nations: Israel and Judah. The rest of the two books describe how kings from both countries mostly failed to live in accordance with the word of God. They failed, in short, because they failed to remember. 

Throughout scripture, there is an emphasis on remembering. This emphasis is there because remembering is core to one’s identity. Scripture encouraged the people of Israel to remember whose they were. As God’s chosen people, they were set apart to live differently than others around them. Life worked when they did, but it never did when they did not. 

Looking Inward 

Shifting from scripture to our lives, how do you feel right now? If you’re like many of us, you may be feeling a bit run down. If that’s you, let me ask you this: what if we focused on remembering? 

Take a few moments to consider these prompts: 

What is it about your work that makes you smile? 

What purpose does your work fulfill in the community around you? 

Slow down and consider this. 

Just to get you started, I’ll go first. I was having a rough week last week from an energy standpoint. Then I went out on our production floor and engaged with a few friends. I guess I could call them employees, but that feels (and sounds) too impersonal. They are friends. They lifted me up. They made me smile. I renewed my energy by spending time with them and renewed my energy again by remembering them and our interaction. 

More prompts: 

Remember the moment when you stood at the altar? For me, it was when the doors opened, and Sarah appeared in that white dress. Fifteen years and counting, but I still go back to that moment. The life God has given us since then is, to quote my sophomore speech back at Purdue, “blessed beyond belief.” 

Remember that moment when you first looked into your son or daughter’s eyes? The gates of hell could not stand against you at that moment. All of life changed in that instant. You were never more alive. Can you recall it? Do you still feel it? I often go back to this moment, especially when my kids are being kids. If you have ever been a parent, you know what I mean by that statement! 

Remembering

We live in a world where everyone wants more vacation time and more time off work. I am not against any of this. But I have discovered that for me, vacation and time off work often don’t lead to the renewal I am seeking. Many times, I am more tired after my vacation than I am after work! That means I may return to work feeling depressed and drained. 

But focusing on remembering allows me to reorient my soul. Suddenly, I feel headed back on track to what matters. The wind shifts from my face to my back. My steps feel purposeful. I am rejuvenated with the knowledge that I can keep going. All because I remembered. 

The Power of Silence and Repentance

The nature of my personality is such that I often write these blog posts several weeks, or in this case, almost two months in advance. This is because I like to build in slack for vacations, holidays, and rest. I share this at the outset of today’s post because my thoughts currently are on the (now) recent tragic shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

One of the things that have struck me this past week is how quickly leaders have jumped to potential solutions for how we have gotten to where we are. What follows are not solutions but a potential path forward for leaders to think about and care for those they lead. 

Be Silent

As a refresher, I believe leadership is the process of doing things with and through other people. This requires influence. Used positively, influence makes someone worth following. Without followers, you are not a leader. 

One concern I have about political leadership is that we don’t allow folks time to think before they speak. Instead, we expect them to make immediate statements — and they are often reactionary and emotional, occasionally harmful, and usually divisive. 

As counterintuitive as this may sound, silence allows one to process. Deep thinking is power. From a political leadership standpoint, it is socially unacceptable to be silent in a 24/7 news cycle. But this is one of the reasons our words are so weak and un-transformational.  

Silence allows us to consider the gravity of what has happened. It forces us to think past simplistic solutions. It forces us to deal with grief, lamentation, and sadness. It forces us to be human in the truest sense of the word. 

Leaders, if we are to positively influence and work with others who see the world differently than we do, we must approach situations from the depths that only silence can provide. Only by taking a moment to be silent can we get in touch with what is happening inside us. Only silence can introduce us to what we think, feel, or believe. 

Repent

I am tempted to use a different word here because “repent” might be viewed negatively given its religious connotations, but no better word applies. 

Repent simply means to turn around. In the Christian sense, it means that we are walking in the wrong direction, so it is time to turn around and walk towards Christ. 

Please hear me when I say I am walking in the wrong direction. 

This is not some attempt to “humble brag” but a true confession, an admission that I am walking in the wrong direction. In a world this divisive, this violent, this tragic? I ask for forgiveness for every useless, angry, and prideful thing I have said. Forgive me for what I have failed to do out of convenience to myself. Forgive me for how I failed to lead, and worse, failed to love. 

I realize that I have a long way to go. And I desperately need my Savior. Any conversation about “where do we go from here” has to start with the knowledge that I am part of the problem. Anything that points to “them,” “that group,” or “those people” is not going to change anything. The only person I can change, with God’s help, is myself. 

Live Life

Jesus said he came to give us life, life to the full (John 10:10). 

Jesus also said that in this world there would be trouble (John 16:33). 

If you know anything about Jesus, you know that he was arrested, beaten, and crucified. God’s perfect son faced humanity’s wrath and alienation from his Father. 

I point the above out because when tragic events happen, some doubt the goodness of God. This is fair. In fact, if that is you, I would invite you to read deeply of his Word and seek what God’s Word (not commentators, pastors, or anyone else for that matter, especially me!) has to say about suffering, sin, and love. I am not here to proselytize, only share. To that end, and only that end, I have discovered that Jesus’ words above are the Truth. 

Given the Truth that I follow, I mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Last week I drove 90 minutes to the city to attend a wake for one of our team members who lost their father. The next day, I celebrated another team member at their retirement party, thanking them for their 30+ years of service. This duality is life. 

This world is full of trouble and grief. It is also full of laughter, love, and joy. In the middle, we (at Hoffer Plastics) are to do meaningful work by manufacturing plastic parts that contribute to the livelihoods of millions. All this is life. 

To this end, I will close with a gentle admonition. To be someone worth following, we have to be the kind of people who unite rather than those who divide. To this end, I put forth what I have mentioned above. 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). 

We cannot give what we do not possess. 

I am loved greatly because I have sinned greatly. 

I am part of the problem. 

When I love others, I am part of the solution. 

Thanks be to God for his love that allows me to love. 

To the Class of 2022

Every June, there are thousands of high school commencement speeches offering advice to new graduates. And during this time of year, I often think about what I might say if asked to speak. Over time, I’ve found that this exercise is an excellent way to regain my perspective on what matters most. 

Before sharing my ten “advice I’d give today’s high school seniors” bullet points, I challenge you: Think about what you would say. What advice would you give? What matters most to you? 

And now, with no further ado, here are the bullet points I developed for this year’s imaginary commencement speech. To the class of 2022, here’s what I think you should know: 

  1. Connect with people IN PERSON. While an online connection is better than no connection, IN PERSON connection is best for relationships. When I think about the loved ones I miss, I don’t think about our phone conversations. I miss their eyes, their touch, and their hugs.
  2. Spend time thinking every day. This may sound odd to a generation known for their ubiquitous earbuds! But spend some time in your own mind — shave without a podcast on, drive in silence, or just sit at your desk and think. We live in a reactionary society. Thinking forces you to slow down, plan, and be proactive.
  3. Seek out wisdom. In my twenties, the best thing I did was have coffee with people further down life’s road than I was. I asked questions, listened, and thought about what they told me during my times of reflection. Do the same.
  4. Realize that the “harder” path is almost always the path with the higher upside. The harder path may not feel good — in fact, “this feels good” is a good sign that you are NOT going the right way.
  5. Understand that “happiness” evolves. What made me happy at 20 was not what made me happy at 40. I’ve found “meaning” and “purpose” to be better guides to personal fulfillment. Doing work that matters may require taking the hard road, but in the end, it will bring satisfaction. This will produce more profound happiness.
  6. Write down what you learn while you are on the journey. I kept a journal in college. I poured my soul out about 9/11, what I should do with my life, and even the kind of person I wanted to marry. Now I keep an Evernote about what I am learning, write in a planner about each week, and still journal. All of this helps me improve myself.
  7. Be financially responsible. Financial strength tends to come from two practices — avoiding unnecessary debt and using compounding interest to your advantage. With that in mind, it’s worth cultivating something else that will help financially and in every aspect of your life: patience.
  8. Recognize that everyone is gifted to some degree. It is the maximizing of one’s giftedness that separates the great from the mediocre. This takes hard work and discipline.
  9. In the long run, consistent good work tends to beat out occasional great work. Keep at it.
  10. Understand your sphere. In a world of increasing divisiveness, it is best to not waste influence over the things you cannot truly influence.
  11. And a final bonus: Love wholeheartedly. You will never regret hugging your loved ones, telling them you love them, and ensuring those relationships are on solid ground. There is no tax heavier, more painful, or more extreme, than regret. Avoiding this tax has, so far, been one of the major accomplishments of my life. 

The list above is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it makes you think. And I hope that thinking leads you down a path of meaning and doing things worth doing. Potentially, even a harder path. But one that leads to real life and with real people. 

A life worth living. 

Prioritizing Restoration

Do you remember counting down the number of days to the end of the school year? I will never forget the magical “last days of school” before summer. There were picnics, parties, and games, culminating in a tremendous last-day sendoff. 

And then? 

The most indescribable feeling of joy: Swimming pools, whiffle ball games, hot dogs, and baseball games. The next day more of the same. It never got old. 

But as an adult, the start of the summer looks and feels different. While there still may be a vacation to look forward to — or maybe some activities with the kids or a few rounds of golf — things are still different. Work does not stop, nor does it get easier. And just like at the end of the school year, fatigue is high. In fact, if I am not careful, I find myself only getting more tired during the summer.  

The Wisdom of My Grandparents

We logically know that “endless play” is not an option. So how do we recreate the joy of summer right where we are, regardless of our circumstances? 

While there are many potential answers to this question, one thing I have been thinking about lately is my family lineage. Specifically, what activities did my grandparents partake in to keep their energy high? What were their daily rhythms? And were they helpful in light of rediscovering energy?

My mom’s mom (we called her “JJ”) was legendary for embracing community. A card shark, golfer, and someone who wanted to be wherever the party was, JJ leaned on her Evansville, Indiana, community. Visiting her on summer vacations are memories I will cherish forever because they were always active and fun. In fact, sometimes Papa and I would go to lunch and a movie just so the two of us could get some rest!  JJ showed me that while community might be the last thing we want when we’re tired, it may also be the most important thing we find.  

My Grandpa Rue — “Papa” — was a World War II veteran who loved being outside. He planted, gardened, and worked the land. Meanwhile, my Grandpa Hoffer would work all day and then come home and spend time outdoors — he had a green thumb that still is talked about today. The point is that being outside reenergized both of my grandfathers. There is wisdom here!  

Grandpa Hoffer also liked to jog. I recently ran across an article published around his seventieth birthday, and it recounted the thousands of miles he had jogged with friends in the community. This is the trifecta of restoration: exercise, community, and nature — being outside in this case. There is wisdom here as well. 

Meanwhile, Grandpa Hoffer never stopped working because he had so much fun with it. He must have understood that work is what you make of it. And he made it something meaningful to himself and countless others. I still think about that when I walk our floor, as he modeled, and make connections with our team members on the floor. It is a community at work!  

Restoration Doesn’t Happen by Accident

My family’s history may or may not be helpful to you. I am sharing it, however, to demonstrate that restoration does not happen by accident. You must be intentional about it. Establishing rhythms around community, hobbies, exercise, and the like will positively restore your energy. And with your energy restored, your leadership tank will be full to give to those you lead. 

Remember, you cannot give what you do not possess. You cannot provide affirmation, creativity, or anything else when your tank is empty, and you are in survival mode. To effectively lead, you must prioritize restoration. You have to refill your tank.  

What restores you? Find it, and make it a priority. How will you be able to tell when you’ve found something that fills your tank? You’ll know you are on to something when, like the long summer days of yesteryear, your heart skips a beat, and you wish the moment you are experiencing would never have to end. 

Planning for Fun

On a recent Friday morning, I was finishing up my gym routine when my phone buzzed. “I know this is a long shot,” read the text, “but any chance you could join me for golf this a.m.?” It was from one of my high school golf teammates from over twenty years ago. 

I looked at my calendar. I had my regular Friday meetings locked into place, but two of those meetings were with direct reports who were on vacation. So I momentarily considered my friend’s offer before planning to decline — as I do for almost all impromptu opportunities that fall on work days. 

Then something dawned on me that might sound crazy. Two nights previously, I talked with my wife about how I was in a rut — how I needed time away from the office and how I needed to be with a friend. I even prayed that an opportunity with a friend would come. 

Looking one more time at my calendar, I said to myself, “What the heck.” 

“I’m in,” I texted back. 

Letting Go and Leaning In

Two hours later, I hit a crisp 2-iron down the middle of the first fairway, and we were off. 

I relaxed. 

When I hit a bad shot, I was kind to myself rather than crushing myself. Because of this, I even made three birdies over eighteen holes. 

More importantly, I rediscovered a friendship that goes back to the early 1980s. And for the first time in several weeks, I spent an extended period of time NOT thinking about work, my stress, and all the challenges that have increased my stress. 

Interrupting my typical “Friday plan” for fun literally reduced my cortisol. By the back nine, I could feel the difference in my body. My steps were lighter. The consistent headache that often plagues me was even gone. I went home in a state of mind that blessed my family upon arrival rather than aggravating them. 

Why I don’t do this more often, I wondered? 

Type A+

My wife likes to call me “Type A-plus,” given how disciplined and even programmatic I am. I have a plan, and I work that plan. At its best, it helps propel me to positive results. But at its worst, it can feel like a self-induced joyless prison. 

And getting back to the question of why I do not do this more often? Because fun — especially spontaneous fun — is usually not part of the plan. 

This is wrong. 

Hear my confession in that last statement. I need to put fun back into my plan — especially the kind of fun that involves personal relationships. After all, nobody wants to follow a joyless, stressed-out leader sitting in the confines of a prison cell of their own creation. 

Golfing with my buddy was one of the best, and yet, most humbling, experiences in quite some time. I discovered that I need to do a better job of leading someone very important: myself. 

Permission Granted

I share this experience because I know there’s someone else out there who also needs permission to have fun. 

To some, that might sound crazy. But I’m willing to bet that to others, it’s exactly what they need to hear. 

It was just what I needed. 

From the Dugout to the Stands

When you become the parent to more than one child, the first thing people will tell you is how different your second child will be from your first. And as Sarah and I learned, a third child is also different from the first two. Each child has their own unique personality. No personality is better, just unique. It is up to us, the parents, to discover, develop, and appreciate each personality.  

The same can be said for every person we interact with at work. Each person is unique and valuable in their own way, and that means that the way they interact with other people at work is also unique. As a leader, we have to be cognizant of this reality so that we meet people where they are. Because we validate who they are, they will feel that we’re worth following. 

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference

As I shared in a recent post, I have been praying over whether I should coach my middle son Ben’s little league team this spring. To some, praying over something like that might sound silly. But given how much wisdom I need, I find praying is absolutely necessary.   

I need all the wisdom I can get to understand how I can best relate to Ben. Coaching Ben’s baseball team last fall was challenging. And while I learned a lot from the experience, I also observed something during a late-season game. After stepping in to be the head coach for my older son Will’s team earlier in the day — the “real” head coach had been unable to attend — I ended up sitting out Ben’s game since there were already four assistants there. Sitting behind home plate, I was a fan for that game instead of a coach. I cheered, encouraged, and cheered some more — and Ben seemed to thrive.  

The fact that he thrived when I was NOT coaching weighed on my mind, and I prayed about this all winter. Should I coach his team this spring? Sure, I did cheer and encourage when I was coaching, but my role also included holding all players (including Ben) accountable. Maybe he just needed me to be his fan and not his coach? Or maybe he’d be happier if I played a different “role” in his baseball journey? As I do with many things, I ran the idea by Sarah, and she immediately thought I might be on to something. 

Still, I resisted not coaching Ben’s team for one primary reason: My son Will has made it abundantly clear that he liked me coaching his team. How would Ben feel about me coaching Will’s team and not his? I didn’t want Ben to think I was prioritizing his brother over him. 

I Love Having You There

After praying about this again one night, it finally dawned on me that I should just talk to Ben about it. On the surface, this sounds somewhat crazy because Ben is only eight years old. But as you will find out in a minute, he is vastly more mature in his thinking. 

To be honest, I had mentioned this whole ordeal to Ben a couple of times earlier in the winter, and so had his mom. This time I explained “why” and reminded Ben about that time last fall when I sat out coaching one of his games. He remembered that day. We agreed to think about it and talk again. 

A few days later, I called Ben in again and reassured him that there was no wrong answer — I’d do whatever he wanted. This is what he told me: 

“Honestly, it stresses me out when you coach. You are strict. I love having you there but it stresses me out.” 

I then asked him about the time the previous fall when I sat out the game as coach and was there as just his biggest fan. 

“I would love for you to just be my fan. I love having you there.” 

The Value of Playing a Different Role

Ben’s feedback taught me a valuable lesson about parenting, and perhaps leadership. In my relationship with Ben, he was inviting me to play a different “role” in terms of his baseball journey. I was being moved from the dugout to the stands!  

I am not going to lie and say that it was easy to hear your child say that your “strictness stresses them out” on the baseball field. In fact, part of me wanted to justify that I am not too strict, kids these days are soft, and blah blah blah. Instead, I listened to what Ben was saying. 

“Okay, buddy,” I said, “What if I am just your fan this year. I’ll still split my time 50/50 so that I can be present equally for Will and you, but I’ll play a different role for each team. With Will’s team, I’ll be the assistant coach and with your team, Ben, I am just the number one fan!” 

“That’s exactly what I want,” Ben said. 

We then hugged, music played, and the scene faded to black. 

Well not exactly. But you get the idea. 

Meet Them Where They Are

Driving to work the next morning, I realized that I needed to write about my experience above because it taught me that leading adults is no different. Please hear me when I say that I often get that wrong as well — leading adults isn’t any easier. Some need me to lean in and play a more active role, while others need me to cheer from the sidelines. It depends on the unique personality of the individual I am leading. 

So this is why I pray often for wisdom. It helps me consider how my God-given abilities match up to those I lead. Prayer also encourages me to seek feedback — my prayer is equally about listening as it is about asking. I receive feedback, then course-correct when I get it wrong.

If leadership is the art of being someone worth following, which kind of person would you want to follow? The one who adjusts their leadership style to suit your needs, or the one that expects you to adjust to them? 

Circling back to my parenting decision, I could have forced my desire to coach Ben’s team. But that would have been about my preferences — and to a certain degree, my insecurities as a Dad. I would’ve missed out on what Ben really wanted. 

My encouragement to you is to be the one who is ready, able, and willing to course correct so you can meet people where they are and really connect with them. 

And if that means being their biggest fan, cheer loudly! It’s a role I plan to embrace all spring long. 

What A Richard Curtis Movie Taught Me About Life and Love and Being in the Moment

Perhaps (one) of the most embarrassing admissions I can make in writing this blog is that I am a sucker for Richard Curtis films. Now, I may just be trying to rationalize, but my admiration of Curtis started after seeing him speak at the Global Leadership Summit in 2007. I was sitting there with my wife and was in awe of the intentionality of his storytelling. It was purposeful, magical, and full of what’s best in life. 

Years later, a “macho” buddy told me about Curtis’ movie About Time. The film tells the story of how a lovesick 21-year-old uses time travel in the best possible way to find love, all the while being “coached” by his father, James — played brilliantly by Bill Nighy. The movie is full of funny moments and re-dos. It even leaves us wishing we, too, could have a few do-overs! 

FYI, if you’re interested in watching About Time, it’s streaming on Netflix as of March 2022.

SPOILERS AHEAD 

I am not one who wants to give away a movie. That said, for this post, I have to give something away. So if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know the spoiler, please stop reading here — do not continue beyond the image below.  

Image courtesy BBFC, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39394371

Notice How Sweet it Can Be

The movie’s biggest surprise comes when the main character, Tim, discovers that his dad has terminal cancer. Tim immediately thinks that time travel could somehow change this reality. Unfortunately, Tim cannot do this without undoing the relationships he has discovered along the way, most notably the love of his life. And as he would later find out, the ramifications would be far more reaching than even that! 

Tim’s dad, James, had already put all this together. In fact, for years, he had been going back in time to relive moments with family. James then looks into the face of a teary-eyed Tim and tells him to live each day going forward twice. First with all the everyday worries and tensions, but the second time noticing how sweet the world can be. 

Soon after this conversation, James dies of cancer. But Tim can still go back in time to be with his father, so this is not the end…yet. 

Then Tim’s wife wants to add another child to their family. Tim realizes that when this child is born, he will no longer be able to travel back in time to see his father without “erasing” his child. What a dilemma!

The movie culminates nine months later when Tim travels back in time to see his dad one final time. He and his dad play ping-pong together. Tim then tells his dad that he wants to kiss him. This clues James into the truth —this is the last time he will see his son. Taking this in, James takes Tim, and together they travel back in time one last time to when Tim was a small child. The movie ends with the two of them together on the beach.  

It is arguably the most emotionally raw and beautiful scene one can imagine — or at least any parent could imagine. 

Time Catches Up with All of Us

To the best of my knowledge, I do not presently have any significant health concerns. But, my time will come. As James says in the movie, “Time catches up to all of us, my son.” 

It will catch up to me, as it will to you. 

I have been getting lost in the cares, tensions, and busyness of life. These days, it is natural to do so, and I will not beat myself up over it. 

But early in March, I found myself in Orlando with my family. We were at Epcot, there was not a cloud in the sky, and it was extremely crowded. 

Our kids are 10, 8, and 5. I may have a little more time with Sadie (5) than I do with the boys — I hope at least. But time will catch up here too. 

So there I was, walking through Epcot with Will (10) and Ben (8). They were holding my hands. Ben kept grasping, and I wished he would never let go. Will never does this anymore, yet in the crowded park, he did. And for a moment, all my worries, tensions, and stressors dissipated. 

There I was in the moment with my boys. No distractions. No agenda. It was just us. And I thought that this day might be the day that I would go back to… 

The day when I could just be with my boys. 

The depth of that joy is and was indescribable. 

Find Your Moment in Time

I share here to invite you to find your own moment in time. Often, the summer is full of opportunities for such. So go make a moment this summer. Make a moment with a friend, spouse, or grandkid. 

Like a Curtis film, craft a story of joy for the world to see. 

This is the ultimate way to refill the tank. 

And like Tim, may we all learn the lesson that life is best lived by living each day once. Let’s seek and find the goodness amid life’s busyness and stress. 

There is no better way to live. 

Overcoming Darkness: Shift Your Focus to Turn on the Light

This February, I’ve been writing about different kinds of adversity. And regardless of what type of adversity you face, it is hard. It can make you feel depressed and discouraged and turn your mood dark. 

I know this because, as I write these words, I am struggling with a persistent sinus infection and an even more persistent headache. Meanwhile, my sister just emailed me, letting me know that her good friend is losing her battle with cancer. I find myself feeling sad, discouraged, and on the verge of an epic pity party. Maybe my daughter has room on the couch to watch Disney movies? 

Despite this, I got up when my alarm went off this morning. I dragged myself to the gym in the dark and finished what I had started. Now I am at work facing my biggest question of the day: Where is my focus going to be? 

Is my focus going to be on the difficulty of my situation? 

Or, is my focus going to be external to me? 

Will You Choose Darkness or Light?

This question is a choice. I can choose to spend my time analyzing my sinus discomfort, wondering why the antibiotics don’t seem to be working, and even Googling potential alternative treatment options courtesy of random bloggers — we’ve all done it! I can let my sadness about the awfulness of cancer drag me down into a pit of despair. There is something comforting about wallowing there because it is socially acceptable. It’s justified. It’s allowed. 

But I have another choice available: I can choose to get outside of my head. I can start this by surrendering what I cannot control to God. To some, that might sound like a bumper sticker — but I’m not talking about any cliches or quick answers. I am talking about understanding reality. 

And in reality, there is little I can control. I can’t control the pace at which my body heals. I cannot control the brokenness of humanity and the sad reality of disease. I can’t control much much of anything, so I surrender. 

I found myself praying this prayer on the way from the gym to work: “Lord, let your will be done. Even if it is contrary to mine. Especially if it is contrary to mine.” 

Now my head may still be pounding, but I am free to turn the light back on. And the only way I know how to do this — when it is dark inside me — is to focus that light externally on others. 

This sounds cheesy, I know. 

But it’s how it works. 

An Indescribable Transformation

When I stop focusing on all the junk inside me and start focusing on being a light to others, something indescribable happens. My emotions are uplifted. My life is refocused. My purpose is reestablished. 

All of this is true, although my circumstances have not yet changed. But what has changed is my mindset. Instead of a wallowing, discouraged, and semi-depressed person, I am transformed into an others-focused, encouraged, light-sharing person. 

I have purpose, passion, and a renewed identity. 

In the moment, this is hard to do. But as I say regularly on this blog, the things worth doing in life are always hard. The easy path is wide and leads to where most people end up. The hard path is narrow, and it leads to abundance. Choose wisely. 

Please hear me when I tell you that this is a constant struggle for me. My self-absorption sometimes takes over and I wallow in self-pity. That darkness can run deep. 

But I recognize that I am at my best when I turn on the light let it shine for others. It is in those moments that I am someone worth following.