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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leap Day!

What if your bank deposited $86,400 into your savings account every day?

You would become rich very quickly…

Unless…

What if there was a catch?

What if, at the end of each day, they withdrew any balance that remained in the account?

What would you do?

Well, if you’re like me, you would probably go to the bank every day and withdraw all of the money so that the balance went back down to zero…

And the next day, they would make a new deposit…

And you would go to the bank and withdraw all of the money…

And so on…

Guess what?

There IS a bank that does exactly that.

Every day.

It’s called the Time Bank.

And every day, we each get the exact same deposit.

86,400 seconds.

And we can spend those seconds any way that we want to.

But there’s a catch.

At the end of the day, we do not get to roll over to the next day any seconds that we have not used.

They’re gone.

I wish this was an original thought.

I actually heard it on the radio this morning.

And it got me to thinking…

If I were to waste money the way that I waste time, I would be broke very quickly.

Sometimes I do not even realize that I am wasting time.

I do some part time consulting to make a little extra income that helps meet our monthly budget…I get paid by the hour.

But sometimes, I find myself working, not because I need to, but because I am avoiding the things I need to do to accomplish my goals…goals like writing, for example.

I do not expect to become a best-selling author (although I won’t resist if the opportunity comes along). But I do want to become better at the art of writing. I want to have a positive impact on people. I want to be an encourager and motivator.

That requires me to sit down and write, even when I am having writer’s block (or, as I prefer to call it, a “lapse in creativity.”)

But instead, I find myself sitting in front of the computer, consulting on some project or another, during the time that I have set aside for writing.

And I rationalize it by thinking, “Well, we need the money…”

As if my kids have to stand by the road with a tin cup and beg for change.

I can never get the time back that I spend on something else.

And we are not given an unlimited number of daily deposits into our time bank.

When I think to myself, “I’ll do that tomorrow,” I am taking for granted that my daily deposit of 86,400 seconds will be made.

One day, that full daily deposit will not be made…and then there will be no more daily deposits.

And those who look at my bank account will say, “Wow, look how he spent his time.”

The tone of their voice will indicate whether they are impressed…

Or scornful.

Today is February 29th…some people call it “Leap Day.”

Some people think of it as a “bonus day.”

If it truly is a bonus day, then you have had an extra 86,400 seconds deposited into your account.

I’m spending mine by writing…

How will you spend yours?

 

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I Said No!

I said no to someone today…

And I feel pretty good…

I’m not good at saying no. So this was kind of a big deal for me.

I said no to a request for a letter of peer review. This means that I observe another faculty member’s classroom, taking note of their teaching style, their interactions with students, and the educational environment that they create (or don’t create) within their classroom, and then I write a fairly detailed letter (presumably supporting their quest for promotion, tenure, or whatever goal they are seeking to achieve). It’s a show of respect to be asked to write one of these.

I said no.

This wasn’t as easy as it might sound. The request came from the dean of their school. This was not a small request.

So saying no was not a small deal.

But I did.

The reason is not because I think the other faculty member is not a good teacher. To be honest, I have never seen him teach. We have met a few times at university functions, and I know that he is committed to excellence in teaching, based on his regular attendance at teaching conferences.

I said no because I read the comments left for me in my recent blog “Are You a People Pleaser?”

I examined my priorities…I reflected on the things I was already committed to. I looked at the time requirements necessary to complete this task within the time parameters necessary. And I thought about the reasons why I would WANT to do the observation.

There was only one reason why I wanted to do it.

Because I didn’t want to let down the dean…

The dean of the other school…

The dean whom I have never met…

Now I have written plenty of letters for plenty of people. And I won’t necessarily say no if this dean asks me again in the future for help with something like this.

But I did today.

I had to…

The teaching schedule was not at a time that was convenient for me…

The service commitments I have already made are far too time-consuming to add another commitment right now…

And that means I would have to dig further into my personal time to do the job effectively.

I said no.

I drew the line at my personal time.

And I feel good about it.

I cordially thanked the dean for the request. I respectfully declined, stating the reasons why I was unable to perform the task, and I recommended another person on campus that I respect and who I believe would do an excellent job.

I handled this politely, professionally, and collegially…

And I managed my personal time effectively.

So why do I still feel guilty?

😐

 

What Do You WANT?!?!?

I like to write about what interests me…

But I also like to write about what interests you.

My ideal blog is one that I thoroughly enjoyed writing and that YOU thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I have had some suggestions/requests for future blog posts, and I thought that it might be a nice idea to throw open the topic for discussion…

What interests you that you think I might have something to say about?

One person told me that I should write about how Katie and I have managed to raise our kids to turn out so well in a morally ambiguous society…

Of course, I recognize that turning out “so well” has different meanings for different people.

Someone jokingly told me that I should write a blog about how I will provide free math tutoring in exchange for Starbucks mugs

Hmmm…that’s not a bad idea…

Anyway…

What do you think folks? I have ideas…but there is wisdom in the counsel of many…or so it says in the book of Proverbs. So I seek your wisdom. No guarantees that I will latch onto any specific topic that you throw my way, but you will certainly help stir the pot with your ideas.

Send me your best ideas…

Because I like to write for an appreciative audience!

 
 

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Feed Your Creativity!

I’m too busy to write…

I have a major report due in three days that I am not close to completing. I have to give a presentation in Indianapolis the next day, and I am not done preparing for that. I am cooking my daughter’s birthday dinner tonight, and I have to give and grade a midterm exam this week. I’m too busy to write…

So what am I doing?

Writing. 🙂

Because the truth is, I am too busy NOT to write.

Writing has become a place where I can release tension…where I can express everything that is on my mind; a place where I can vent completely without any repercussions…

Of course, not everything I have written makes its way into print…or, more precisely, onto my blog page.

Some things are not meant for public consumption.

That does not mean that they are not valuable.

When I was in my writing rut a couple of months ago, I wasn’t writing anything anywhere…the frustration was building, and I wasn’t releasing it in a healthy way. I had convinced myself that if I didn’t have anything that was worthy to be published on my blog, I shouldn’t write it down.

Wow, was THAT short-sighted.

The truth is that we are all artists, but not all of our art must be created for the public to view.

At least not until after we are dead.

Don’t laugh…there is value in creating art just for ourselves…art that we can enjoy alone or share with only one or two other people…

And creating that art can be cleansing for our minds and our creativity.

It is not without precedent…

"Lion Stroll: by Theodor Geisel

Recently, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where I am a frequent volunteer, held an exhibit on the life and art of Theodor Geisel. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Geisel, you probably know him better by his pen name, Dr. Seuss.

The exhibit was fascinating…there were original paintings of many of his iconic characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton, and The Lorax. The exhibit also included political cartoons that Geisel created during World War II and original bronze sculptures of his beloved children’s book characters. But the most fascinating paintings were those exhibited in an area called Dr. Seuss’s Secret Garden.

It was in this area that over 100 paintings from Geisel’s private collection were on display.

These were paintings that Geisel kept hidden away in a secret room in his home. He left specific instructions in his will that they were only to be shown publicly after his death.

Some of them are incredibly beautiful…

Some of them would never, EVER show up in a CHILDREN’S book…

And all of them were distinctively Dr. Seuss.

Geisel knew he had to feed his soul through his art, both publicly and privately.

I would suggest that most artists create things that never make into the public domain.

I remember the buzz after Michael Jackson died…there were recordings of songs that he had never released. Why he chose not to release them, we may never know. But I believe it’s safe to say that there are still more songs that he may have written that never got beyond his own notepad.

Every now and then, we will hear in the news about a previously hidden or unknown painting that turns out to be an original Picasso, or some other famous artist. Why didn’t we know about this artwork before? It’s likely that the artist did not release it to be seen by the public.

Maybe they thought it was inferior…

Or maybe they wanted to enjoy it for themselves.

Either way, it was art, created by an artist…and for one brief period of time, it was a piece that consumed their time and energy.

So if I go a few days or a week without updating my blog, chances are that it’s not because I have stopped writing…

It’s because I have been creating in private.

And it’s not intended for public viewing.

At least not yet…

I will leave instructions in my will to have all of my private writing released to the blogosphere in the event of my death.

In 50 years or so…

I hope.

🙂

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Who’s On Your Board of Directors?

Ever wonder why big companies have a Board of Directors?

Think about it…when someone starts a company, they make themselves the president, and they make the all of the decisions that determine the course of the organization.

But when the company gets really big, they suddenly need to have a “board of directors” to make the major decisions…

Do you ever wonder why?

The answer is obvious: there is wisdom in the counsel of many. If one person makes a decision without taking into account the wisdom of others, they do not have the fullest picture of how their decisions can impact the company…a wrong decision made by one person could cause the destruction of an organization and the loss of jobs for many people.

Having a board of directors makes perfect sense.

As individuals, we need to have our own “personal board of directors” as well…

I had never heard that term until my friend Steve used it with me several years ago.

Steve was explaining how he had arrived at important decisions in his life. As a youth pastor, he has served in churches in Indiana, Illinois, California, and Florida. He has had to make a multitude of career decisions, family decisions, decisions about how to handle the problems of teens under his care, and so on.

Whenever Steve had to make a critical decision, a decision that could have a far-reaching impact on himself, his family, or others, he would consult his personal board of directors. This was a group of 5-6 people, including his wife, in whom he had complete confidence. They were people who would not tell Steve only what he wanted to hear. They had permission to speak clearly and directly into Steve’s life…even if what they had to say was not going to make Steve happy. These were friends closer than brothers who would pull no punches in offering Steve the best wisdom they possibly could.

I like this idea…

Not only do I like this idea…but I think it is extremely important.

We need people in our lives in whom we have complete confidence; people who can tell us what we may not want to hear-not because they are being cruel, but because they love us and want what’s best for us.

Our spouse should be one of those people…if they are not, then you have larger issues to work through. My wife is my best friend. I could not imagine making major decisions without her input…and she definitely does not always tell me what I want to hear.

We also need close friends who can serve us in the same way…not too many, mind you. But enough that we can get a diversity of opinion when we are trying to make the best decision possible.

They need to be individuals who can get in your face and call you out when you are wrong, comfort you when you are grieving, and rejoice with you when you celebrate.

It’s important that your board of directors has the same value system as you. Its also important to get a diversity of opinions from the group. My wife Katie is one of my board members…so is Steve…and my oldest son, Jack. I also have guys like Mike, Carl, and Eric that I rely on for wisdom and counsel when I need it.

How about you? Do you have people in your life who have the total freedom to put on their boots and stomp around in the mud of your life? Are they allowed to call you out when you need to be called out? Do they offer you sound wisdom, whether you ask for it or not?

Proverbs 27:6a says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”

If you don’t have any friends that you can trust to wound you once in awhile, I would suggest that you find some soon…

Because we all have decisions to make in this life…

And most of them should not be made alone.

 

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Are You a People Pleaser?

I’m a people pleaser…

I just can’t say no.

This has been a problem for me most of my life…

I have a people-pleasing personality, so when people ask something of me, I usually say yes.

I don’t want to let them down.

Being unable to tell people no would not be a bad thing if the question they asked was, “would you please accept this large sum of cash and spend it on yourself in any way you please without ever having to pay me back?”

No one has ever asked me that…

Big surprise.

The questions I am most often asked have to do with taking responsibility for accomplishing a task…often a task that I am not deeply interested in completing personally.

At the university, we call this “service.”

At church, we call it “ministry.”

At home, we call it “being part of the family.”

The things we are usually asked to do are not inherently bad…

For example, at work, I was just asked to chair an awards committee. I was recommended by the Vice Chancellor and asked by the head of Human Resources. To be honest, it’s kind of an honor to be asked.

When the HR Director called, my first reaction was that I must be in trouble (I think it’s an automatic response that I developed because I was frequently called to the office in high school). After quickly thinking through my actions of the past week, I figured that I was not in trouble…so I relaxed.

Being in trouble can have more than one meaning, as I quickly found out.

“Jon, would you be willing to chair the campus professional staff awards committee this year? Our usual chair is unavailable and you were recommended by the Vice Chancellor.”

I was in trouble…

How do I say no to the Director of Human Resources when I was recommended by the VC, who, not coincidentally, is also my boss?

So I said yes…

Because I did not want to disappoint the HR Director…

Or the Vice-Chancellor…

Of course, the are numerous people who will be nominated for this award…

And only one of them will win.

So I guess I will be disappointing a bunch of other people anyway…

But I digress…

My point is that I am unable to say no.

This is the second time in two weeks that I have been asked to step in and fill a slot for someone who is unable to complete their assignment.

Part of me feels flattered to be asked. I am often the first one that people ask when they need to get something done.

But I have started to realize that this is not necessarily something for which I should feel flattered.

This is actually a time-saving act on the part of the person making the request.

People have started to recognize that I don’t usually say no…

If they need to get something done and they do not want to dedicate a lot of time to finding someone else, they can ask me.

Because I will usually say yes.

And they can move on to the next item on their “to-do” list…

While I add another item to mine.

And then I wonder how I can get everything done on my list…I start to feel anxious over how busy I am…I feel pressured…I get irritable…

And I usually end up doing a less effective job.

So then, the people who asked me to serve get annoyed that I did not do as good a job as they had hoped.

And I disappoint them.

Seems like I could have taken a much shorter route to disappointing them if I had just said no in the first place.

What about you? Are you a people-pleaser? Do you have difficulty saying no? Or are you someone who has learned to prioritize your own tasks and not allow others to crowd their way onto your “to-do” list?

I would love to receive your feedback on how I can learn to say no.

Of course, if you respond to this post, you will be saying yes to my request…

And I will be pleased…

😉

 

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Get a Hobby!

Many of my friends have hobbies…

Steve flies airplanes…

Greg shoot guns…

Dave plays the guitar…

Bryan likes to hunt…

Larry and Mark fish…

Todd scuba dives…

Even my sons have hobbies…Jason and Andrew play the guitar and Matthew plays the piano.

And my wife is an amateur photographer…

Hot Air Balloon Festival, 2011, by Kate Becker

A pretty good one, too…

I wanted a hobby…

Unfortunately, my hobby isn’t cool when compared to my friends who are pilots, scuba divers, hunters, or fisherman…or to my musically gifted sons…

I was lamenting to Steve (the pilot) last week about how lame I thought my new hobby was…how it wasn’t “cool” compared to his own hobby of flying actual WW2 antique fighter planes.

He said that sometimes when he’s flying, he feels kind of foolish, because he’s just a big kid flying around in an airplane…

An antique WW2 fighter airplane…

I think Steve was just trying to make me feel better…

I think Steve was secretly trying not to snicker at my new hobby…

I’m sure you’re eager to hear about this new hobby that has captured my attention…

Prepare to laugh…

Just don’t put “lol” in any of your comments…

Then I can imagine that no one is laughing at me…

Ok, here it is…

I have started to collect…

Starbucks coffee mugs…

I’ll pause while you laugh…

Got it out of your system? Need another moment? I can wait…

Ok…

Yes, I said Starbucks coffee mugs.

It actually started when I was in Hong Kong last summer (which was pretty cool in itself). I wanted to bring home a souvenir that would have some meaning to me. And I spend a lot of time at Starbucks (in fact, it was at a Starbucks where Steve tried to convince me that my new hobby was not lame).

There is a Starbucks at the Lo Wu train station in Hong Kong, and they had these really cool mugs with an image of the Kowloon Peak Tram (google it, if you have never heard of it…it’s awesome!). I thought it looked cool, so I bought one. I decided that I would get a mug on each of my layovers while returning home. I was going to fly through Tokyo and Seattle before arriving home in Chicago, and I figured that I could get one in each airport.

Unfortunately, I could not get one in Tokyo, but I did pick one up in Seattle and another one in Chicago. So I had this nice little set of three mugs from my trip to China…and that was that…

Or so I thought…

My friend Mike is a US-based missionary. Last October, he was flying to the Philippines for 2 weeks. I half-jokingly said, “hey when you’re in Starbucks, grab me a mug!”

He did…

He brought me one from Manila…

And I was hooked…

My little collection has grown now to include 15 mugs…

Several of them have been gifts from friends who were traveling…but not all of them.

I found out from some new “friends” that there are over 250 of these specific mug styles all around the world…

These new “friends” belong to a Facebook group…

A Facebook group of Starbucks mug collectors…

They live all over the world…

And they are some of the nicest, most generous people I have ever met.

And, get this…

They trade mugs to one another.

So I just sent 2 Indianapolis mugs to a new friend in Germany, and she sent me a Berlin and a Vienna mug…

There is a guy in the U.K. who wants to trade me a London and an England mug for Indianapolis and Chicago.

There is a lady in Las Vegas who wants 2 Indianapolis mugs and will send me Las Vegas and San Diego…

I could go on and on…and on…

But I’m getting away from my original point…

I wanted a hobby…

What is it about a hobby that stirs our souls…that feeds us in a diversionary way like nothing else can?

According to timemanagementninja.com, we need a hobby to refresh and re energize ourselves. It helps prevent burnout and stimulates our productivity.

I think the ninja is right…

I think that we all need a hobby…a diversion that helps take the focus off the “work” of life.

Watching my wife take photos is fascinating…she becomes completely relaxed and focused on the art of taking excellent photos…like the balloon picture at the top of this blog, or the picture of our daughter, Rachael, at the bottom.

When my sons play the piano or the guitar, they get lost in the music that they are creating. It’s fun to watch.

Steve takes people up in his airplane and lets them take the controls and fly the plane for a little bit. He passionately loves sharing his hobby with others.

Even when Greg taught me how to shoot a handgun, I could see how immersed he became in the action of loading the weapon, hitting the target, re-loading…he even makes his own ammunition.

So I got myself a hobby…and I enjoy it.

Even if I drive my family crazy when I talk about it too much.

I love meeting new people…

And each mug has its own unique artwork, based on where in the world it was created.

What about you?

Feeling stressed? Need to unwind?

Do you have a hobby?

The ninja thinks you need one…

It may not be as cool as flying airplanes or shooting guns or playing music or photography…

Or collecting Starbucks mugs…

But it doesn’t have to be.

It only has to feed you.

So if you have a hobby, get out there and enjoy it…regularly.

And if you don’t…

What are you waiting for?

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Society, Uncategorized

 

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