Monthly Archives: May 2012

Make a Difference

“I’m trying to make a difference; I’m not trying to make a dollar.”

-Seth Godin

Too many people think that the only way to make a difference is to have lots of money that they can throw at a problem, thinking that this will fix the problem, or at least make it  go away.

I am one of those people…are you?

How often have you said, “If I ever win the lottery, I’m going to fix (insert your own world problem here).” I tend to say this every time the Mega Millions jackpot exceeds $200 million…because that’s the only time I ever buy a lottery ticket.

Because “you gotta be in it to win it…”

So I buy a lottery ticket about once every three years or so…I spend the days leading up to the drawing telling all of my friends about all of the noble things I am going to do with my winnings, and then I check my ticket the morning after the drawing.

Then I pitch my losing ticket in the garbage and go back to my life…and nothing really changes.


Maybe I become just a fraction more cynical…maybe I become just a fraction less likely to make a difference in the world…because there is something engrained in my psyche that believes I cannot make a difference if I don’t have “enough money.”

My problem is in the scope of my focus. I have this idea that if I do not make some huge difference in the world-a difference that will be a game-changer for a large number of people-then I have not made enough of a difference…so I don’t try.

In other words, it’s all about me….

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever shied away from a situation because you didn’t think that you had the resources or the ability to make a difference? I do it all the time…

And I’m sick of it.

That struggling single mom might be raising a future research scientist who will find a cure for cancer…the abused child on your son’s baseball team might grow up to become a pro athlete with the resources to help other children who are being abused like he was. That drug-addicted high school dropout might find a way out of their lifestyle and start a recovery program for other dropouts.

We have no trouble envisioning what our “million$” will do for nameless, faceless people across the country or around the world…but we have trouble imagining what change might occur if we make a contribution within our own community.

I don’t need to make a dollar (or a million dollars) to make a difference…and neither do you. In a recent blog, Jeff Goins summed it up best: “In a selfish world obsessed with celebrity, we need more generosity. We don’t need more rock stars; we need more servants. It may be the only thing that can save us from ourselves.”

I’m done trying to be a rock star…I want to be a servant.


How can I help?






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Have you ever built anything? I’m not the most handy guy (just ask ANYONE). But I have managed to remodel a kitchen and bathroom, finish a basement, and even build a chicken mansion (think of a chicken coop on steroids…REALLY big chicken coop) over the past several years.

None of these creations will end up in the carpentry Hall-of-Fame…but they have served their purpose. Now I’m trying to build something else. I’m trying to build a platform.

I wish it was the kind of platform that needed some wood and nails. I think that might be easier. No, the kind of platform I am trying to build is defined perfectly by Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) as “the means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans.”

I’m not hung up on the word “fans.” That feels too egocentric. I don’t think of anyone who reads my blogs or follows me on Twitter as a “fan.”  But I recognize that there are some people who like what I have to say. And I want to make a difference in the lives of as many people as possible. So I would define my platform as “the means by which I connect with the people in whose lives I have made, or will make, a difference.

Feels too wordy, but it gets to the heart of what I want to do: I want to help people. And in turn, I want those I have helped to be inspired and motivated to help others. I want to look back on my life in 40 years and smile, knowing that God used me to help as many people as possible.

In order to maximize the number of people I may help, I need a platform.


In the days before electricity, the way that an individual built their platform was much less broad. The local newspaper would carry information about the movers and shakers of the community, but the influence was localized. As technology grew, the ability to carry a message grew with it. Telephone and telegraph became a way to carry the message to more people. Eventually radio and television exponentially increased the numbers of people who could be influenced. Now we have the internet…and within the internet, the number of ways to reach people and establish a platform continues to grow, seemingly with no end in sight. The explosion of Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Squidoo, Google Reader, and RSS (just to name a few), has created a vast network of people, so it should be easy to connect with thousands of people at the click of a button…

But it isn’t. Not without a platform.

The beauty of a platform is that it is not a “one-size fits all” creation. A platform may include your Facebook, Linked In, or Twitter accounts. It might include pod-casting or YouTube videos. Perhaps you are a musician or an actor or a public speaker. If you are a writer, your platform may include newspaper, online articles, or a blog. It is likely that building a platform will require a combination of things in order to get yourself noticed.


Hyatt is releasing a book on May 22nd called (appropriately enough) “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.” I cannot wait to read this book, and I encourage all of you who are looking to be a voice in the world to order it too…BUT…

Do NOT order it yet! Hyatt is giving away an insane amount of free material for those people who buy the book during the week of May 21-25. In his own words, Michael writes, Here’s the deal: if you buy the book during the week of May 21–25, I will send you SEVEN FREE BONUSES worth $375.98.”

This is an incredible opportunity to learn from an expert how to build your platform and be heard above the clatter of our noisy world. I urge you to check it out. Details are available on Hyatt’s website.


I’m building a platform, one plank at a time…I’m doing it through speaking, coaching, teaching, and writing. We all want to make a difference in this world, so we all need a platform. How are you building yours?


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Redefining Myself


I have A.D.D.…It’s self-diagnosed, but I’m pretty sure I have it (My wife will tell you that I am a hypochondriac, but that’s a topic for another blog).

I can’t focus on anything for more than 4 or 5 minutes before my mind is racing off in another direction. It makes blogging extremely difficult. And, as badly as I want to write a book, I don’t know if I will ever be able to stay focused long enough to do so.

That’s a cop-out, and I know it. But it’s MY cop-out, and I’ll thank you not to judge me for it.

We all cop out on something. Either we lack confidence, or we lack encouragement, or we lack self-discipline, or we lack focus…

I have been using my (self-diagnosed) A.D.D to define myself, to give myself an excuse for not pursuing my passion to write. I start an article or blog post, but I run into a wall, so I give up. I want to be a writer, but I feel like I can’t get the words out that I want to say. I want to encourage people, and I have general ideas for how I want to help others, but when it comes to putting the words into print, I struggle.

I hate that.

I want to tell stories that offer hope. I want to share words that strengthen and encourage. I want to inspire others…to motivate people. I see a future that I love. I want to help others who do not love where they are…those who want to chase after their dreams, but are afraid to do so. So what am I afraid of?

I am afraid to fail. I am afraid to try something and not have it go well. Why is that?

I have become used to accepting failure as an identifier of who I am, instead of what I am doing. But the reality is that if I am not failing at something, it’s because I am not pursuing new adventures…I am not trying new things. I am sticking with the same old routine that got me where I am today-teaching math to people who don’t want to learn it, while gazing out the window, and feeling as if life is passing me by. Life doesn’t have to be that way.


We need to redefine failure in our society. Failure does not define who we are…it doesn’t even define what we did. Failure is a stepping stone on the road to success.

Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 models for the light bulb before he found the one that changed our world. He did not look at the first 9,999 attempts as failures. He considered that he had found 9,999 ways NOT to make the light bulb! And then he found the one way that worked. His success was made possible by the multiple failures he experienced along the way.

My blog is relatively new. I have written about 50 posts. And in every one of them, I can find something that I would change if I were to rewrite it. But each of them has been a learning experience. There are some that I didn’t want to publish. But I knew that I would be shrinking back from my passion if I did not put them out there to be read…to be critiqued…to be criticized.


Jeff Goins says that you are a writer when you decide to call yourself one…when you start believing it yourself. That’s hard for me. I have always identified myself as a math teacher. But I don’t love to teach math…I just love to TEACH. So I should call myself a teacher.

I also love to write. So I should call myself a writer. The beauty of being a writer is that even if no one reads it, I still wrote it. It’s not the same for a teacher.

To be a teacher, I have to have a student, a learner who is processing the knowledge. It’s like the age old question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a noise?” If I teach something and there is no one to learn, have I really taught?

That’s not the case for a writer. I can write an epic novel, a short story, or just a sentence…

And even if no one else reads it…

I still wrote it.

I like that.

So I’m going to call myself a writer.

I’m even going to change my profile on Facebook to make it official…I am a writer.

And even if no one reads what I write…guess what?

I’m still a writer.


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Taking the Final

As I gaze out over my class, watching frantic students punch buttons on their calculator and glance furtively toward their neighbors to see how far they’ve gotten, I can’t help but think…

“I’m so glad that I don’t have to take a final exam…”

Students who have been preparing throughout the semester seem confident, but not cocky. They take their time…but, inevitably, they are the first ones to turn in their exams. They are not fearful…but they let out a sigh of relief that one more pressure point has been relieved from their lives…at least for the moment.

On the other hand, there are those who punch their calculators a bit more aggressively…those who glance toward their neighbors, perhaps not just to gauge their progress, but in hopes that they might catch a glimpse of an elusive answer that might give them the last few points they need in order to push them over the threshold from a C- to a C, the bare minimum necessary to receive credit.

These students are not confident or cocky…they are fearful.

The irony of this situation is that they have been confident-some of them even cocky-throughout the entire semester…until now. Even though it was detailed to them throughout the life of the course that their efforts were not going to accomplish their goals, they skipped class, failed to complete homework, did not seek assistance from those able to help them, and generally ignored their responsibilities to themselves and their future. And now, time is winding down at the end of the final exam, and they are unprepared.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

I’m learning this now, in my 40’s. Throughout my life, I have ignored the doctor’s advice to lose weight and take care of my health. I have ignored those who have encouraged me to develop my leadership skills and public speaking ability. I have passed up chance after chance to pursue the goals that I want to achieve. I have been confident (sometimes even cocky) that I will eventually accomplish all that I have planned to accomplish.

And now, I find myself “punching the buttons” of life a bit more aggressively…glancing at those around me who have been preparing for their whole life, and hoping that I see something in them that might give me the “answer” I need to push me the last little way that I need to succeed.

Is it too late?

Just as my students should have been preparing throughout the semester, I should have been preparing throughout my life…

Why did I wait until I was in my 40’s to finally get serious about my health?

Why did I ignore the advice of the people I respected who told me that I had the relational skills to reach those in need?

Why did I waste all those years on frivolous stuff when I could have been preparing to more completely serve others?

Because I didn’t want to do the work…because I was focused on short-term satisfaction, rather than a lifetime of gratification…because I was lazy…

Just like my students.

And for my students, it is likely to late for them to bail out their grade…

But it’s not too late for me to make an impact on the world…By reaching out and serving others.

That’s what I hope to do…with my weight loss, with my speaking ability, with my relational skills…

And with this blog.

It’s not too late for you either. Are you still focused on yourself, as the world passes you by? It’s time to jump out of yourself and jump into the rest of the world…find someone who has a need…

And meet that need.

Serve others…give of yourself…use the talents and abilities that God gave you…

And give to someone else…

Because someday, we will all face the ultimate “final exam.”

And for me, I want to know that I prepared for it the best that I could.


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