When Fame Begins With a Piece of Paper and a Pen

They say the heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland. I recently had the chance to feel that heart beat when I visited the city and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the highlights for me was to see artifacts from one of my all-time favorite bands: Electric Light Orchestra. I got to see highlights of their induction which happened earlier this year. In addition, there were guitars, clothes, and other artifacts from the band that brought back memories and fascinated my creativity. It was fun to see how fame often has humble beginnings.

I was most fascinated by the numerous handwritten artifacts. Most of them were the original manuscripts of famous songs. The songwriters took pen to paper and scratched out lyrics that are now on the hearts, mouths, and minds of millions. It speaks to the power of simple paper and pen.

Jeff Lynne, the founder and front man of ELO, talked about the encouragement he received from his father. He picked up a used guitar and started writing songs. His dad saw Jeff’s potential, bought him a new (used) guitar, and told him to keep on writing. That encouragement led to a lifetime career in music, working with former members of the Beatles, and being part of a “supergroup” named the Traveling Wilburys.

Certainly not everyone needs, or even wants, fame. But we all need a certain kind of fame if we want effectiveness in our work or vocation. Every leader needs to be known well at least by those one leads. What better way to become known than by writing?

While we were in Cleveland I ran into a good friend who wants to do just that. Their kids are now all out of the house and she wants to start a blog. So she asked me about how to get started, logistics, and content. She has a great idea for her blog. I’m certain that she will attain the kind of fame she desires. She has the passion and the ability. She’s about to use her newfound fame for the benefit of others.

All it takes is putting pen to paper. Who knows where it might lead? There are all kinds of people in my life that I wish would write and put their musings out into the world. It would make this world a far richer place.

Why not you? You might even end up in some kind of hall of fame, even if it’s your own family hall of fame.

What can you write today?




Simple Tactics for When Life Keeps Getting in the Way

Recently I received a request from a reader of my blog. He was looking for tactics to help complete a project that had been on the back burner for years. The project is a writing project, and the questioner is fully capable of doing exactly what he wants to do. He can check this item off the bucket list with just a little concerted time and effort. Here’s his exact question:

What type of encouragement do you have for someone that has this innate desire to accomplish a task, but yet it seems life keeps getting in the way?


Is there something you want to do but feel like you don’t have the time? Here are six tactics to help motivate you to get going starting today.

  1. Get up. Every single person has the same amount of time in the day. Yet some people seem to accomplish more than others. One of the ways they do it is by getting up earlier in the morning. It can be very difficult for those who aren’t “morning people.” But if you promise yourself it’s just for a month or two while you accomplish an important task, it’s very doable.
  2. Stop wasting time. Do you watch TV after the kids go to bed? Turn it off and work on meaningful things instead. Are you spending time on Facebook or other social media? Start a timer and limit that kind of activity. Then use the rest of the time to work.
  3. Set manageable goals. If you’re a writer, set a goal of writing just 500 words per day. Sometimes it’ll be a struggle to write those 500 words. But other times you’ll get on a roll. When you do, keep going. The same applies for all kinds of other activities, too.
  4. Use the Pomodoro TechniqueThe Pomodoro Technique is, in a nutshell, doing a task for 25 minutes, then taking a short, three to five minute break. Do that four times in a row, and then take a fifteen to thirty minute break. You’ll be surprised how much this tactic will help you accomplish.
  5. Pray. Ask the Lord for more structured time in your life, more free time, and for the ability to juggle everything well and in good balance.
  6. Use a Deadline. Deadlines are powerful motivators. They are even more motivating when you tell someone else what your deadline is and ask them to hold you accountable.

Sometimes simple tactics used consistently can help you accomplish that one thing you’ve always wanted to. Try these six things and watch yourself do the thing you’ve wanted to do for months, or even years.

What tactics do you use to accomplish an important task?



Using the Extra Mile to Make an Indelible Mark

It was a summertime week night in Volterra, ItalyThat little town is one of the most stunning places I have ever been in my life. It sits at the top of a Tuscan hill, and the views become even more spectacular as the sun sets. We spent a nice afternoon in that historic little town. On a quaint corner a shopkeeper invited us in for a wine tasting and we took him up on it. We sat in a private room with some friends as he brought out a few wines and some beautiful charcuterie. Then he went the extra mile.

He told us his family ran a restaurant down the street. It was one of the most well rated places in the town. A phone call made sure we had a table in the place at prime time. We would watch the sun set over the Tuscan hills as we ate our dinner. Sure enough, we made our way down the street and there was a table waiting for us.

As we sat down my wife, Tammy, noticed the silverware on the table was set in an interesting way. Each knife and fork was placed on a little “rest” that was made of clay. She became obsessed with them and wondered how we might be able to take some home. That’s when our waiter went the extra mile.

He said they were made at a little shop just down the street. So he actually ran over to the shop to see if it was still open and, if so, we’d be able to purchase some. Unfortunately, it was closed. But our dinner was outstanding. As we ate an incredible meal we watched one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. The next day the restaurant went the extra mile.

Our friends who had been at dinner with us checked back the next day to see if they could purchase some of the clay silverware rests from the restaurant itself. It turned out that they had extras on hand, so they went the extra mile and sold them to us. Tammy now had a remembrance of Volterra, and that restaurant, that would be set on our table for years to come.

The extra effort made the the wine tasting host, the waiter, and the restaurant didn’t cost them anything at all. But the gestures they made were valuable to us as tourists. Sure, they got business out of it. But our experiences created memories that will last our entire lives. If we’re ever in Volterra again, I want to patronize those places.

What can you do today to go the extra mile for someone else? Your effort might just create a memory, a connection, or a relationship that will last far longer than you could have hoped. Something that costs you nothing could bring great benefits. Go ahead and give it a try.

What does your extra mile look like?




The Benefits of Confidence in the Midst of Adversity

If you want to see confidence in the midst of adversity, just take a look at Jordan Spieth. Talk about adversity! Spieth took the lead into the final round of the British Open Golf Tournament (one of golf’s four major championships). But he began to give it up in the middle of that final eighteen holes. Shots went awry and his score began to climb. Most people would have let their confidence lag. But not Spieth. If you’ve got a few minutes you can see how he handled it here.

In the middle of what could have been an epic implosion, Spieth’s caddy, Michael Greller, gave him the boost he needed. According to the New York Post, this is what transpired:

“Do you remember that group you were with in Cabo last week?’’ Greller asked Spieth when they were on the seventh tee, referring to some time he spent with Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps. “You belong in that group. You’re that caliber of an athlete. But I need you to believe that right now, because you’re in a great position in this tournament. This is a new tournament. We’re starting over here.’’

From there Spieth took control and won the tournament. He made long, dramatic putts, hit shots out of the sand, and made great drives all the way to victory. It all boiled down to confidence in the midst of adversity. And a little boost from a friend.

I’m not going to compare anything I do to the intense pressure of millions of eyes watching my every golf shot. But everyone goes through their own share of adversity. For instance, many churches face a significant downturn in attendance over the summer months. Our church is no different. People travel, participate in activities, or are simply lazier in the summer. To be completely honest I sometimes wonder if I’m the reason people are staying away.

But I have a wife who gives me a vocal boost when I need it. She reminds me of what’s important and why I should be confident. And I carry on doing my job and fulfilling my vocation to the best of my ability.

So these are the benefits to confidence in the midst of adversity:

  1. It keeps your focus on the goal instead of on distractions.
  2. It keeps the people around you calm.
  3. It gives you inner strength.
  4. It taps into your natural competitiveness.
  5. It gives you something to go on in the future.

When you find yourself in adversity listen to those who know you best, keep your eye on the goal, and remember how you have previously overcome.

How do you overcome adversity?



You Have More Determination Than You Think

How much determination do you have deep down inside of you? It might not take much to find out. One couple found out pretty quickly when they were on their honeymoon in the 1970’s. They decided to take a year to backpack around South America. On that adventure they ended up in a plane crash. After the crash in a remote place the only place for shelter was in a prison. After being rescued they kept their adventure going. They missed a boat to Bolivia so they built their own raft. They used it to float down a dangerous Amazon tributary. A severe thunderstorm threw them off course and left them eating frogs and slugs. You can read all about it here.

The couple survived their ordeal because of their determination (and a whole lotta God’s grace). But a turning point came for them in the midst of a dire time when they feared they would never leave the South American swamp alive. In the midst of hunger and survival mode, the wife, Holly, suddenly  discovered deep within herself the desire to have children at some point in the future. She did not want to die without having her own offspring.

So she convinced her husband to fight.

And they fought to live with all the determination they could muster. After surviving twenty-six days of bad weather, terrifying sounds from the jungle, and eating South American creatures, they were rescued by some natives.

The human spirit is much stronger than we often realize. Our bodies, when tested, can do far more than we think they can. Sometimes determination is forced upon us. But when it is, strength from deep within us wells up and moves us forward.

Yet far too often we wait until we find ourself in a difficult circumstance before we muster up gumption and strength. We sit around in our comfortable homes and offices and wonder why we don’t have motivation. In all seriousness, it might be beneficial to expose ourselves to some discomfort every once in while. It helps us perform better in stressful or less than perfect conditions. (Tim Ferriss talks about that here.)

Here’s the point: Try to muster up more than usual determination today to do something you’ve been putting off. Use The Five Second Rule and make it happen. Count down out loud and jump right in.

You’ll probably surprise yourself.

How do you muster up determination?




Using Accountability to Accomplish Important Things

Have you ever used accountability to accomplish something important? You know how it is. You tell yourself that you want to do something. But it never gets accomplished because you don’t write it down, you don’t tell someone else, and you don’t keep track of progress. It’s just an idea or a pipe dream. Then you wonder why half the year is gone and you haven’t accomplished what you wanted.

It should be no shock to you that I’ve had that problem before, too. That’s why I’ve discovered if I want to accomplish something I had better find a way to find some kind of accountability. It’s human nature. We often need extra motivation. Accountability also plays to one’s competitive nature (which most certainly describes me).

So how do you hold yourself accountable? Here are some ideas:

  1. Write it down. I have found that when I write down my goals at the beginning of a year, I am far more inclined to attain them than if I don’t write them down. In 2016 I wrote down my eight goals and accomplished, or very nearly accomplished, almost all of them. Full disclosure: In 2017 I didn’t write down my early year goals and have not accomplished as much personally as I did last year. Write it down.
  2. Use a coach. It’s a constant struggle for me to keep myself at a weight where I feel comfortable with myself. I have had some success in the past with apps on my phone and other kinds of calorie trackers. But recently our health insurance introduced a program for healthy living that includes an online, real live coach. As I begin this program I’m finding that I don’t want to disappoint my coach or do things that are unhealthy and have her know about them. I’m looking forward to seeing results that are lasting.
  3. Tell someone else. It might be your wife, or a friend, or a co-worker. And when you tell them, specifically ask them to hold you accountable. With my new healthy living program, not only do I have a coach, but my wife is holding me accountable, too. It’s double the accountability. And hopefully double the success.

What do you do for accountability? Where have you seen success?




How a Crocheted Taco Started a Trend That Brought Ear to Ear Smiles

The first thing I do when I speak to groups about creativity is make this statement: Raise your hand if you consider yourself creative. I’m still surprised when, in any given audience, only about half of the people will raise their hands. The statement brings smiles and nervous laughter. It’s always my goal to convince everyone in my audience that she or he is most certainly creative. Sometimes you just have to look for it.

My mom told me about a story in southeastern Wisconsin where creativity brought a boatload of ear-to-ear smiles. It started with a bus driver who simply loved to crochet. One day one of the kids on the bus bet her that she couldn’t crochet a taco. She told him she could. He told her to prove it. So she did. She created a crocheted taco for him. When she presented him the taco I’m sure there were smiles all around.

Pretty soon all the kids wanted a crocheted gift. So the bus driver went to work. She asked every child what they wanted and she produced it for them. Get a load of this quote from the bus driver:

I get joy out of seeing them smile…So when I would finish it and they’d come around every morning and see how progressed I got on their little creature or whatever they got, and when that was done, I would set it on my dashboard when I got to the stop, and they would see it and be smiling all day with it and they would take it into the school and they’d still have a smile on their face when they came back out.

Do you think that bus driver was always good at crocheting? Probably not. Was she ever a beginner? Of course she was. There may have even been a time when she would have told you she wasn’t creative. But she kept working on it. She practiced while she waited for her little bus riders to get out of school. She took a hobby and created something that brought smiles to all kinds of little faces.

Now you might protest and say she was already creative. But if you think about it, all it takes to learn to crochet is a little practice. Hook yarn, thread it through, and count. Pretty much anyone can do it if they set their mind to it. Once you learn to do the simple things you can learn to do that which is more complicated. Before you know it, you might even be creating a crocheted taco.

You are creative. Yes, you. Whatever hobby it is that you have you can use it to bring joy and smiles to others. That’s what art is. It’s something you create that changes both the artist and the recipient for the better.

What will you create today that will give joy to another person?




Who’s Your Personal All Star Team?

It’s time for the Mid-Summer Classic. It’s the middle of the summer and the middle of the season. Nine guys from each league are out in the field participating in the All Star Game. It’s fun to see who the fans, coaches, and players select to represent each team. It’s even more fun to see them display their skills. They’re the best of the best. It got me to wondering who you’d pick to be the nine all stars in your life.

Every life is filled with people who love and support. They are, in a sense, our all stars. Entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If that’s true (and I certainly think there is a great deal of truth to it), we’d better be intentional about who it is with whom we surround ourselves.

In that vein, I’d like to share with you my own personal all star team. I could put twenty (or even 100) people on this team; but there are only nine on a baseball team, so that’s my limit. I hope it motivates you to contemplate and consider your own nine:

  1. My mom. She brought me into the world, always motivated me to do my best, and from early on gave me a sense of style.
  2. My dad. He gave me the gift of creativity, writing, and the experience of being on stage from the time I was about six-years-old. All these things have served me well in life.
  3. Miss Schroeder, my third grade teacher. She instilled in me the love of music and singing, let me know I had a gift for it, and pushed me hard to use it well.
  4. Gary Lohmeyer, former director of Joy Incorporated. He gave me the opportunity to be lead singer in a Christian band that traveled all over the country with a group great people. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It also led to me meeting my future wife.
  5. John Glover, my friend. We met at the seminary thirty years ago and our friendship is stronger today than ever. John has taught me to appreciate U2, New York City, and good books.
  6. My son, Ben. He teaches me what it means to be brave, step out in faith, go after your dreams, and work hard doing what you love.
  7. My daughter, Ashlyn. She is a gifted and talented actress who has put all that on hold to put her family first. She has always known what she wanted and has gone after it with energy and vigor. One of my great joys in life has been to see her on stage. But an even bigger joy was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me: a grandchild.
  8. My grandson, Crosby. He’s an all star just for being himself. I never knew I could love someone like I love him.
  9. My wife, Tammy. She loves me far, far more than I deserve. She has taught me forgiveness and second chances. I love her sense of humor and adventure. And I appreciate the way she encourages me in ways no one else can.

Who is your personal all star team?





3 Things to Do When the Pressure Is On

It’s Major League Baseball’s All Star Break, and the Milwaukee Brewers are in First Place in the National League Central Division. The pressure is now on. (If you’re not a baseball fan I encourage you read on. I promise this will apply to your life.) We fans of the Milwaukee Brewers have had a great many lean years. The Chicago Cubs finally won their championship last year. Now it’s the Brewers’ turn, right? The closest they came was in 1982 when they lost the World Series in seven games to the (ahem!) St. Louis Cardinals. (I still can’t stand the Cardinals…sorry St. Louis friends)

The longer the Brewers are in first place the more pressure there is. It’s much more difficult being a fan when expectations are higher. When expectations are low there isn’t much pressure and it’s simply fun to be surprised when your team wins. A few years back when the Brewers were in the playoffs, and I was able to go to a couple of games, it was pure torture.

The good thing is that, at least so far, the team itself doesn’t seem to be feeling the pressure. They seem loose, relaxed, and ready to take on their opponents. There are a few lessons we can learn from them when we’re feeling the pressure in our lives:

  1. Have fun. The Brewers are near the top of the league in home runs. Every time they hit one they’ve got a celebration called “The Gauntlet.” The guy who hits the home run comes into the dugout and the players line up, bump elbows, and do a little dance. They’re having fun with their success. When you have a success in your life, large or small, be sure to have fun with it and celebrate it. It’ll ease some of the other pressure you may feel.
  2. Stick to the fundamentals. One of the reasons the Brewers are winning is that they are playing fundamentally sound baseball. They are hitting well, pitching well, committing very few errors, and turning in some stellar defensive play. When you’re feeling the pressure in your life, remember to stick with the things that you do best. Simply keep doing them well. The results will speak for themselves.
  3. Keep winning. Though the Brewers are in first place, they only have one player going to the All Star Game. That’s OK. Even though they’re not getting respect from the rest of the league the respect will come from their win total. People will begin to take notice. Focus on the small wins you can make in your daily life. Whatever those wins may look like in your line of work, the more you “win” the more respect you will get, and the more people will take notice. It will ease the pressure.

We’ll see how the season turns out. There’s a long way to go. But this is fun while it lasts. I’m hoping the Brewers will withstand the pressure and maintain a lead in the division.

How do you respond to pressure in your life?




How Many Summers Do You Have Left?

July 4th always marks for me the heart of the summer. When our kids were still in school the 4th was a reminder that there was still plenty of summer left (despite the Back to School ads in the newspaper). The holiday marks the passing of time in a gentler way than, say, New Years’ Eve. I was reminded of this again by, of all people, John Mellencamp. On a recent episode of CBS Sunday Morning, Mellencamp said: “I only have so many summers left and I intend not to waste them being old.”

While I’m not a huge fan of most of Mellencamp’s music, I can certainly buy into his philosophy. Life in this world is short. There are so many things to do, see, learn, feel, explore, and love. There’s no sense in wasting time “being old.”

Mellencamp might take an edgier viewpoint of that statement, but here’s what it means to me. As you age:

  1. Don’t be afraid to take risks. If you haven’t done it (whatever it is), give it a try. Write that book. Start a business. Do the side hustle. Run a marathon. Check the boxes off of that bucket list.
  2. Take the time to travel. Having just returned from an incredible trip to London and Tuscany I can tell you that I wish I would have done much more traveling far earlier in my life. I hope to be able to do much more. I speak with enough elderly people who wish they would have traveled when they had the chance. I’m glad our children have already had the opportunity to do some traveling in their young lives.
  3. Cherish the summers. And for that matter the falls, winters, and springs, too. Every season of the year has something to celebrate. Make the time to do just that with friends and family.
  4. Spend your money on experiences instead of stuff. The older I get the more I realize that “stuff” and “status symbols” are far less important to me. I’d much rather make memories with my family and friends. Since we live in Orlando and are Disney fans, we spend some money on annual passes so that we can enjoy experiences there. This goes, of course, for travel (see #2) too.
  5. Take care of your health. Keep your doctor appointments. Go to the dentist. Get your exercise. Eat well. Doing all this will ensure that you’re able to make the most of the summers you have left. You won’t waste them “being old.”

I don’t know how many summers I have left and I intend not to waste them being old.

How about you?