May 2009


Today only, Barnes & Noble is offering a 20% discount with this code:  P8R3B8C

You can buy my book for $10.78 with this discount, but it is for today only.  Just click on the link to the right for Barnes&Noble.com and enter the coupon code when you check out.

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It’s a holiday weekend and I’m really not in the mood to write anything deep, so here is a recap of last week’s American Idol season finale.  This is completely irrelevant to the purpose of this blog and you can stop reading now if don’t watch American Idol.

First of all, there is the issue of the number of votes.  Seacrest kept saying that there were “almost 100 million” votes cast.  Compare that to the 2008 presidential election, considered by many to be the most important one in recent history, where there were about 120 to 130 million votes cast and you get a good sense of where America’s priorities lie (or is it lay… I never could get that one). 

Now for the performances – I didn’t really start keeping track until about halfway through the show, so I’ll omit the awkwardness of Lionel Richie with Danny Gokey and the surprisingly good performance by the combination of Cindy Lauper and Allison Iraheta. 

Since the judges always talk about contestants needing to be new, fresh, relevant, etc. what better way to celebrate the culmination of the season than to showcase a bunch of 30 year-old music?

When I saw Adam with what appeared to be rebar bent into some kind of industrial art incorporated into his costume, I told my wife that he would either be with Meatloaf or KISS.  Sure enough, KISS descended onto the stage amid some “shock and awe” pyrotechnics.  This is where everything started to get really weird for me.  I have to say, I’ve never been a big fan of KISS.  Yeah, they dress funny and wear a lot of makeup… but so does Paula Abdul.  These guys range from 57 to 64 years old.  Let that soak in.  Seeing them in spandex and u-cut shirts that showcase their harry barrel-chestedness was nauseating.  Was this a performance by rock and roll legends or The Country Bear Jamboree?

Next came the ageless Carlos Santana.  This guy is still one of the best guitarist ever and lives up to the name of the song he performed, “smooth”.  I can’t fault this one at all.

Next up… Steve Martin is playing a banjo and plugging his new album???  This is becoming a strange dream.  As weird as this was, I kind of liked the bluegrassy sound.

The adventures in surrealism continued when Rod Stewart was apparently given an adrenaline shot straight to the heart so that he could come on stage and perform a few more 30 year-old songs.  If American Idol is going for the young demographics, they really should invest in a calendar… or a time machine.

For the final performance, Kris and Adam started singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions”.  For a brief moment I thought, “Holy cow – they’re going to bring back Freddie Mercury from the dead.”  Don’t laugh, they did it with Rod Stewart.  The surviving band did appear and the show’s bias toward Adam was underscored.

To sum it up, I think all of the performances proved that there hasn’t been much decent music made this decade.  Everybody is shocked that Adam didn’t win the competition, but when you consider the fact that now he doesn’t have to record that stinker of a song that Kara wrote, he may be the real winner.  I  guess Adam can seek consolation from Chris Daughtry, who can tell him how to cope with a life of obscurity after losing on American Idol while the winner goes on to fame and fortune.  Who won that year?  Oh yeah, Taylor Hicks… he’s awesome.

images

With an early Memorial Day this year, the unofficial kickoff for the summer season is practically here.  For most people, summer brings back nostalgic memories of their childhood – cookouts, fishing trips, swimming, camping, ballgames, playing outside all day until the sweat and dirt combined to make a paste that, unfortunately, was unable to repel mosquitoes… yeah, I was a dirty little boy… and stinky.

Some of our best memories occurred during those three months when there was no school, no cold weather, and no Nickelodeon West in HD.  These days, there are a lot of things in a child’s life that compete against the formation of those fond memories that you enjoy.  I-Pods, internet, 16 channels of cartoons 24/7, video games, Facebook, Twitter… the list things that distract kids (and adults) from real life goes on and on.  This is why it is imperative that parents be intentional about providing opportunities for kids to discover the world around them and there is no better time than the summer months to do so. 

I know, easier said than done.  While it may seem impossible to pry your kids away from the TV or computer, I believe that their attraction to these forms of entertainment is a learned behavior.  And to a large extent, it is learned from us.

Which is easier – taking a kid hiking and allowing them to explore the infinite wonders of creation or sitting them in front of SpongeBob while we pay the bills?  I don’t want to sound sanctimonious here because I have been guilty of using the digital babysitter numerous times.  I just want to caution you from using a television, video game, or computer as the default method of keeping your children occupied.

 I’m not a child psychologist, but ever since we became parents, I’ve had the opportunity to closely observe child development every day for the past few years.  Here are just a few things I’ve realized:

  • Every child is unique (duh)
  • Most children would rather do than observe – “Let me try, let me try!”
  • Kids are curious and inquisitive
  • A child has more energy than the Tasmanian Devil with a Red Bull intravenous drip
  • Children are imaginative and creative

Think about what happens if your child spends too much time in front of the tube (RANDOM STUFF ALERT – Calling a TV “the tube” is really a misnomer because hardly any televisions still have picture tubes – it’s sort of like calling a CD a “record”, using Tivo or a DVR to “tape” a show, or “dialing” a phone number).  Sorry… back to the topic.  When a kid spends too much time watching TV, they are not fostering their unique curiosities and passions.  Rather, they are taught to be interested in whatever the latest market analysis and trends indicate that the majority of kids are interested in.  Additionally, any learning that occurs comes from observation rather than participation, there is no outlet for their boundless energy, and their imagination and creativity are stymied.

I know, you’ve heard all of this before.  Now – keep in mind that the purpose of this blog is to help us find significance in our adult lives.  All of those things that are lacking in a child’s life when they spend too much time watching TV or on the computer are lacking in our lives when we make an unfulfilling career the focus of our time and effort – there is no fostering of our unique curiosities and passions, there is no outlet for our imagination and creativity, and we end up being observers in life rather than participants.

Just as television keeps the kids occupied, maybe your career is simply keeping you occupied.  Perhaps it’s time to get a little sweaty and dirty.  Take some time this summer to explore.  Who knows, you may even enjoy it.

Fashion

 

I finally got around to cleaning out my closet a couple of weeks ago.  Determined to be more aggressive this time around, I finally got rid of some of the clothes that I have not worn at all since the previous 3 closet-cleaning efforts. Perhaps it’s because throwing out the old stuff is a mental concession to the fact that time is passing by all too quickly.

 

For example, I found some college t-shirts with the year 1993 on them.  Yes, that means some of the items in my closet are old enough to drive!  My wife gives me a hard time about my antique clothing, but she still has her threadbare Space Camp t-shirt (which she still wears).  I think it is from when she went to Space Camp in the 5th grade – both a testament to her pack-rat behavior and geekdom.  I won’t reveal what year she was in the 5th grade, but let’s just say the shirt is starting to get liver spots!

 

We seem to hold on to things that serve no real purpose.  At one time, we thought they were of value and we may have even gotten some use out of them, but now all they do is take up space and get in the way when we are trying to find something of value.

 

What’s filling up your closet?  What’s been hanging around in there for years that serves no purpose in your life now?  Just as fashion and tastes change when it comes to clothes, so do values and passions when it comes to life.  So take inventory and ask yourself if you still need that excess baggage you’ve been carrying around for years.  Whether it is fear, guilt, or age-old excuses, we can sometimes make these old adversaries our familiar friends.  As long as we keep them hanging around and have the status quo to keep us comforted, we don’t have to take the risk of trying on a new wardrobe.

time

Undoubtedly, there are things that you would like to be doing with your life but you feel that you simply don’t have the time.  When you add up the time spent getting ready for work in the morning, the time spent at work, working from home, and commuting, your job can easily consume 12 hours each day, leaving you with about 12 hours.  If you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night (yeah right), you’re down to 4 hours.  Add another 2 hours per day for preparing meals, eating them, and cleaning up afterwards and you have 2 hours left.  Add 45 minutes for exercise and travel to/from the gym and you are left with only 1 hour and 15 minutes to spend with your family, help your kids with homework, feed yourself intellectually, grow spiritually, and find some form of recreation.

 

So what can we do in order to find more time to do the important things?

 

Well… I’ve looked everywhere and you cannot “find time”.  All you can do is decide what to do with it.  If we look at how we spend our time, there doesn’t appear to be much we can cut out.  Usually sleep and exercise are the first things we delete from our schedule, but when we do so, we undermine our ability to effectively use the time that we have.

 

The obvious area of opportunity here is that huge chunk of our day spent at work.  But we have to work, or else we can’t support our families, right?  Not so fast.  I know there are situations where a single mom may be working two jobs simply to make ends meet and her time spent at work is truly an investment her children’s future, but I also know of plenty of professionals whose families have an abundance of material possessions; however, they are impoverished when it comes to the things of real worth. 

 

I think we need to ask ourselves if our jobs actually support our families or if they support our ego.  That’s a whole posting in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

 

What about the time spent working?  You can’t just stop working… and if you cut back on the hours that you work, you may be perceived as a slacker or lazy.  These days, that could lead to a serious reduction in your hours at work.  What can we do?  We can’t add more hours to the day and it seems that we can’t cut anything out.

 

I believe we need to change our thinking.  Instead of compartmentalizing 12 hours per weekday for work and using the 1 hour and 15 minutes left over at the end of the day to feed ourselves intellectually, grow spiritually, find recreation, and grow as a family, what if we added those aspects to our work?

 

What does that look like?  We need to ask ourselves if we are growing intellectually at work.  If not, then we have reached a plateau that will lead to discontentment and we need to look for some opportunity to grow.  Is your career in line with your spiritual beliefs?  This doesn’t mean everyone has to join the ministry full time.  We should; however, understand our spiritual gifts and apply them in manner that will give glory to the One who grants them.  What about recreation – is it possible to find recreation at work?  I think it is if our careers are based on our passions.

 

That’s what it really boils down to.  If we take that large portion of our day that is spent at work and use that time engrossed in the things that we are passionate about, then we may just find that we come home fulfilled rather than frustrated and exhausted.

 

You see, I don’t think our problem is a lack of time.  Our problem is that at the end of the day we feel that our day has been lacking in significance.  That’s why we wish we could do all of these other things if we just had the time. 

 

Find a way to add some significance to your workday and see if it doesn’t add to your job fulfillment.  If you’re a boss, understand what makes your employees tick and incorporate that into their objectives.  Show your children that you are passionate about what you do because you work towards the fulfillment of your mission daily.