Everyone has one. Each one is different.

When your timetable doesn’t match mine, it’s natural to use urgency to create importance. We can justify stepping on toes, ruffling feathers, or bulldozing the people around us if it’s for the greater good. Because it’s inconvenient to let someone in your lane when you’re late for work. It’s easier to point fingers when someone doesn’t deliver on a promise. It’s safe to say, “Read the fine print.” It’s human nature to ask someone to stand up when they just sat down.

Urgency has never been prudent.

We notice when people push pause on their timetable to help with ours. Because despite being busy, and tired, and stressed; and with the increase in noise, and distractions, and deadlines—you took the time to be their when we needed you. You saw. You acted. You cared.

It’s easy to justify our actions by saying, that the lack of preparation on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine. And you would be be right—the letter of the law says so. But compassion doesn’t work that way—it is the spirit of the law that we care about.

It’s increasingly difficult to show up. The one’s who are standing out are the one’s who are standing up.

Half empty or half full

Our perspectives change when our environment changes. We tighten our grip during bad times and we loosen it during the good times. But why let recessions, and bubbles, and stock prices, and holiday seasons dictate when we are going to be generous?

We have to take care of our survival: food, water, shelter, clothing. I get that. But most of us who are reading this are not worried about where their next meal is going to come from. Once we have taken care of our survival, we need to find ways to be generous with our money, time, and talents. Paradoxically, it’s giving these finite resources away that creates abundance. (The “not-so secret” secret: The more you give, the more you get.)

Practicing generosity is a skill. It doesn’t suddenly happen when you finally make it. Money amplifies behavior, it doesn’t change it. A generous person becomes extremely generous when she makes millions. (It’s the same with greed.) Philanthropy isn’t reserved for billionaires. Making a difference or changing someone for the better is for anyone who wants to care.

But some people will insist on checking under every rock hoping to find answers that are right in front of them. I think we can do better. Spend less time looking for a purpose and instead focus on fulfilling a purpose.

[What am I going to do with what I have been given? Am I wasting this opportunity? These are better questions to ask yourself than spending time thinking about what’s in your cup.]

Forgive and forget

People make mistakes all the time. (Including you.) We assign blame and point fingers. But does it actually make us feel better?

Maybe. But only at first. Eventually, that part wears off. It’s in the quiet moments when we put aside the shock and the hurt feelings to see what actually happened—when we can see things as the way they are. We know people are people. A bad moment doesn’t make us a bad person. (Although it can defines us.)

We could try to forgive each other a little more. It’s not easy, otherwise everyone would do it. The hard part is learning to forget. It’s easy to hold on to your world view. It’s easier to hold on to grudges, and to hold on to preconceived notions, and to assume than it is to let go.

Learn to love the unlovable. The reason that person is in your life is because you have the capabilities to care for this person. (Maybe you are the only one who can.)

The books you read

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

I love books. When I visit anyone’s home, the first thing I do is wonder over to the bookshelf. You can tell a lot about a person by what they read. Bookshelves tell stories. They can’t be filled in a day. They take a lifetime. Books give us insights in who we are, and what changes we are seeking to make, and remind us about our commitment to always be learning.

[After 500 years, books are starting to fade away. It has been the longest media medium we have ever had. It seems like few care. But there are some out there that are still fighting the good fight. Like Josh Spencer. Josh runs The Last Bookstore in downtown LA. The world needs more people like him.]

[I think if everyone built a bookshelf by hand there would more enthusiasm to fill it. So. We did. With the help of friends, Eric and Shyla Sparks, we were able to finish it in about two weeks. The bookshelf is a reminder of their generosity every time I see it. It has brought a lot of joy in our home.]

Childish things

There is too much information, and education, and entertainment for anybody to consume in a lifetime. We have to be selective in what we let in. Saying no to projects and distractions is more important today then ever before in history. (And it will continue to become more important.) Delete the things that take 80% of your time but only being 20% of their value. Some tips on how to rescue your time and to do work that matters:

  • Fire the customers that bring little value and take up a significant amount time. (What could you do for the customers you keep now that you have freed up all of this extra time?)
  • Check your email. But only do it once (maybe twice) a day.
  • Become disciplined in how you check your feed. It’s easy to think that getting likes, or posting pictures, or sending tweets is busy and productive work. But it’s not. It’s a form of hiding and keeping us from doing the work that matters.
  • Cancel your subscriptions: Netflix, Xbox, Cable, whatever.
  • Avoid watching live TV. Try watching only one of your favorite shows. In fact, quit watching TV all together. (You will find a significant edge by doing this.)
  • Get rid of your commute by working close to home.
  • If you can’t avoid a long commute, make it productive. Listen to an audio book instead of music.
  • Avoid web surfing. Sign up for a RSS Feed.
  • Fill something in your lunch hour by doing something productive: exercise, read, write.
  • Make commitments and promises. Keep them.
  • Start a project. Finish a project. Ship your best work.
  • Write a blog. Everyday. Doesn’t matter if no one reads it.
  • Commit to getting up one hour (or two) earlier than you normally do.
  • Write a letter. It’s much more personal than an email.
  • Volunteer. Use your talents around the community. We need you.
  • Become debt free. It will change your marriage and how you view money.
  • Spend one night a week with your family.
  • Make a connection. The goal is not to change everyone. Change someone.

Paul’s advice from 2,000 years ago is still relevant today, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Your attention is a finite resource. The way you use it may make all of the difference.

Will this be on the test?

We don’t need students to memorize when the War of 1812 was. Google is better, faster, and cheaper. So why are we insisting on memorizing something just because it will be on the test? We can’t memorize everything. So we develop bad habits of looking for short cuts—work we have to do instead of the work we get to do.

There is little value in chasing an A. Chasing A’s don’t teach us about grit, or generosity, or failing. It doesn’t teach us how to solve interesting problems. What we are being taught is how to be cogs in a machine, compliant workers, and how to follow instructions.

In the real world: There is no map. We need to find our own way. Failure has to be an option. If we can’t fail, then we will never be remarkable. Yet, we insist on having a map because following instructions insulate us. We feel safe when we are being told what to do next.

Getting A’s are fine. But I rather hear how someone failed dancing on the edge of something daring. Even if that means getting a D.

Voting predicament

One of the stories we are being told is: If you are picking the lesser of two evils, you’re still choosing evil.

Voters who choose to mitigate damage are not supporting evil.

Yes, with two historically unpopular candidates there is an argument to look for someone in a third-party. But will it be a waste?

We haven’t seen a third-party candidate win since 1860—when Abraham Lincoln of the Republican Party won and replaced the established Whig Party. (Revolutions do enable the impossible.)

Yet, this election will not be determined by those who are choosing the “lesser of two evils” or who vote for third-party candidates but by the 80+ million eligible voters who won’t bother to show up. They are the ones leaving voters in this predicament.

My advice: Vote with your heart. Making decisions based on fear don’t ever seem to work out.

(What’s wasted is choosing not to vote as a form of protest. This only works when everyone votes.)

(There is a lot of noise. Overshadowed in all of this is the other offices and legislation we will be voting on come November 8. It’s easier now more than ever to do your homework. Take 5 minutes to see what will be on your ballot.)

(Last word: There are people who are afraid. But November 9th will come and we will all still be here.)