Chronicling 40: Day 102 of 365


“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.”  ~Stephen R Covey

The other day, I was having a discussion with a friend.  I was attempting to make a point, but first I needed to establish the context of my point.  Before I could even get to the actual point I was trying to make, she interrupted me and began to dissect the context.

This is a classic example of listening to reply versus to understand.  It was as if she was scanning every word I said looking for the opportunity to respond, instead of listening to my full point before responding.  Before I knew it, we were off on a tangent and I never even got to my initial point.

In years past, I had always considered this idea of listening to respond as something that only reared up in unhealthy relationships without boundaries.  My belief was that for a person to behave in such a way meant that they thought themselves better than me, superior in some way (experience, intelligence, etc.) or that the person was controlling (interrupting to control the flow of conversation back toward themselves).

This particular instance set that notion into a full stop, as this was a person I have a great relationship with.  I began to wonder if this behavior is more prevalent than I thought… and even question if I was also culpable.  Do I listen to respond when I should be listening to understand?

It can be said that listening is an automatic thing that happens, unless you are hearing impaired.  It is simply the picking up of sound being made.  Hearing is where we actually pay attention to what the sound is.  If you’ve ever zoned out when someone is talking to you, or fallen asleep watching television, you’ll understand what simply listening is.  I can hear the sounds, I know that noise is being made, but I can’t tell you any details about the sound.  I may know someone is speaking to me, but unable to recall what they said.  I may know that I am in a noisy room, but couldn’t tell you who or what the noises are originating from.

Hearing is a conscious decision to listen to the details, so that I know who is speaking, what is being said, what the noises are.

If you are planning your response while the other person is talking, you can’t actually hear the other person.  Why?  Because at some point you cut off hearing the other person and instead focused on the argument or comment you want to make.  As you are formulating your response, you can’t hear what else is being said.  In the situation with my friend, I believe this to be true.  The reason she couldn’t hear my main point was because she was hung up on the detail that she wanted to respond to.

If we start day dreaming or doing other tasks, it means we are disinterested.  If we don’t want to hear what the person is saying we can literally shut down our reception of the information, or we can lean into selective listening/hearing… where we only hear what we want to hear.  Management consultant Bryan Golden says:  “To make it yet more challenging, even when listening intently, you tend to filter what someone is saying through your own biases. You may assume you know what someone means because you jump to conclusions before they finish talking.”

All of these come down to the same bottom line, bad or poor communication skills.

The more I looked into the topic, the more I realized that we are all complicit in poor communication in some way, shape, or form.  Perhaps we would all do well to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), then we’d be less apt to be angry.

Chronicling 40: Day 101 of 365


I remember as a child, my mother only saw my grades twice per 9 weeks.  The first was the mid term progress report, the second was the end of term report card.  Other than that, unless a teacher called her for some reason, she had no idea what my grades looked like.  She had no clue if I had homework that night, nor if I had remembered to complete projects and turn them in on time.  Today, I can log onto my kids’ school site and pull up their grades in a matter of seconds.  I know every test score, every missed assignment, and even some of the ones coming down the road.

Because of this, it is nearly impossible for my kids to every fail a subject. If I was a parent who didn’t care, I could avoid looking at the site.  I could just let cards fall where they may.  As a parent who cares, I can now see the impending failure and begin negotiations.  Do we need to hire a tutor?  Should we ground our child from electronics until grades are up?  Shall I contact the teacher to create some sort of extra credit assignment to make up for missing grades, or find a way to turn in forgotten work even for partial credits?

As far back as I can recall, failure has not been cast in a positive light.  If our children fail at school, we ground them until they can become “more responsible” or hire in tutors to fill in education gaps.  If our children fail at a sport, we tell them to increase their practice times and dissect their plays to find out where improvements can be made.  We do things for them without even asking them to try because we determined what they can and can’t do.  And, we reward them for simply trying versus letting them feel the sting of defeat.

We tell kids when they fall to get back up and try again, focusing on continuing to work for success.  What about talking about what we learned from failure?  Why do we not allow our children to learn the consequences of failing a grade or subject?  Why do we take away the magnitude of lessons learned by making mistakes or failing to achieve their goal versus being content to walk away with a participation grade or trophy?

I have learned far more in the moments when I failed at something than when I hit gold right out the gate.  When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I must engage my critical thinking skills.  Why didn’t this work?  What was missing?  Did I make a mistake?  Was I using the wrong materials or did I miss a step in the process?  Or, is there simply a better way?  The more I engage my critical thinking skills the better off my next endeavors will turn out.  I’ll take those answers and apply them not just to the current project at hand but also in the future.

Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

When it comes to my children, I would much prefer their failures and mistakes to happen while they are in my home and I can help them grow from it.  Too many handle everything for their kids, send them off to college or out into the real world and they don’t understand how to cope with failure.  A failed class will result in teaching your children how to better prioritize their time.  A failing grade that pulls your child off of the team teaches them about consequences and how to be mindful of the requirements of participation.  A repeated grade teaches your children that mom and dad can’t fix everything, and sometimes they have to go through it to grow from it.   And, instead of coming to their rescue, it can help our children learn to navigate these issues on their own.  My asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities is a lot different than if my kids come up with the idea on their own.

In life failure teaches us what not to do again.  It teaches us processes and ways of thoughts that don’t work.  It helps us find our way to success.

If I am not failing, I’m not trying enough.

Failure can be a beautiful gift.

Chronicling 40: Days 99 & 100 of 365

Setting Goals

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of business women about setting effective goals.  Many of us have read the self help books, attended conferences, watched motivational speakers, and listened to podcasts that cheer us on to achieving our goals and wildest dreams.  Which of these people are taking the time to sit down with you and telling you how to get started?  Who is helping to develop your strategy from point A to point B?

Author Brian Tracy said:

“One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive 15 to 18 years of education in our schools and never receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.”

The fast facts…

You are 10 times more likely to be successful if you set goals. You are even 3 times more likely to be successful if you write your goals down.  You are 68% more likely to be successful if you break them down into small actionable steps.

So, why… if we know all of this… are people not more successful?

Because only 3% of Americans have written goals, and only 1% of those revisit their goals regularly.  That 3% is primarily made up people who have come from homes where goal setting is common and expected.  The majority of Americans are not writing goals, because they’ve never been encouraged or taught to do so.

When we haven’t never been taught to, we often set goals that are too big or vague.  We set goals that we can’t measure, unable to have any tangible signs of success.  We focus on the end game so much that we forget about all the steps that need to happen just to get off the starting line.  We become afraid, intimidated, by goal setting.  We don’t know where to begin.

So, while I could teach several workshop on this topic…I’m going to give you a start on goal setting with a simple example.  Imagine you were planning to run a 5K race.   You’ve never run a 5K before, but it seems like it isn’t that big of a deal.  You search online and find that there is a 5K tomorrow, register, and show up dressed to win.  The starters pistol is shot, you take off and not too far down the path you find yourself winded and unable to run any further.  Why?

You didn’t prepare your body for the race.

If you had called your friend who regularly runs marathons, she would have helped you come up with a plan to prepare for the race.  You would have started with a walking plan that included short distances of running, that gradually increased over time.  You would have started with a goal of just running 1K, then 2K, etc.  This gradual increase prepares your body so that you can eventually run the 5K without any effort.

In order to achieve your goals, you have to not only understand what your long term achievement is… but also all of the steps that it takes to get there.

Let’s say, for example, you want to start going to the gym 3 days a week.  In order to do so, you must wake up 1 hour earlier each day.  Since our bodies are accustomed to getting up at 6am, trying to wake up at 5am is going to be a chore.

Most people, would set the alarm for 5am.  Day 1, when the alarm goes off… they hit snooze and commit to try again the next day.  Day 2 comes along, snooze.  Day 3, snooze.  Why? They haven’t prepared their body.  They will never make it to the gym (goal) because they haven’t managed to get up on time (action step).  After a certain amount of time, they feel like their goal isn’t achievable and they give up.  We justify this by making excuses, convincing ourselves that it’s just not the right time and we should start this goal when our schedules clear up or our life isn’t as complicated.

Instead, if we know the goal is to get to the gym and focus only on that… it is easy to be discouraged.  Instead, we should focus on the action step… getting up earlier.  If my body is accustomed to getting up at 6am, asking it to wake up at 5am is a stretch.  So, I break down the action step into small increments.  Instead of waking up at 5am, I set the alarm for 5:55am.  Asking my body to wake up just 5 minutes earlier is reasonable.  Once my body acclimates to 5:55am, I can move the alarm back to 5:50am, 5:45am, 5:40am, etc.  As I move towards 5:00am, I can begin to implement some physical activity.   I may not have time to get to the gym yet, when I wake up just 10 minutes earlier.  However, I can do 10 minutes of yoga in the living room.  When I’m getting up 30 minutes earlier, I can go for a walk around my street.

Using the above example:

Goal:  Gym 3 times per week.

Action Step:  Waking up 1 hour earlier.

To-Do List:

  • Wake up at 5:55am
  • Wake up at 5:50am, 10 minutes of yoga.
  • Wake up at 5:45am, 15 minutes of yoga.
  • Wake up at 5:40am, 20 minutes walking in neighborhood.
  • etc…

We have made a big goal (yeah, we are in the 3%), and we are writing them down (13% more likely to succeed).  We broke it down into small, incremental, pieces that fall on our daily to do list (now we are 68% more likely to succeed).

Not only are we writing down these small steps, but we have also given ourselves something measurable.  A goal that is too big and vague, is hard to measure.  Small pieces on our to do list are tangible steps that we can cross out.  We can track our accomplishments as we move toward our goal.  We can celebrate the small victories on our way to our larger dreams.

Set a Goal.  Establish your Action Steps.  Break Down into your To-Do List.

There is a lot more I could say about this, and I could probably teach a full day of workshops on this topic.  But this, this is a good start.

Chronicling 40: Day 95 of 365

foodwine Back and recovered from Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, can I just say I long to go back already.

If you have never been, here’s the gist of it.  Throughout the “countries” area of Epcot are special booths set up that represent countries around the globe.  For every 1 country that is normal represented in Epcot, 2 more are added.  You travel from one end to another, sampling foods from these various countries.  Either brands they are known for, or recipes that are from the country.  There are also a few booths that are sponsored by certain companies that had menu items that exclusively used their products in the recipes.

To be clear, you pay the admission to the park, and then you pay for all of the food/drink you select from the booths.  There are so many booths and foods, it would be impossible to eat them all in one day.  So, if you want to try everything or even at least 1 item from every country, plan to attend the event for a few days.  Even with walking time, taking a few bathroom breaks, and going on just 2 rides… we probably didn’t even try half of the booths.

That all said, overall the food was amazing.  Each country booth would have 3-4 food offerings, 1-2 dessert offerings, and then 3-5 beverages options.  While it is the food and wine festival, each booth had water and some offered non-alcoholic beverages that were from the country.  Also there were options of beer, wine, cocktails, champagne.  Each booth would give you a suggested food/beverage pairing.  Because each booth had just a few offerings, you really never had to wait long for anything.  And the lines at the booths never seemed to be overwhelming.

Most booth offerings were a good sized sampling, but nothing you’d qualify as a meal.  Leaving plenty of room to move on to the next booth.  But occasionally you might get a larger portion, a richer food item, or something a bit heartier that filled you up faster.  We used the few rides we went on as a break between these food items.  Overall, the quantities are small enough and with it being more of a grazing your way through the park… you don’t really end up overeating.

My Favorites:

Canada’s Soup and Steak.   Ireland’s Warm Chocolate Cake.

It’s open through November 13th.  If you are planning on going, save some money and head into the Festival Center, at one of the gift shops you can purchase a lanyard for $67+ tax that has “tickets” you can redeem for food/drinks at the booths.  There are 8 tickets.  We determined that the best value was to use the tickets for anything that cost $8 or more.  Otherwise we paid cash for anything under $8.  Many of the items on the menu were $3-$5.  I took advantage of this buy always pairing 1 high price item with 1 low price item per booth.  If the food item was over $8, I’d pick a lower price item.  Get a bottle of water at one of the first booths and refill it at water fountains along the way, and you’ll save a bit more.  We spent the entire day and evening there, and I think my total cost for food/beverages was $90-$100.

When you consider what it would normally cost to eat while traveling, breakfast/lunch/dinner… and for all the variety of food we ate… I think it was a good deal.

Would I bring my kids?  No.  My eldest who is 18, would probably find plenty to eat… but the younger two are too picky for these booths.  Also, the food is already “assembled”, so you are not going to be able to ask for special requests for kids.  For example, one booth had crispy chicken, cornbread, with red eye gravy.  The chicken was stacked on the cornbread with the gravy drizzled over the top.  You can’t ask to “hold the gravy”.  So, picky kids can’t have it their way.  And there were not very many booths that offered kid friendly fare.  You also spend a lot of time eating, and if they want to go on more rides… someone has to give. However, if your kid is an adventurous eater/foodie and could care less about the rides… you might have better luck.  They do have the normal food places in the various countries open as well, so you could choose to let your kids eat off those menus… but expect longer lines, and higher prices.

Personally, I see this as a great girls trip, or couples trip.

Chronicling 40: Day 88 of 365 #MeToo

It was just a few years ago, that this exchange happened:
Neighborhood boy knocks on our door to ask the girls to play. The girls head out to talk to him, I’m just on the other side of the door listening.
Boy: You guys want to play?
Girls: No, we are going to hang out here today, just us girls.
Boy: “I’m going to tell your mom that you are being mean to me, and get you in trouble, unless you play with me.”
At that point, I had to have a “no means no” conversation with a 9yo boy.
No. Is a complete sentence.
No. Is an acceptable answer.
The foundation of what led to the current ” #MeToo ” movement flowing through social media begins when girls feel as if they have no voice, no power, no choice. When they feel threatened to comply. Manipulated to comply. Coerced to comply. When others feel they can wield words and actions against them, without any repercussion.
The more people who are willing to share their #MeToo, the more we realize how widespread this is. But there are those who can’t post their “Me Too” story because their safety is priority, because they are still healing, because for whatever reason they can’t. They are still brave and strong, and survivors.
For those of us who say “Me Too” , we are not just speaking it for ourselves… but for those who can’t speak up yet.
I’ve shared some of my “Me Too” on Twitter.  It wasn’t easy.  And as I addressed the first, another came to mind, then another, then another.  Oddly enough no matter how many situations and groups of people I have removed myself from, it still happens.  For every one I shared, there were probably 2 more that I just couldn’t bring myself to bit “submit”.
Lord, that we would bring up our daughters with voices of strength, conviction, and resolve.   That we would bring up our sons with compassion, mercy, and seeing women with such value that they would never mar her with words or actions.
A few days ago an image rolled through my Facebook memories, in essence it was a screen shot of a conversation that stated:
There should be some sort of unwritten code among women, that if a guy is making you feel uncomfortable that you can approach a group of women and whisper that a creepy guy is bugging you, and ask if they mind you pretending like you belong to their group.
1.  No matter what ladies, if you are near me, there is always an empty seat with your name on it.  We’ll laugh and pretend we’ve been besties since the womb.  If you need a ride out of that place, I’ll make room.
2.  We shouldn’t need such a rule.

Chronicling 40: Day 87 of 365


My daughter quit her job, is unemployed, and we’re not even one bit upset about it. 

My eldest daughter is 18.  Around 13/14 she began working as a mother’s helper during weekends and summers.  By 15, she was baby sitting on her own and even on retainer during the summer by a particular family.  By 17, she was working at the mall and at 18 she began working as a waitress. 

We never asked her to get a job, and honestly we’d have been happier if she hadn’t.  But, we also understood that teenage need for money.  We had hoped that by making an agreement with her to cover her expenses (car insurance, gas, etc.) that she would forgo working during college.  We agreed that we felt her primary responsibility should be her education.  We have the means to cover those costs and her educational expenses, at this time, and wanted to lift that burden of having to balance work, school, and social life.   In the end, we followed her lead.

Yesterday, she quit her job.  And we are not even a little bit upset about it, and happy to afford her an opportunity that many kids are not given.  We know how incredibly lucky we are to be doing this for her, and trust me we are not rolling in the dough financially.  We have made sacrifices to ensure this is possible (thanks Dave Ramsey).

Adulthood isn’t easy, and for some reason we as a society are really pushing our kids there faster and faster.  My daughter has shared how many of her friends were basically told to get a job and move out at 18 years old.  Now, they are coming out of high school and having to look for apartments, find roommates, and pay bills that most 18 year olds can not afford even if they have a full time job.  If you have had a teenager looking for a job recently, you’ll know what I mean.  The picking are slim, and the money isn’t great.  I know several girls who are carrying multiple jobs and trying to focus on college, at 18.

I understand that not everyone is in the same financial space we are, that can offer their college age students the same deal we did.  But goodness, can they not just keep their bedroom a few more years?  Do they need to understand the weight of carrying two jobs to make ends meet when they are barely out of high school? 

Lest you think me judgemental, let me establish my own history.  My mother was a single mom, my dad barely paid child support and there was no alimony ever.  In fact, he didn’t start paying his arrears until I was married (I’m the youngest of 3).  My mother worked multiple jobs, during many of these years.  I busted my butt for scholarships, and family members had paid into a college fund for me.  My mom never required me to work, or to move out.  So, I understand that even when circumstances seem tight, we still have an option to support our kids the best we can and give them the best hope at a good start.

Chronicling 40: Day 86 of 365


I couldn’t sleep, so I began poking around on Instagram.  I came across several images that had the phrase “A Queen walks in Confidence not Arrogance.”  I stopped to pause.  This phrase took me back to my recent series “Don’t Confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel”.  I would definitely describe Deborah as confident, and Jezebel as arrogant.  What is the difference between Confidence and Arrogance and why does that matter?

The first thing I mulled over was that historically Kings and Queens believed their ruling appointments were by divine authority.  Yes, over time they understood that they held the position because of royal lineage… but that lineage was established by God.  Therefore they led their countries in confidence because they believed the Lord had placed them there to do so, that the Lord was on their side.  Interestingly enough the Scriptures talk about many Kings and leaders who didn’t have the Lord’s favor, although He allowed them to be in rule to serve HIS purposes not the other way around.  What began to happen over time was that confidence would become arrogance.

This last sentence is imperative to consider, and any of us walk forward in the confidence of our faith, that we do not allow it to become arrogance.  Look at King David, a man after God’s own heart… and the poor decisions he made from his own arrogance.  Whereas, Queen Ester was presenting herself before the King, not due to her own arrogance but instead through a confidence in God sovereignty.  She was willing to do what He required of her, even in her own fleshy uncertainty and risk.

Scott Burken, an author of several leadership books, defines the difference as this:

An arrogant person only feels smart if someone else feels stupid. Their sense of themselves depends on thinking less of someone else. They insist on correcting other people’s grammar or showing them their flaws, as it’s the only way they can feel an approximation of confidence. Arrogance is about intent: its when ability (or perceived ability) is used to look down on others.

A confident person feels competent from the inside out. They use their talents to genuinely try to be of use, or to succeed at the task at hand. They might seek external validation, but they don’t depend on it to define their sense of their ability or nature.

In some cases an arrogant person may have more skill than a confident person, but the confident person will tend to wield whatever abilities they have with more calm control than an arrogant person can.

By his definition, arrogance means that I define my value based on making others smaller than me.  My intentions are all about making myself look better, stronger, more attractive, etc.  I validate myself.  It is selfish, self serving, and ego-centric.  However, the confident person doesn’t need any validation. As my friend Faith James says, “you know, what you know, what you know.”  The use of our gifts and talents are not to elevate ourselves, but to genuinely help others or improve circumstances.

What all of this point to, for me, is the issue of the heart.  What are my intentions in how I present myself to this world.  Am I walking in confidence, that the Lord has given me gifts and talents to use for His Kingdom purposes?  Or, am I walking in arrogance, as if I am God’s gift to right this planet of His?

I was recently speaking to my friend Aimee Nelson, and we were discussing iron sharpening iron, and lifting one another up.  Aimee shared that in her community women helping other women toward success is not common.  It’s very competitive, everyone concerned about themselves, and it’s unusual to see someone enter that space with a genuine desire to help others more than themselves.  (Aimee, I hope I did justice to your words here.)

When ever Aimee introduces me to people, something she almost always includes is my heart for helping other women above myself.  Listen, this isn’t a pat on the back moment for me.  But I share this because it is truth.  When I speak to someone about their ministry, I come from a place of “we are all in this together”.  How can I help you get to where you want to be.  And, I mean it genuinely.  I believe when one rises up, we take the rest of us too.  Your success is my success, even when you are more successful than me.

Because of this belief, I have a confidence in how I present myself, my skills, and my knowledge to others.  I am genuinely trying to be of use or help the task at hand, as Scott Burken defines it.  But, even I have moments where I want to scream out.. “why won’t you listen to me, I know what I am talking about!”.  Is that arrogance?  I don’t know, maybe.  Frustration, more likely.  But this question certainly has me asking the Lord to search my heart, and show me my iniquities. If arrogance is starting to take over confidence, I want to know and I want to put a stop to that immediately.

Perhaps there is a very fine line between the two, and it may be easy to walk that line dipping your toes into either side with minimal effort.  I rather swim in the confidence of the Lord, than wade in the shallow waters of arrogance.