It’s Doable!

Tight Rope Walker

Can Do or Can’t Do?

When you are faced with a huge challenge, what is your initial reaction?  Do you immediately shrink back and look at all of the reasons “it can’t be done”?  Or do you take a long cleansing breath, dig deep within your resolve, and look for all the ways “it CAN be done”?

Obviously the two examples above are polar opposites and most of us probably fall somewhere between the two extremes.  Recently, my wife presented me with a fairly big challenge in the area of our finances. More specifically, she rolled out the dreaded “B” word.  That’s right…Budget.

I don’t like budgets and I immediately began to object and list all of the reasons her budget simply would not work.  After a hearty back and forth exchange, we tabled the subject and I was satisfied that perhaps the budget would die a quiet death.  Two or three days passed and no mention of the budget.  Life is good.  Needless to say I was thrilled.

And then I got the email.  It was from my wife and simply contained two words in the subject line…”IT’s DOABLE”.  Hmm, I didn’t need to be a brain surgeon to quickly surmise the contents of the email.  Begrudgingly I opened it and began to read.  She very gently spelled out all of the ways that the budget was indeed doable.  And here’s the kicker, she was right.  (And don’t you just hate it when your spouse is right!)

Putting In the Work

The bottom line is that I didn’t want to put in the time, effort, discipline and sacrifice to make the budget work.  As I slowly began to “undig my heels” and get on board with the budget, I began looking for ways to make the budget work.  In a weird sort of way, it’s actually become fun to find new and different ways to come in under budget.  And the long term benefits will certainly outweigh the initial discomfort we have experienced.

The whole exercise really got me to thinking.  “What else is DOABLE that I have quickly and resolutely said NO to in the past?”  And more importantly, what benefits have I been missing out on by not tackling these situations head on?  As I rolled these thoughts around in my head, I began to consider how I can get better at leaning into tough situations and challenges.  After doing a bit of research as well as reflecting on my own life, here are a few thoughts that I hope will help you with your next challenge.

Be An Overcomer

  • Let go of the Fallacy that “Life Should be Easy”. Often times we dismiss a challenge because we know it will be difficult…and we’re simply not willing to put forth the effort.  Somewhere along the line many of us bought into the myth that we deserve a life of ease and pleasure  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There will be trouble.  Count on it.
  • Embrace the Challenge. Change your mindset and lean in to the problem.  Embrace it.  Confront it head on and realize that this situation is not permanent.  This challenge will pass…and the quicker you embrace it, the quicker it will be over.
  • Ask for Help.  Let go of your stubborn pride and ask for help when you need it.  Seek wise counsel.  Let go of the need to be right.  Consider the fact that there are probably solutions you haven’t thought of.  Be open to change.
  • Put in the Work. All of the other steps are pointless if you aren’t willing to do the work.  As the late Jim Rohn once said, “You can’t hire someone else to do your pushups for you.”

Count Your Blessings.  Regardless of how difficult your challenge is, stop and count your blessings.  Realize that the adversity you are currently traveling though will bless you and make you a better person…if you let it.

“Sticks and Stones” is a Big Fat Lie!


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Was this loving little rhyme shared with you by your parents or another authority figure when you were a child?  Yeah?  Me too.  But over time, I’ve learned that it’s simply not true.  Words hurt.  A lot.

Words Matter

If you look back over world history – or even the history of your own life, almost all heartache, pain, strife, wars, etc. were first started with…Words!  Likewise, as you reflect on your past, I bet there are many memories you can recall where others spoke positive words into your life.  It’s easy to see that words have a profound effect on our lives.  These words eventually led to outcomes in your life that were either positive (good feelings) or negative (hurt feelings).

You have the power to speak life into those that are around you, but you also have the power to speak death and destruction into them.  Scripture says that while the “tongue is a small part of the body” (James 3:5), it “has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).  That’s incredible if you think about it.  One of the smallest parts of our body has this massive power to bring either love, healing, and affirmation or hatred, poison, and death.  The choice is up to us…and it has major consequences.

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

-Proverbs 12:18

One of Many Times I’ve Blown It…

Recently, I was having a really bad day.  And at the end of this long disastrous day, my teenage daughter made a request of me that just didn’t sit right – it hit a nerve.  It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and sadly I unleashed my entire days’ worth of hurt and frustration on her.  I could quickly see that I crushed her spirit, which was certainly not my intention.  After taking some time to cool off, I asked her if she would ride with me to grab a coffee so that we could talk and clear the air.  I humbled myself and apologized to her.  And while she did extend her forgiveness and we made things right between us, I know there are still consequences.  I spoke words that can never be “unspoken” and sadly she heard words that will most likely never be “unheard”.  Words matter.  A lot.

Choose to Bring Life!

So the question begs, how can we use our words to bring life and not death?  I wish I could give you a magical formula, but I can’t.  Have you ever noticed how the so-called magical formulas never work anyway?  But what I can offer, are some truths I’ve gained through my own struggles of taming the tongue as well as those of others.

  • Daily Self Awareness: Take time to check in with yourself throughout the day.  This one takes some discipline on your part.  It’s okay to feel the emotions of anger and hurt, but realize when you are in this state and choose your words and conversations very carefully.  Had I done this with my daughter, I might have avoided the pain I caused her.
  • Guard Your Heart: Scripture tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).  This means that all of the words flowing out of your mouth – both beautiful and ugly – are based on the condition of your heart.
  • Choose Love: Love truly does conquer all. Often times those we hurt the most are also those we love the most.  In anger, it’s easy to lash out against our spouse and attack their weak spots.  The same holds true with relationships with our friends, family, work, and even compete strangers.  Choosing love over hate is often difficult, but it produces beautiful consequences in both the giver and receiver.
  • Surround Yourself with Loving People: As much as possible, fill your life with loving people that truly have your best interest at heart.  We all know people that suck the air right out of the room when they enter due to their negativity.  If it’s possible, avoid toxic people.  And if it’s not possible, refer to number 3 above.  J
  • Admit When You Have Blown It: We are human and at times our emotions will get the best of us regardless of how hard we try for that not to happen.  So when you blow it, admit it and seek forgiveness.  Speaking words of humility can go a long way to restoring a relationship and easing the pain.

So while sticks and stones may break our bones, words also have the ability to both break the bones and crush the spirit.  Because words matter.  A lot.

Lincoln Thinking

Angry Man

Have you ever sent an email in anger and had instant remorse the second after you hit send?  Yeah?  Me too.  It usually doesn’t end well.  Early in my career as an over-zealous telecom salesman, I had a big sale on the line and I was very excited.  However, not only did I have to sell the prospect, I also had to sell the Accounting Manager that this prospects credit rating was worth the risk.

I felt like the Accounting Manager was dragging her feet and in my haste and anger, I sent her a message letting her know this in no uncertain terms.  Well, my little message eventually made it to the CEO/Owner of the company and I was quickly summoned to the principles’ office where I received a well-deserved attitude adjustment!

A year or so after this event, I was reading a book about my all-time favorite U.S. President…Abraham Lincoln.  One of the interesting things I learned about Lincoln is that he often became very upset with those under his command.  As a result of this, he would frequently write them scathing letters…and then stick them in his desk drawer never to be mailed.  It was only upon his death that many of these letters were discovered.  Apparently he was able to resolve his anger by writing the letter, but never mailing it.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

-Abraham Lincoln 

I have since adopted a similar practice and I call it “Lincoln Thinking”.  If I’m angry – especially in business – I will write a blistering email letting all of my anger and emotion drain out of my body onto the page.  I then carefully put that email in my drafts folder where it remains unsent for at least 24 hours.  I then revisit the email after 24 hours and I am often appalled at what I’ve written – and very relieved I didn’t send the email!  Typically I delete the draft and if I still have issues that must be resolved, I can now do so in a more relaxed and tactful method.

So the next time someone has you all riled up, go ahead and write that draft email and let them have it!  Give them all you’ve got and get it all out of your system!  Then carefully place the email in your drafts folder to be reviewed at a later time.  One note of caution – DO NOT put their email address on the email just in case you accidentally hit send!  And if you are worried about a computer security leak, you might be better served writing an old fashioned letter with pen and paper that can then be shredded or burned.  Either way, I hope you choose to exercise “Lincoln Thinking” the next time someone works you into a twist!

Example or Warning – Which Are You?

Angel Devil Pic

Does the way you live matter?  There’s an old adage that says that as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, the way I live is my business.  I disagree.  Unless a person is living on a remote island by themselves, the way they live impacts others.  We are all either an “Example” or a “Warning”.

Think for a moment about the people closest to you…friends, family, co-workers, etc.  As you mentally sift through those relationships, I suspect you can pretty quickly categorize them into either the Example column or the Warning column.  Ironically enough, both are valuable.  The Examples are obviously people we want to learn from and emulate and the Warnings are those we want to learn what NOT to do.

It’s easy to criticize sports heroes and celebrities for being Warnings of what NOT to do.  Due to their celebrity status, they have the ability to reach many more as either a Shining Example or Horrific Warning.  But let’s step back and dial it in a little closer to home.  Just because our reach is not as wide as that of a celebrity, do we have any less responsibility to be a positive Example to the world?

As the parent of 2 teenage daughters and 1 teenage stepson (pray for me),  it’s become painfully clear that I have been both the Example and the Warning.  If you’re a parent and want to know if you are an Example or a Warning, just study your children and that truth will smack you right between the eyes!  In the extreme, it’s so sad to see parents with significant behavioral issues (lying, drug use, cheating, etc.) that don’t understand why their child is also a chronic liar, drug user, and cheater.

But what if you are single and don’t have children?  Do you have friends?  How about co-workers?  Perhaps you manage people?  Siblings?  Parents?  The point is we are all influencing others on a daily basis by the way we live our lives.  If you could step out of your body and view your life for a day from the outside, would you be an Example or a Warning?  Would you want to be your friend?

In his wonderful book, “Integrity”, Dr. Henry Cloud states that, just like a boat, we all leave a wake in our path.  The question is, what kind of wake are we leaving?  Is it something of use and of beauty that leaves the world a better place?  As others view your wake do they admire and respect the path you are leaving behind?  Or is your wake ugly and destructive and a dire warning to the world around you?  From my observation, we are both Examples and Warnings at various times throughout our lives.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to get better at being an Example instead of a Warning:

  • Journal and reflect on each day. Honestly assess how you lived your life that day.
  • Ask! If you are fortunate enough to have friends that will give you the hard truth, ask them.  Ask your spouse or significant other.
  • If you lead or manage others, provide them the opportunity to give feedback anonymously.
  • Spend time in prayer asking God to show you areas of your life that.
  • Forgive yourself when you fail and are a Warning instead of an Example. Commit to doing better the next day.
  • Notice if there are trends or areas of continuous challenges and seek professional help.

Good Pickles and Gratitude

What in the world do good pickles and gratitude have to do with one another?  Well hang tight, we will get to that in a moment.  But first, let me start with a confession.  It’s one that I’m not proud of, and so if it’s okay, I’ll just whisper my little secret to you very quietly so as to keep it just between the two of us.  Is that okay?  You promise not to tell?  Okay, here goes…”When I was a young man, I was very ungrateful…and sometimes I still struggle with being ungrateful today”.  Whew!  Confession really is good for the soul as I feel better already!  But don’t tell anyone, ok?

It Starts With Gratitude

So what exactly is gratitude?  In its simplest form, gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness.  It can be for something really big like a good report from the doctor or maybe something smaller like getting extra sprinkles on your ice cream cone!  They key to experiencing gratitude is consciously choosing to be present and be thankful for both the big and small things in life.   And let’s be honest, it’s much easier to be thankful for those big things.  But life is usually made up of many more mundane moments than big breathtaking moments.  So the challenge is being able to consistently be grateful for the simple, small and almost invisible moments that we take for granted.

The opposite of being grateful is of course being ungrateful.  And in its worst form, it shows up as entitlement. When I was in my twenties, it was very easy for me to drift into a full blown sense of entitlement!  After all, I had worked hard, received my college degree, had a good job and had sadly bought into the myth that I was entitled to all that life had to offer.  I see this same sense of entitlement running rampant throughout our society today.

Entitlement starts at a young age with children demanding that their parents meet all of their wants and desires.  It continues with young adults in their mid to late twenties mooching off of their parents.  This sense of entitlement (and lack of gratitude) may be most evident with the myriad of Government aid programs that are being milked and abused by countless of able bodied adults.  And the list goes on.  At the heart of it all are the twin spirits of ungratefulness and entitlement.

What Wall is Your Ladder Leaned Up Against?

Additionally, many of us spend our entire lives climbing the proverbial ladder that’s leaned against the wrong wall.  Why is this?  Perhaps we are hyper focused on trying to achieve all of the things we DON’T have instead of being grateful for all that we DO have.

When I was a little boy, my sweet mamma used to tell me that, when she gets down about not having all that she would like to have, she pretends that everything she does have has just been taken from her.  She lives in that sadness for a moment and then imagines how grateful she would be if everything that had been taken was suddenly returned.  It’s a simple exercise, but I challenge you to try it and feel the profound sense of joy you will receive when you “get your stuff back”!

Okay, so I promised to tell you how good pickles and gratitude go together.  In my late twenties, I was doing very well financially and decided to take my family, my mother, and my mother’s cousin to dinner.  It was a nice restaurant, and I wanted it all to be perfect…after all, I way paying.  Oh I was such a cocky young snot!  Anyway, things went wrong from the start.  It took forever to get a table.  The wait staff was slow to take our orders.  Some of the orders were wrong.  Anything and everything that could go wrong seemed to be happening.  Murphy’s Law was in full force and had a stranglehold on our evening.

At one point, I looked up and everybody at the table was griping and grumbling…except for Myrna.  Myrna is my mom’s cousin.  She lives on a fixed budget and rarely if ever gets to eat out.  Just as I was listening to all of us complaining about the night, Myrna looks up at me and smiles and then says cheerfully, “These sure are GOOD PICKLES!”  Wow, she was oblivious to all of the ungratefulness the rest of us were showing and simply chose to focus and be thankful for something as small as a pickle.  Lesson learned.  Now, many years later, when I find myself being ungrateful and griping and complaining, I try to find something to be grateful about…and then whisper under my breath, “These sure are good pickles”.