Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Power of Being Present

When I’m walking through my morning routine each day, one discipline I practice is to write down “Daily Virtues”. Daily Virtues are the attributes or qualities I want to see become more manifest in my life. (more on that in another post). I divide these virtues into three categories, Be. Live. And Do.

The first virtue, in the first category is Present. Be Present. We live in a time of extreme accessibility. The majority of people who can get online and check Facebook whenever they desire can be reached at every second of everyday. While this does come with many advantages, one major setback is the temptation to not be fully engaged with any one task or person for any meaningful length of time. Even as I write this, I’ve answered three text messages, had two in person conversations, and engaged in one twitter exchange with Micah Fries where we fought it out over Jay Cutler’s ability as a starting quarterback. (For what it’s worth, the Dolphins are in trouble).

While all of these have merit on their own; each time I shift focus from one task to another I become less effective in my current conversation or task. The result is far from being more productive I become less, as the quality of what I am producing decreases exponentially the more divided I allow my mind to become. How much more creative, helpful, and productive would I be if I gave dedicated focused effort to each of these encounters?

How much more of myself could I give to each person or task if I focused on being present?

Several text messages turn into one phone call. Scattered, unfocused and forced writing becomes clear and free. I can also give myself freely to the conversations that present themselves instead of viewing them as distraction. One of the best pieces I read on this recently came from Google. In makers time, they suggest scheduling focused creative time into your weekly calendar to give yourself the best opportunity for success. It is a good place to start. In addition to makers time, there are a few other things I’m trying.

Working in 45 minute blocks. I try to divide every task or project into 45 minute blocks. Administrative tasks, reading, and writing are all divided into blocks of 45 minutes. I literally set a timer on my phone or computer and give focused effort to the given task for the time I have allotted. Some tasks can take more than one 45 minute block. That’s ok, the 45 minutes are there to give you a breathe at the end to get up, get another drink, check email and do some pushups.

Dedicate separate places for separate tasks. Find a spot that you read in, one you do the majority of your creative work in, and one in which you crush phone calls or administrative work. When we dedicate specific places to specific tasks we immediately eliminate the clutter we normally have to untangle from and can get right to work. Relatedly, if you create things for a living, find somewhere new to work for a day or a week. Pro tip: The library is great and it’s free yo!

If you are finished, stop. If you are having difficulty focusing and processing what you are reading stop. If the creative muse has left, let it go. Especially in creative work if you have come to the end of your resources, don’t waste any more time producing something you are simply going to delete later. Get up, take a breath and change locations if necessary.

Don’t cut your time short. While this sounds like the exact opposite of what I just said, sometimes it is necessary to keep your head down and grind out work for the day, especially administrative tasks. If you have set 45 minutes to work, then work for the time you have allowed and don’t quit

Try new things. Different things work for different people. Some people may find more success camping out in one place all day. For others, working in two hour blocks is a better fit. Whatever needs to happen, don’t stop until you find what it takes for you to be most successful.


The Problem of Selfishness

I wonder how much of a good and redemptive life is simply noticing our surroundings and making the conscious decision to respond with something more than selfish voyeurism? How much good would we do, how much better could our neighborhoods, workplaces and cities become if we made the simple decision to engage each other with empathy and kindness instead of apathy and disregard? I think the culprit is selfishness.

In reality, the primary problems most of us face can all be categorized as problems of selfishness. While this isn’t a new or unique problem it seems especially exacerbated today. It has become commonplace to treat the people we interact with each day as a problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome, or worst of all, a commodity to consume. How easily do we objectify each other for personal gain or pleasure when we all want the same thing? All of us desire to be heard. All of us desire to be known and seen as valuable. All of us desire to be viewed as people of worth.

We were all made in the image of a personal, creative, active and knowable God. It should come as no surprise when we treat each other in this way, as creative people with something to offer who want to be known, deep needs are met.

When we stop thinking the world revolves around us, is all about is, it non-magically becomes a larger and much more enjoyable place to live. As G.K. Chesterton put it in his great work Orthodoxy.

How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.

This isn’t to say life will be without frustration or annoyance, our world is full of people after all, but instead of being mastered and overcome by such things we are able to see them in their proper light, as people, circumstances, situations all given to us for our strengthening and God’s joy. We will truly be able to say, “This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

So how do we make progress along these lines? A couple of suggestions…

Begin well: The most transformative discipline I have added to my life this year is beginning the day with some journaling. (I hope to I will write about this in detail soon). By beginning with reflection, mediation, prayer and goal setting, I am able to anticipate and respond to the challenges and people in front of me instead of having to surprisingly react.

Practice detachment: When I feel myself beginning to get frustrated or out of sorts with something, I recognize it for what it is and make the decision to step back out of the emotion and respond. FULL DISCLOSURE: Still working on this.

Count everything as joy: When we realize the things in front of us as given by God for our good and His joy, it helps us keep proper perspective. God’s desire for us in this life is that we look like His son Jesus and His primary way of growing us is through hardship, trial and in relationship with others. (Note, one usually goes with the other).

Regain wonder: You would be surprised at how much the simple act of allowing yourself to be amazed and impressed can change the way you feel. If you forgot what that is like, come spend the day with my kids and watch them encounter our world. So so amazing.

Lean in: When you ask someone how they are doing, really mean it. Take a second to lean in to their response. Be helpful and kind to others. Smile.

Recover childlike faith: Being a cynic is the easiest thing in the world. Trust that God isn’t out to get anything from you other than your heart.



10,000 Pushups

Over the course of July it wasn’t uncommon for someone to ask me why I’m doing 10,000 pushups. Here’s the skinny…

Doing 10,000 pushups in a single month is ridiculous. There is no meaningful reason that exists for why someone would do that many pushups in a single month. So, why?

The genesis of the idea came last year from Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Sasse mentioned while on the campaign trail, he routinely challenged his staff to complete this insane number over the course of a month and I thought it a great challenge to attempt while we were moving last summer. I needed something to keep me engaged physically as I knew my gym attendance would be a bit sporadic during that season. Since I am not one to suffer alone or in silence I began challenging others to join me, because as the saying goes, “misery loves company”. Yet, this type of motivation only lasts so long, and since the overwhelming majority of your pushups happen when nobody else is watching, there has to be more to keep you motivated than the simple challenge. It was at this point, both this year and last I began to learn a few things. Here are the 5 top things I have learned.

It’s good to do hard things

We live in an unparalleled time in history when it is quite possible to live your entire life without challenge, difficulty or being placed in situations that require you to bear down, grind and get things done. While this may sound good on the surface, one consequence is a lack of opportunity for character formation. Where it wasn’t uncommon even a generation ago to spend formative years working on the farm, throwing hay, or performing manual labor of some kind, it’s increasingly anomalous now. When we don’t subject ourselves to hard things, it shouldn’t surprise us when we are soft people.

Not everything we do in life is fun.

When it is 11pm at night, you only have 50 pushups in so far for the day and you need to do about 275 more to stay on track, it’s no picnic. But the truth of the matter is, I can choose to be happy, ticked off or indifferent, but either way the pushups have to get done. The only difference is what my attitude is while grinding them out. In reality, the things that are fun are things I say that are fun. I tell myself, I tell my body and brain what is fun. Nobody outside of me gets to dictate what is enjoyable. 300 more pushups to do? Awesome! Kid pukes in your bed? Smile, laugh and grab the bleach. This isn’t the “power of positive thinking” it’s a mindset essential to persevering when life gets ludicrous.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Doing 10,000 pushups is difficult, not impossible. Like setting any kind of goal it requires you to plan your work and work your plan. It’s good to set goals that seem ridiculous to show yourself and others you CAN CRUSH THEM!

There is not a single problem, goal or challenge in your life that cannot be overcome by the Leadership of the Holy Spirit through Prayer and Personal Discipline.

Not to over-spiritualize this, but if this is true in the physical realm of pushups, how much more true is this in the spiritual realm? If I can be disciplined to do 10,000 pushups of no eternal consequence, what else am I capable of that has eternal consequence? If I can be disciplined to do 325 pushups a day for a month, can I be disciplined to be a better neighbor, father and husband? Yes. If I can be disciplined to take time and do pushups throughout my day, can I be disciplined to take time and pray throughout my day? Again, yes!

It’s not really about the pushups.

Pick your thing, challenge others to join you and GO GET SOME! Why wouldn’t you? With the desire you have to lose weight, go back to school or start a new business or area of ministry, the best time to begin was yesterday; the next best time is right now. Next month or next year are still going to happen, the only difference will be if you crushed your goal or not. Friends, there are seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.

Discipline Equals Freedom

One thing I’m continually learning (thanks jocko) as I move through the years is that, hard work, hard, unrelenting, persistent work beats dumb luck every single time. If I want the freedom for my life to work a certain way it will require discipline to reach that point. There is really only one way to do 10,000 pushups. One at a time.

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