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500+ for 50 – day 25: the smell of a new season

This evening as I headed up the road on my jog I was blessed to encounter a familiar welcoming aroma.  We’ve had several days of rain here in Chapel Hill, but somehow the local roadway crews must have found the perfect break in the weather earlier in the day to cut the grass along the edge of the sidewalk where I run.  And what remained was an inviting scent that took me back nearly fifteen years to the early morning high school football practices of mid-August summer camp.  I’ll never forget the smell of the dew on the grass of a freshly trimmed lawn signaling the beginning of a new season.  It’s an aroma that’s fresh and alive – there’s nothing else like it.  It’s absolutely intoxicating.

I think that we all probably have scents that we are able to tie to certain emotional responses and memories.  I have several that trigger a reaction within me.  For instance, I love the smell of a charcoal grill at a tailgate.  Something about it gets the juices flowing inside of me – it’s a signal to my brain to lace them up, because it’s game time.  And then there’s the smell of my girlfriend’s perfume.  That aroma ignites a passion within me that burns deep – the fire in my heart that flames for her and her only.  Or take for example the smell of the sand and salty ocean water on my sun drenched skin.  Gosh I love that.  It’s always reminded me of my freedom and the lighthearted nature with which we were meant to live life.

But nothing truly compares to the fragrant offering that I encountered this evening which like clockwork will first present itself to me around this time of the year every year.  It’s not the aroma itself that I’m in love with…it’s really all that it signifies that I adore.  I believe that it’s God’s way of signaling and ushering in the new season.  And I don’t just mean the new football season (even though I am a HUGE fan of the pigskin).  It’s the new season of life.  Fall is the time of year when everything takes on a new color.  It’s an amazing time of transformation and change.  And for those of us who follow the gridiron, it’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and begin anew, undefeated.

Fall is a time to leave what lies in the past behind as we storm the field with a new mindset, a new mission.  If we are going to truly embrace transformative growth in our lives we need to disengage from the seasons that left us wallowing in defeat.  And instead we need to move forward with our hope and vision for the greatness that we will actively seek to achieve this season.  After all, we are undefeated, so who’s to say that this will not be our year of triumph?  If our minds can conceive it, we can most certainly achieve it. 

You have the opportunity today to start your season undefeated.  God has given you the signal.  Now it’s time to suit up and get ready for battle.  The failures of your past are long forgotten.  Remain in the mindset of a victor – hold your head high and take the field with confidence.  Because this, my friend is going to be your year.  This is the season of growth and change that you’ve been anticipating – this is the fall when your colors shine among the landscape of life. 

Breathe deep – can you smell it?  That’s the smell of the success that lies ahead… now go take it.

May God Bless!

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500+ for 50 – day 24: shock values

A person’s values in life are extremely important.  Values will serve as the driver behind the behaviors and actions that will lead to an individual’s future successes and failures.  They are not to be compromised, as they are the backbone of who we are and what we become.  If we live without well-developed values in place, we will float about life aimlessly and will develop into nothing more than a product of our circumstances.  Values keep us grounded.  They affirm our beliefs and set a standard for the way that we handle ourselves both personally and professionally. Values define an individual’s brand identity.

Recently I read an article quoting Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn who suggested that on his professional network it’s best to “establish an identity independent of your employer, city and industry. For example, make the headline of your LinkedIn profile not a specific job title … but personal-brand or asset focused … that way, you’ll have a professional identity that can carry with you as you shift jobs. You own yourself.”  I really enjoy Reid’s perspective.  I believe that an individual’s personal brand carries far more weight in life than the title that they hold or the responsibilities that they manage in an average workweek.  What is unique about what you have to bring to the table?  What do you have to offer society that is different than the other more than 7 billion people who live on this earth?  Our greatness lies in our willingness to be different, and there is something exceptional about each and every one of us.  When we define exactly what it is that we value in life and we begin living according to those standards, they become our personal brand…our LinkedIn headline if you will.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last several weeks about the values that I embody that have helped to mold me into the person that I am today.  How would someone assess my personal brand if given the opportunity?  They might describe me as unconventional or shocking if they judged me based upon the way that I write.  After all, I do convey my message a bit differently than anyone else that I’ve ever read.  And that’s something that I take quite a bit of pride in.  So perhaps that’s a fair definition of who I am.  I’m a person who is willing to stick to his values and beliefs no matter the criticism that he may encounter as a result.  I’m not afraid to stand out from the crowd.  In fact, I embrace that, because the values that I do my best to uphold I firmly believe to be the truth in life, no matter how unconventional they may appear in the eyes of society. 

There are few things that I simply will not compromise with regards to who I am.  And these few values, as innocent as they appear to me have often led to questions by others who feel intimidated by the scrutinizing eyes of society.  There are a handful of people within my network both personally and professionally who have chosen to offer their advice on my willingness to share and promote the things that I value in my writing.  Their position has been portrayed as one of protection, but in my view their perspective serves as nothing more than a representation of their own fears and insecurities.  If I am comfortable with the beliefs and standards that I’ve chosen to live my life by, then why should anyone feel compelled to deter me from promoting such values?  After all, I am not working on defining anyone else’s personal brand…I’m working on building my own.

My personal brand can be summed up by these five values:

  1. My faith: without it, I am nothing.  My relationship with God is what drives every fruitful decision that I make in my life.  It’s what gives me the courage to share the things that I do without fearing the judgment of anyone.  And it’s what drives me to servicing the needs of others by offering myself and my story as a sacrifice.
  2. Brutal honesty: it’s all fair game.  There is nothing that I am not willing to share with others through my writing.  If God calls me to share something, I do not hesitate.  There is no moment of indecisiveness as a result of what someone may think about the subject matter…I simply follow His lead.  If my openness can serve as a benefit to even one person who is in need of hearing my story, than I have succeeded.
  3. Perfectly imperfect: my flaws have made me who I am, so I embrace them.  When I look in the mirror, I am proud of the scars that I see.  Because those scars remind me of the adversity that has made me a stronger person.  They remind me of the dramatic story that I have to share that allows me to touch the lives of others.  And more than anything else they remind me of how much I need the Lord in my life directing my course, and for that I am forever thankful.
  4. Courage to be different: this is something that I do not take lightly.  I don’t ever want to compromise the man that God has created me to be to fit in to any social circle, be it personally or professionally.  I was made to be the person that I am full time, and if that means that I stand out from the crowd, I’m okay with that.  I’m comfortable with pulling a few weeds as I’m confident in God’s ability to plant an abundance of rich seedlings in all areas of my life.
  5. Pain to prosperity: there is no greatness to be achieved prior to the introduction of pain.  Anyone who has done anything of meaning in their life has encountered walls of adversity that they’ve had to scale in order to reach their next milestones.  I am a believer that it is our ability to manage and overcome pain that will be the barometer of our success in life.  And I plan on always being a fair representation of that belief.

Nothing too shocking there, right?  You’d be surprised.  Society is driven by conformity.  And when you promote these types of beliefs freely you most certainly open yourself up to criticism from the masses who have defined what it takes to fit in and be successful in life.  But who is to say that society’s standards and values are correct?  If the brand that I’ve built above is one to be criticized or deemed unacceptable, then perhaps society has things a bit backwards. 

And maybe it’s time for me to start working on number 6…

  1. Changing the way the world thinks.

May God Bless!