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500+ for 50 – day 35: call me crazy

So much of what we tend to accept as the truth in this life we receive from worldly perspectives.  But although we may be relentlessly influenced to accept the popular convictions of society, we do ultimately hold the power to choose what it is that we will accept as our own personal beliefs.  It can be intimidating however to go against common wisdom and distinguish one’s own self from the masses.  Society doesn’t tend to look favorably upon those who view life in a different way.  The critics of the world will certainly not pull any punches against a man who challenges their way of thinking.  Instead, they’ll make every effort to drive fear into his heart and create a sense of urgency within him to conform.  It can be very difficult to stand one’s ground.  But call me “crazy” if you will…I’m not moving.

 

Here is a list of ten of my most steadfast convictions guaranteed to reach well beyond society’s comfort zone:

 

1.  Pain is meant to be embraced…

Pain has such a negative connotation in our society.  So much so that often we spend our lives desperately making every attempt possible to avoid it.  Most people’s brains are wired to respond very unfavorably to any discomfort that they encounter.  But what if we retrained our minds to embrace pain?  What if we recognized that every time that pain arrives we are being signaled to confront a new opportunity to grow and excel?  Pain is a catalyst for transformation.  It is not the end, it’s the beginning.  Our greatest life’s purposes will be born out of pain.

 

2.  There is no shame in mental illness…

So many people live in fear of confronting their own personal demons because society has such a negative stigma associated with mental illness.  Every day individuals battling mental health related issues suffer silently due to the pressure they feel to be viewed as “normal”.  But whose definition of “normal” are we living by, anyway?  I would wager to say that the majority of Americans have battled some form of mental health related illness at one time or another.  And there is no shame in that.  It’s not as uncommon as the masses would like for you to believe.  There is no difference between a physical illness and a mental illness – both should be recognized with the same level of care and compassion.  It’s time to stop judging and start showing some empathy so that we can free the minds of those living in bondage.

 

3.  Work is not just a paycheck…

God had a bigger idea in mind when He spoke about “work” than your average 9 to 5.  Some people have followed their passions and as a result they are able to truly do what it is that they love for a living, and I think that’s wonderful.  But many others are stuck in a career that offers them little fulfillment other than the comfort that they receive every other Friday when they are able to cash their checks so that they can fund their accounts and pay their bills on time.  Real work extends beyond a paycheck.  Work involves a commitment to servicing the needs of others through the talents that God has provided you.  Work is about a calling.  And if you are able to address that calling in a 40 hour week, then that’s fantastic and I admire you.  But if your work extends beyond your commitment to your current employer, that’s okay, too.  Some of the best work to be done offers little or no compensation at all.

 

4.  There is nothing more valuable than the truth…

Most Americans spend their lives chasing money and materialistic desires.  Some become so obsessed with the accumulation of things that they lose sight of what’s really important.  If you distract yourself with enough creature comforts you might never gain an understanding of why it is that you are here and what the greater plan is for you in this life that you’ve been given.  And that’s a shame.  Because when your number is called, that’s all that you’ve got left.  The things, they matter not.  You can’t take them with you.  I personally would rather spend every day of my life endlessly seeking the truth than live my life blindly accepting whatever it is the world gives me on this earth as my definition of fulfillment.  Many poor men have died rich, and many wealthy men have died poor.

 

5.  Personal CAN and SHOULD coincide with professional…

Our unique personal values and commitments should translate well into our professional careers.  We’ve spent many years in America creating a distinction between these two areas of our lives.  But times are changing.  Honesty and vulnerability are sexy traits in today’s business world.  The leaders of tomorrow will remain true to who they are and in doing so they will attract the likes of others who will embrace the personal characteristics that they have to offer.  Features and benefits can only take you so far in today’s world.  YOU are your greatest asset.  People buy from people.  And I for one would like to have a firm understanding of what I’m getting before I move forward with my purchase…so tell me more about YOU.

 

6.  Experience isn’t simply measured in years of service or degrees amassed…

Obviously these types of qualifiers are more important in certain professions than they are in others, but a person’s ability to succeed in life generally extends well beyond their years on the job or their education.  Life experience is invaluable.  And you don’t gain life experience by simply keeping your nose planted in a book all of your life or by working in the same field for your entire career.  You gain life experience by taking risks and by, well…by living.  If you haven’t dared to step out of your comfort zone, then you haven’t truly lived.  And if you haven’t truly lived, then you haven’t learned to adapt and survive among the failures and adversities that you are bound to encounter when seeking true success.  Your experience in responding to life’s trials will pay you far more dividends than any other formal education or training that you receive.

 

7.  Miracles are everywhere…

People have grown pretty particular over the years about what they are willing to classify as a miracle in this life.  Most people associate miracles with acts of healing.  And those certainly fit the bill.  But miracles are everywhere, every day.  Look in the mirror and think about all that you see in that reflection gazing back at you.  YOU are an absolute miracle born to this world in miraculous fashion!  Everything is a miracle…the sun that rises in the sky each morning, the air that we breathe and the creatures big and small that grace the land in which we live.  It’s amazing.  When you choose to allow yourself to embrace the miracles around you, life becomes so much richer.

 

8.  Your greatest assets are your deepest flaws…

I firmly believe that we are all the product of a perfect Creator who does not make mistakes.  The “flaws” that we embody were put in our lives for a very real reason.  They serve to shape us into the individuals that we become in this life.  The magical thing about flaws is that because they cause us to struggle we as a result tend to grow more encouraged to seek a greater understanding of who we are as individuals.  And in seeking that understanding, we often turn to a higher power for support and guidance.  When we accept and embrace that position of vulnerability we open doors to new opportunities for growth and development that we would have never otherwise encountered.  Your flaws are not meant to hinder you, they are meant to liberate you.  They are indeed your greatest asset.

 

9.  Faith is the best remedy for any fear…

Fear is an area that I understand all too well.  For many years I’ve battled my own mental health related issues, the most devastating of which being my fairly severe anxiety disorder.  It was only a few years ago that I was agoraphobic, meaning that I was essentially afraid to leave my home.  Those were desperate, nightmarish circumstances to live under.  But I ultimately overcame the bondage of my mind and was able to return to a more sensible way of living.  And I did it all with faith.  It wasn’t easy at times, but in learning to let go and step forward with trust in God, I scaled every limiting wall that had confined me.  We live in a world where we desire a quick fix to every problem.  Sometimes that fix is a pill.  And for some, medication is essential.  But I can assure you that there is no stronger, longer lasting anecdote than faith for fear.  So I believe that it should be a part of any effective therapy in mental health.

 

10.  Impossible is NOTHING…

The only limits in this life are the ones that we determine there to be in our own minds.  We live in a world that is motivated by a history of statistics.  So if someone hasn’t already achieved the milestone that we desire, we deem it as impossible.  Well, it remains “impossible” of course until someone else makes an inspired effort to reach beyond what was previously achieved and in doing so attains a new mark and establishes a new pinnacle of success.  If you think about it, impossible is a pretty flexible term, isn’t it?  We should probably just dispose of it altogether.  Because impossible is NOTHING.  We are the product of a perfect Creation and nothing can contain the reach of our limitless God.  Don’t spend another minute wasting your time discouraging the pursuit of your dreams by involving yourself in what’s considered possible today.  There’s a good chance that tomorrow that standard will be different, perhaps even as a direct result of you.

 

May God Bless!

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500+ for 50 – day 34: make a play

It’s no secret to most readers who have spent any time following my blog that football is my first love.  I began playing the sport when I was in first grade, although it wasn’t really until junior high that I developed my passionate affection for it.  That’s right around the age when I matured to a level that I was able to understand just how special a game football could be.  And it’s also the time when I began realizing that I had the ability to excel at it, particularly at the quarterback position.

When I was a freshman I was invited to play Varsity football by the head coach of our high school team.  That offer made me feel pretty special.  All of my classmates would continue in junior high until they became sophomores, but I would have the unique opportunity to gain tremendous experience with a bunch of upperclassmen.  I couldn’t pass it up.  So I accepted coach’s offer and joined the rest of the guys for camp in August.  It was an intimidating experience at times but one that looking back I would not trade for anything.  I’ll never forget that first walk from the locker room to the stadium on the evening of our first home game.  There was absolutely nothing like it. 

My freshman season I didn’t see any real action except in mop up duty and at our JV contests on Monday nights.  But by sophomore year, I had earned the starting quarterback position.  And I took center under the direction of a new head coach, and a whole new offensive scheme.  Our new leader was a proponent of the Delaware Wing T which is a run dedicated offense with pulling guards and wingbacks.  We don’t need to go into the details of what it entails.  Let’s just say that it would certainly not be my scheme of choice if I were coaching today.  Quite honestly, it may not have truly been his either but it would not be until a bit later that I would find out that it was really the only type of offense that he knew.  And that was going to be an obstacle in the way of our team’s success.

My high school was nothing like those programs that you see highlighted on TV shows like Friday Night Lights.  We had very little tradition and a track record for being at the bottom of the league year in and year out.  The expectations were not by any means high.  But we were in a position to begin to turn things around in 1998.  We were young, but we had some talent.  And on paper it certainly appeared that we had the ability to compete with many of the teams in our league.  But we struggled to execute the Wing T running game well.  We would find ourselves in 3rd and long possession after possession, limited by our playbook and becoming more and more predictable to the defense as the weeks passed and teams began taking a closer look at us on film.

The good thing about our limited success rushing the football was that it did give me opportunities to put the ball in the air, which was my greatest strength as a quarterback.  In fact, my sophomore season I set a county record for passing yards in a game on our homecoming with just 26 attempts.  I was excelling not as a result of good coaching, but as a result of my own will to succeed.  Most times I was scrambling well outside of the pocket to find open receivers downfield on long yardage situations.  And I became a bit of a savior for a coach who had no idea whatsoever how to make adjustments.  His limited bag of tricks left our team starving in passing situations.  But I was somehow able to make it work anyway.

I can recall vivid memories of those moments in games when I would look to the sideline for the play and he’d hand me the most predictable call on the sheet.  I knew that the defense was prepared and that they understood exactly what was coming.  Play action on third and twelve was not going to work.  We weren’t going to freeze anyone.  The defense was going to be on my heels the second that I took the ball from under center.  Was this really the best that he had?  I felt many times that he could see the frustration and discouragement on my face as I took his call.  And then he’d nod me back to huddle and yell, “Make a play, Matty!”

Man, did I resent hearing those words.  Why should all of the burden fall on me to make a play?  Why was it my job to save the team and rescue his reputation?  What was it that he was bringing to the table to see to it that we were successful?  How about you make a play, coach?  Start adapting to the game of football.  Make some adjustments.  Maximize the talent that you have.  Stop handcuffing us and instead allow us to put ourselves in a position to succeed.  There were a million things running through my mind in those moments.  But ultimately, I would head back to the huddle and do the only thing that I knew how as a competitor…I would make something happen in desperate circumstances.

Looking back on those experiences I am now able to see that while it was very frustrating for me at the time, my coach was truly paying me the greatest compliment that I could ever receive.  He was showing his faith in my ability to take a hopeless situation and turn it into something positive.  He understood that he was incapable of dialing up the perfect recipe for success on third and long, so he’d simply hand me the flour and say “go bake the cake”.  And as much as his unwillingness to adapt to the game drove me crazy, I did enjoy having the ability to improvise in trying situations.  I was always at the top of my game when I was under pressure to succeed.  So I embraced the challenging predicaments that he put me in because they allowed the best of who I was as an athlete to shine.

In life, we’re going to find ourselves in lots of third and long type situations.  And we’re not always going to have the perfect team surrounding us in support.  We won’t always have the most equipped coach on the sidelines directing our course, either.  And there will be times when our surroundings will not offer us any favors.  We may even find ourselves lacking any true backing on the day that we’re slated to take on our toughest opponent.  But we can’t quit.  There is another down to be played, and we came here to compete.  So we will need to make the decision to go out and make a play anyway.  If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to need to make things happen without always having the proper resources and support behind us.  True champions make the decision to win when all of the odds are against them.

There’s a popular saying out there that goes “God will never give you more than you can handle”.  I tend to agree with this.  I believe that God will offer the strong and the determined the opportunity to succeed in the most demanding circumstances because He knows that they are equipped with the tools necessary to handle them.  So we need not blame those around us for the difficulties that we encounter.  Because the adversities that we will face due to limited support will only serve to promote the development of our greatest talents and skills.  And while those talents and skills may not be sufficient enough to convert every third and long, they will help to put us in a position to win more games than we lose.  And they’ll promote a resiliency within us that can never be taken away by anyone.

So life dealt you an unfair blow and the world seems to have turned its back on you.  I know one person that still believes in you…and I can hear Him offering you his encouragement from above…”go make a play anyway…this is not something beyond your ability to handle….this is where you shine.”

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 33: the elevator pitch

In sales we spend a lot of time discussing the development of our company specific elevator pitch.  If you’re not familiar with the term, the elevator pitch is a well-defined, short summary of our business that we can deliver in a short window of opportunity to anyone who inquires about what exactly it is that we do.  If we were to board an elevator in the lobby of a hotel and introduce ourselves to a fellow professional to our left or right, the idea is that we would be able to deliver this summary before the doors reopened signaling our exit.  Obviously the use of this pitch is not limited to chance encounters in an elevator.  It’s a great tool for networking, no matter the type of event or setting.

There are a lot of articles on the internet addressing the key elements to consider when formulating your elevator pitch.  And I’m not here today to attempt to provide you with a scientific analysis of your own personal summary.  To be honest, that kind of thing drives me crazy.  No one knows better how to present and sell your business than you.  Ultimately people don’t buy products or capabilities; they buy differentiating experiences from those that they can relate to and trust.  So what’s important is not the specific make-up of the pitch, but the way that you deliver it.  In a thirty second window with a stranger, most individuals are not likely to be deeply tuned in to every word that you say.  So don’t try and overwhelm them with fancy jargon.  People will remember how you make them feel.  So if you want to leave a lasting impression, work on perfecting your passion for what it is that you do.  That’s what’s going to make someone eager to learn more about you and your business.

Sales is a profession where nearly everyone is seeking answers with regards to what it takes to be successful.  And believe me, there are more than enough individuals out there willing to offer their “personal” solutions to the masses.  The professional development sections of bookstores across the country are well stocked with sales strategy materials from countless authors with a decorated track record in selling.  And some of their works are really, really good.  I believe that we can all benefit from the success stories of those who’ve excelled in our chosen field of employment.  But I do think that it’s important for us to create our own unique identity in our profession, just as each of our favorite authors has in adding their own spin to what’s already been addressed for many, many years.   After all, it’s our own distinct approach that’s going to set us apart from the competition.  And I believe that’s what we need to remember when we begin to construct our elevator pitch.

Everyone in a sales environment is going to run into competition in their respective industries.  That’s inevitable.  There’s no chance that you’re going to be the only guy selling widgets, just as I’m not going to be the lone individual offering print and direct mail solutions.  Chances are, there is someone within a few zip codes of your home office who can provide a product or service that is very similar to yours, and here’s the shocker…they can produce it for far less than you can, too.  Ouch…that stings, I know.  But it’s the reality that we all have to face at one time or another. 

So when we’re creating our elevator pitch, we need to keep a couple of key things in mind.  This is likely not the first time that our audience has heard about our product or service.  And even if it is, they’re not going to appreciate us rambling on with our industry specific verbiage.  People want to know how our product or service is going to bring value to their life or business.  And we can’t convey that by simply calling out a few features and benefits common to our industry competition.  We have to showcase our value in our delivery, and our targets need to be able to recognize our resounding belief in our business in the way that we approach them.  Be passionate about what it is that you do.  If you can’t get excited about your solutions then you can’t expect your clients to get excited about them either.

Have you ever received a call from a telemarketer who, when prompted by your “hello” simply runs through his dialogue in a monotone voice just spewing his product or service all over your lap?  What’s your natural reaction?  Hang up the phone, right?  Well, keep in mind that the same will be true if you approach a prospect in person in a similar fashion.  Even if you’re able to hold them captive for a thirty second elevator ride, I can assure you that they will tune out your approach immediately and will race for the door at their earliest opportunity to exit.  People buy from people.  And they’re not going to buy from an individual who leaves them feeling sleepy and defeated.  They’re going to hook up with the other professionals who are passionate about what they have to offer.  Because those are the types of people who will create the differentiating experiences that they’ll appreciate not simply once or twice but for a lifetime.

Your elevator pitch is more about you than anything else.  Your passion for your business is what’s going to attract the buyers who will share a similar desire for your product or service.  You’ve got a very short window to leave a lasting impression. 

So, in thirty seconds or less, tell me, what is it that makes you memorable?

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 32: open field

There aren’t many plays more exciting to watch in the game of football than when a back bursts through the initial line of defense and heads out into the open field.  These are the types of game changing moments that we as fans live for week to week.  No matter your vantage point, be it the from the stadium bleachers or from the couch in your living room, when your team’s running back has nothing but green in front of him it’s nearly impossible to remain seated.  In fact we really can’t help but rise to our feet in anticipation of what may follow as we eagerly visualize the celebration of a big gain or perhaps even a touchdown with those in the crowd or easy chairs nearby. 

The game of football is about creating big plays on both sides of the ball throughout the entire four quarters of every contest.  There are games when two evenly matched teams will square up for battle and very few breakout plays will occur.  As fans we may sit in the stands and be offered nothing more than a stalemate for three quarters.  But then, as the clock winds late in the fourth quarter, inevitably someone will lay a key block that will open a crease just wide enough for our back to slip through, and moments later we’ll jump to our feet to cheer on his move into the open field.  The result of the ensuing run could very well be the break in the game that we need to separate ourselves from our opponent.  This opportunity could put us into field goal range, or better yet into the end zone.  It could be our only chance to steal a victory and perhaps direct the course of an entire season lying ahead of us.  So it’s critical that we make the most of it.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Any Given Sunday, you’ll probably recall Al Pacino’s passionate locker room speech when he describes life, and football, as being a “game of inches”.  Having fallen in love with the gridiron after spending many years playing the game and having experienced countless ups and downs in my life, I know this to be very accurate comparison.  The margin of error in life and in football is minuscule.  We live in a world characterized by darkness.  And each and every day we are being asked to compete with a weighty opponent that seeks to do nothing more than wear us down for four straight quarters.  But in the game of life there are bright spots of opportunity to be had in every moment of every day, just as there are during the course of every game of football.  We’ve simply got to be willing to passionately seek every chance that we can to step into the light.  And then when our break occurs, we must burst into the radiance before us, into the open field if you will, because it will be those game changing moments that will be the difference between our ultimate successes and failures in life.

Open field runs do not occur throughout the course of a football game simply as a product of chance.  They are the result of a relentless, committed effort at execution.  And the same is true of the breaks that we receive in life.  It may be a critical block on a linebacker that springs a back to the secondary.  Or it could be a perfect read on the opponent’s alignment from the booth upstairs that pinpoints the void in the defense on that particular series.  Perhaps it’s nothing more than the running back’s rugged, determined effort to keep his legs driving and dispose of any defenders that step into his path that ultimately leads him to the open field.  Whether in football or in life, such opportunities are never coincidental.  They occur as a direct result of our effort, our will, our execution, and our unwavering faith in our course of action.

It can be a difficult task to stay the course when our opponent appears well equipped to hold us in check throughout the game of life before us.  But if we’ve prepared well and have studied the game plan, if we’re committed to achieving victory and we believe wholeheartedly that we deserve it, opportunities to create game changing plays will occur.  It may be an open door from a professional connection that we met years ago.  Or it could be an enlightened vision from our life coordinator from above.  Perhaps it will occur simply as the result of our willingness to work harder at differentiating ourselves and giving more to life than the average individual.  But no matter how bleak our circumstances may appear before us, if we persist, we can overcome every single opponent in life. 

Here’s the key: when you see an opening, you need to accelerate.  Switch into a higher gear.  You’ll notice that most running backs handle themselves differently in the open field than they do between the tackles.  They seem to have an extra burst for creating the separation that they desire in the green grass before them.  They don’t slow down to take account of their surroundings.  They simply find the daylight and like a rocket they launch themselves into it.  It’s similar in life.  When you are awarded an invitation into the open field, you cannot hesitate.  There is no time to think, to worry, to doubt, to contemplate – simply take action before the door closes.  After all, these windows of opportunity will not last forever.  The game of life, like football, is a game of inches.  And it’s crucial that we TAKE those inches that will lead to our success when they present themselves, or our opponent will devour them quickly with no remorse.

When a back gets into the open field, he becomes very hard to tackle.  This is when his skill set is so incredibly fun to watch.  A talented running back can make the game of football look effortless as he shoots into the secondary leaving would be tacklers grasping at air behind him.  The same will be true for you in life.  If you allow yourself to accelerate into game changing opportunities you will blow by the obstacles before you and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to impede your progress.  And the depth of your ability will be clearly evident among the onlookers in the stands.  They will rise to their feet in anticipation of your greatness as you effortlessly glide into the end zone to celebrate your victory.

Remember, don’t hesitate – accelerate.  Take the break and make your life living in the open field.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 31: stretch it

Most human beings are hardwired to seek comfort in really everything that they do.  That can be a tricky obstacle in personal growth.  Often we mistakenly set our sights on the relief and stability that we will feel once we are able to successfully navigate the next step of our journey.  We’ve been programmed by the world to desire the cushioned seat of security in life.  And as a result, sometimes our small victories lead to our greatest defeats.  Most people fail because they accept their average successes as the end of the road in their personal development.  It’s not that they don’t desire more, but rather that they’ve found a level of comfort with what they’ve produced, and so in turn they settle for a subpar life. 

One’s internal conversation may sound a little something like this…”Why push for something greater?  Life’s not so bad here.  I can live with what I’ve got.  There’s no need for me to work tirelessly to achieve my dreams.  I’ve contributed more to my development recently than I ever have in my past, so that should stand for something, right?  I might never be able to reach those milestones that I set for myself anyway.  I’m not that skilled or talented…who was I kidding?  This is where I belong.  I’ve done enough to fulfill my obligations.  And that’s all that matters.  It feels good not to carry the burden to follow through with my commitments.  I can’t handle all of the pressure and stress.  I’ll just settle here and relax a bit.  Maybe someday when life slows down I’ll chase my dreams again.”

Have you ever heard a similar dialogue play out in your own head?  I most certainly have.  It can be very difficult to ignore.  As a result of such conversations, I’ve allowed myself to sacrifice my greatest achievements for small victories in comfort time and time again.  I’ve settled for average success when I’ve known in my heart that I’ve wanted more from life.  And that’s had devastating effects on my personal development.  Because ultimately the comfort received from such wins has always been overshadowed by the internal conflict that remains.  It’s no secret that I desire something more meaningful in life.  It will not be my mission to settle.  So why did I allow myself to think this was good enough?  Now I must retrace my steps and begin again.  Why didn’t I just keep going when I had the momentum behind me?

This type of scenario is far too common in the lives of so many.  We start and stop and start and stop time after time, tremendously limiting our progress as a result.  Because with every milestone reached, our past conditioning urges us to settle for the meager comforts offered, and more often than not, we listen.  It’s evident in our personal lives as well as in our professional lives.  Note the salesperson who stops making calls to new prospects when he lands a few nice accounts that start paying him a reasonable commission.  Or the professional athlete whose performance tanks just months after he receives a lucrative contract extension.  It’s everywhere, even within our families.  Take the spouse who lies awake every night in bed feeling the pain of a lifeless marriage, yet makes no further effort to communicate or work towards the growth of his relationship because he doesn’t want to rock the boat.  Comfort may make us miserable, but at the end of the day it’s still comfortable.

What about you, in your life, how have you settled?  What is it that you wish to do that you’ve never had the courage to pursue indefinitely?  When have you settled in your mind when your heart has desired to push forward?  How does that make you feel inside?

We’ve got to be willing to stretch it in this life.  When we reach a milestone, we cannot simply stop and give “average” the nod of approval that it desires.  We need to go beyond what’s comfortable.  When we hit a goal, we need to take the momentum that we receive as a result of our accomplishment and immediately set a higher standard.  It’s not enough to simply say that we took action.  It’s not enough to perfect mediocrity when you want to be great.  Yes, achieving what might have initially been a lofty milestone is great, but there’s no glory in doing it over and over again simply because it’s known territory.  You’ve got to venture out into uncharted waters if you’re going to ever explore the true depth of your ability.

So when you land that new account, make another phone call anyway.  When you successfully run a 5K, start preparing for your first 10K.  When you knock a couple out of the park, get back in the cage and hit a hundred more balls after the game.  Don’t settle.  Let your success ignite a greater desire within you to reach your true destination.  Because I can assure you, it’s always going to be one step further than you thought you could ever go.  There are no limits.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 30: show up

Today I was listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, Eric Thomas, give a talk on the three principles of success.  I won’t go into detail about each of them, but I did want to address his very first and supremely critical step.  “You’ve got to show up.” This notion really hit home with me this afternoon.  Because honestly I was having one of those days where I could feel the devil relentlessly poking at me, presenting doubt and worry to my mind and serving me an appetizer of anxiety with the hope that I might be willing to take his bait and stay for the whole meal.  I could have very easily forfeited a portion of my progress today.  But I knew that I needed to keep moving.  After all, I have committed to showing up, every day – no excuses.  So I took a little inspiration from Eric’s message and pushed forward with the mission to win today.

We’re all going to have days that challenge us.  When you’ve spent the majority of your lifetime conditioning your mind and body to accept defeat and respond to urges to retreat to comfort, it’s going to take the activation of a relentless will to promote the development of your new way of living.  There are going to be mornings when you will wake up and life will hit you like a ton of bricks.  But no matter the adversity that’s put on your plate, if you want to be successful, you’ve got to continue to show up.  It’s not likely that within any particular day you will realize all of your dreams due to the actions that you take, but your commitment to excellence will create the habits necessary to continue to lead you forward on your path to personal growth.  Success is the byproduct of doing the small things well, day in and day out.

I think many of us feel overwhelmed at times by the size and scope of our dreams.  How can we possibly reach the final destination that we have in our sights?  It can be a bit intimidating.  And if you try and overanalyze the process, you will paralyze your efforts.  On days that we are directly challenged with doubts, fears, pain, you name it – our mind will be bombarded with the type of limited thinking that will seek to stop us dead in our tracks.  We are vulnerable in these moments, and we need to recognize that.  One wrong step or poor decision based upon the emotionally triggered negativity seeking to pollute our efforts could be enough to set us off course indefinitely.  In those periods when we are challenged to give in to our doubts and fears, our willingness to show up becomes more important than ever. 

We don’t need to knock it out of the park each and every day.  We simply need to commit to the direction of our journey and stick with it.  One step at a time.  Take the actions that will lead to the habits that ensure success.  Forget about how far it may seem you still have to go.  Don’t allow yourself to ever get discouraged.  God has a plan for where He is leading you.  And you don’t need to know how you’re going to get there.  You just need to show up, bringing the best of what you have to the table each and every day with your eyes focused on the prize, and He will take care of the rest.

A few weeks ago the head pastor at our church preached an amazing sermon on Jesus feeding the five thousand.  In the Gospel of John, Chapter Six the story mentions a small boy who brings an offering of five small barley loaves and two small fish to Christ and his disciples.  Jesus takes the boy’s offering, gives thanks, and moments later miraculously the disciples are able to feed the entire massive crowd among them.  When it was all said and done, twelve additional baskets of food remained.  God created abundance out of the simple offering from that young boy.  The moral of the story is that if we simply show up, bringing what little we may have to offer to the table, God is willing and able to create the unthinkable in our lives.  Impossible is nothing.  We just need to be present in order for His miracles to manifest themselves.

Running has become a great passion of mine.  I truly love it because it’s an excellent way for me to keep healthy and to push the limits of my mind and body.  Some days when I run, it’s absolutely effortless – the wind is at my back.  Other days, my legs and back ache, leaving my mind racing with doubts about my ability to show up for that evening’s workout.  On those nights, the run can feel like a real grind.  But it’s all worth it because I know that when I’m finished I will feel wonderful about what I’ve accomplished.  Because I will have overcome a conditioned mind that I know has just made a determined effort to limit me.  And I will have won the day.  One step at a time I will have inched my way closer to greatness. 

I’m simply doing my part and waiting on God’s miracle to fulfill the rest.  And I will be there on the day that He is ready for me – I will show up.  I hope that you will commit to being there, too.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 29: the reflection in the mirror

When you look into the mirror, what do you see?  Many of us serve as our own biggest critics.  And in that reflection peering back at us we find ways to scrutinize one flaw after another.  We tend to magnify imperfections within ourselves that the average observer could never in a million years begin to see.  Our analysis generally runs far deeper than the image presented on the surface.  We critique the unseen as well.  Because to so many of us it’s not who we are that we find so discouraging, but it’s who we aren’t.  We’ve been educated by society on what it means to be pretty, to be successful, to be fit, to be wealthy, and to be strong.  The mass media has set standards of appeal to which very few feel that they can ever measure up.  And far too often we allow those standards to deteriorate the value of our own self-image.

What occurs as a result of our personal critique can be devastating to our future development and growth.  When we begin to view ourselves as less than adequate, we start attracting less than adequate outcomes to our lives.  We receive what it is in life that we have decided that we deserve.  Human beings are like magnets in a world that is absolutely limitless.  All of life’s outcomes are essentially floating around in space waiting to align themselves with their matching hosts here on earth.  What we spend our energy believing that we will receive and working towards is more often than not what we will connect with in our future.  If you view yourself as a victim, you will very likely spend your life playing that role.  If you envision yourself as a champion however, your opportunities for success will be endless.  The power is within you to direct the course of your future.

It’d be easy to sit back and lay the responsibility for your limiting mindset on the world around you.  That’s a bit of what we touched upon in yesterday’s post…the blame game.  It’s easy to point the finger in the direction of the masses when you feel insecure or unhappy about the reflection that you see in the mirror.  But it takes guts to accept ownership of the image gazing back at you.  The truth is that you do own it, whether you like it or not.  You have the final say in the evaluation that you make about yourself.  What the world sees matters not one bit.  It’s what you see that counts.  God created all of His children with the touch of His perfect hands, so it’s important that you trust in the fact that you lack nothing.  You have the same right as anyone else to attract all of the positive outcomes available to you in this life.  So don’t limit yourself by critiquing the work of the universe’s sole flawless artist.

Later this evening I’m going to head out for my run.  And when I lace up my shoes and pop in my earbuds, I’m going to look into the mirror and envision myself as a Navy Seal.  Because I know that my perception is everything.  If I want to be at the top of my game physically, then I need to view myself as the likeness of those who excel beyond the fitness standards of the average thirty plus year old male.  If I want to approach my run as a warrior heading into battle, then I have to see myself putting on my gear to prepare to head out on my mission.  No matter the targets that I have set in my life, I will create my standard for future growth and development based upon the reflection that I see.  In everything that I do, I must envision myself as the champion at the top of his class.  It’s in that vision and belief that I will attract the results that I wish to achieve in my life.

So if you desire like I do to connect yourself with the opportunities that match your dreams then you need to begin viewing yourself as a person who is worthy and deserving of them.  As long as you see yourself lacking what it takes, you will never attract your greatness.  Tune out the noise of society.  The world’s standards only serve to limit us.  Instead turn up your own volume.  If you want to be an artist, envision yourself as Picasso.  If you want to be an entrepreneur, picture yourself as Steve Jobs.  You get the idea.  Set the bar high.  And don’t let anyone interfere with the positive frequency that you develop as a result of your new, confident self-image.  Because those beautiful vibrations, like a magnet will attract the right outcomes to your life in time. 

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 28: the blame game

Years ago when I reconnected with my faith and made my first efforts to reclaim my life and direct my future down a different road, I was encouraged to confront head on something that I had spent my entire existence trying to avoid.  For the first time in my life, I was forced to look in the mirror and evaluate with an open mind the factors that had led me to my current state of affairs.  You see up until that very moment when I reconvened with God, my views on the direction that my life had taken had been shaped solely by the circumstances that I had encountered along the way.  I was no different than the average man who wanders aimlessly blaming the world for all of his problems.  And the problems in my life were abundant.  My past had taken on the resemblance of a mid-day soap opera.  And I was fully comfortable in playing the role of the hapless victim of bad relationships, unfortunate circumstances, etc.  I didn’t want to see that I had contributed to the series of events that had led me to where I was…that was just too painful for me to absorb.

But thanks be to God and His incredible mercy, I was offered the gift of wisdom that allowed me to step back and view things as a neutral observer would.  I remember standing in the shower the day that my life changed forever.  As the hot water ran down the back of my neck and shoulders this amazing burst of insight hit me like a ton of bricks.  In my head I heard the prompt… “You know Matt you’ve been through all of these painful, dramatic events during the course of your life…what is it that’s common to them all?”  The answer to that question was clear as day – it was me.  I was a part of each and every one of the stories of heartache, failure, and despair that I had to share.  For years my story had centered on my position as the recipient of a difficult life that was certainly not of my own choosing.  But in that moment I knew with complete certainty that I had attracted every single outcome that I had experienced, good and bad.  My past had been nothing more than a series of events leading to the development of the image of the life that I had prescribed myself.  And my future was going to most certainly unfold in the exact same fashion.

I shook with joy as I contemplated the opportunity to take responsibility for my actions and ask for the forgiveness that I so desperately needed so that I could move forward as a new man.  Could life really be this simple?  If I changed my perception, could I truly dictate the outcomes of my future?  I had spent so much time and energy worrying about things that were out my control.  Now it was as though God had handed me the keys and said, “Here, take your new life for a spin…just remember that what you create and encounter, good and bad, they are all the byproducts of your thoughts and actions, so choose wisely.”  I had never felt so empowered and free.  It was as though the world’s greatest mystery had just been revealed to me.  And all this time it had been right under my nose.  It was such a simple concept.  So why had it been so difficult to attain?

It’s very hard to understand why we as humans struggle so mightily to accept responsibility for the negative outcomes in our lives.  After all, most of us don’t have any issue with taking ownership of our victories.  We delight in those moments, even if the majority of the credit for our success really should be attributed elsewhere.  But we will fight within ourselves relentlessly to shy away from accepting responsibility for the shortcomings and failures in our lives.  Perhaps we see them as a threat to the flawless image that we are working so carefully to uphold.  So rather than look in the mirror, we blame people, we blame circumstance, and we even blame God when we should be directing our focus within.  After all, we were a part of every downfall, whether the outcome was fair in our eyes or not, we were there, and in that we must take ownership.

Take it from me, if you walk around pointing the finger at others and taking a passive role in your life as a product of circumstance, you will continue to receive less than what you desire from the world and those around you.  When you choose to view yourself as a victim, you commit to receiving the unfortunate future of a victim.  But when you empower your will to create the life of your dreams by accepting the idea that you have within you the ability to manifest all that it is that you desire, you liberate yourself from the limiting mindset that is so very characteristic of this world.  If you actively take charge of your life, owning responsibility for all outcomes, you will free yourself from the weighty burdens of your past and open doors for a promising future that is, of course, of your own creation.

Don’t play the blame game.  Whether you appreciate your surroundings or not, you are where you are as a result of you.  And you can spend your time beating yourself up over your mistakes, OR you can get on with living, inspired by the notion that if you can create a less than average life for yourself, you can also create an extraordinary one.  It’s up to you where your future resides – you choose the destination.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 27: the lonely road to the top

As human beings we all have a desire to be liked; to be a part of a family and a community that shares in our vision.  We crave companionship and the type of support network that will console us in our defeats and celebrate with us in our victories.  Our minds are wired from birth to seek recognition and acknowledgment.  That’s why we tend to respond so well to positive affirmation.  We when we speak, we intend to be heard.  When we take action, we expect that our efforts will be encouraged.  We are motivated to fit in and meet the expectations of others.  Unfortunately, so much of what we do or don’t do in this life can often be attributed to the types of networks that we choose to surround ourselves with.  With very unfortunate frequency we evolve into people that most accurately portray the images of success that have been defined by our closest networks rather than the models of excellence that we see within ourselves.

It’s very difficult not to become a product of your environment.  You need to be very secure within yourself to remain true to your own personal values and not allow the network surrounding you to influence your decision making and behaviors.  As I mentioned previously, we are all programmed to seek acknowledgment.  And when we decide to go against the wisdom of others and trust our own instincts and beliefs, we will often find ourselves the targets of criticism and judgment.  That definitely stings.  No one likes to feel like they are out on an island all alone.  And so that’s where most of us sound the horn and exit the personal development train.  For the individuals racing off when the doors open, the pressure to conform is far too great.  They would rather let their dreams dissipate than stand out from the crowd.  After all, there’s safety in numbers, right?

Perhaps there is comfort to be gained in limiting one’s thinking and course of action to the standards of others.  But comfort never developed a cure for cancer.  Comfort never won a Nobel Prize.  Comfort never started a revolutionary business, nor did it ever inspire a non-profit to empower the lives of those in need.  What’s comfortable is not always what’s best for you.  Your God given purpose in life was developed by a limitless Creator who cares nothing about conforming to the standards of the world or to your specific network of support.  God may have a plan for you that will reach well beyond the comprehension of those around you.  And you may have an idea of what that plan is and what types of steps that you must take in order to see it come to fruition.  But it’s critical that you recognize that others might not be able to see that picture as clearly as you.  They may only be comfortable accepting what is “realistic” within the framework of their minds.  Forget your need to seek approval and move forward anyway.  If God has given you the nod, then you are cleared for takeoff.

There are all of these interesting statistics out there from data gathered on how much time we spend sleeping, eating, watching TV, working our 9 to 5, etc.  Wouldn’t it be intriguing to compile research on the number of hours spent in an average person’s lifetime seeking the approval of others?  We often waste so much time trying to fit in that we never explore who it is that we are meant to be.  And as a result our true life’s purpose lies dormant within us forever.  And the world misses out on a really great success story that could have served to enrich and empower the lives of others. 

The road to success can be a very lonely one.  I’ve learned this harsh reality myself.  When you make a commitment to believe BIG and dream BIG, people are going to have a hard time sharing your limitless mindset.  After all, they’ve been trained by the masses to think in terms of what the world deems possible.  But isn’t it true that you desire something more than what’s ordinary?  You’re after EXTRAordinary success.  So forgive those around you for thinking small, and instead of concerning yourself with winning their approval, lead them to greener pastures through your actions taken in unwavering faith. 

Learn to ignore the emptiness that beckons from deep inside when you encounter rejection from others.  You will not win the approval of everyone, and that’s okay.  God provided you His endorsement when He offered you the vision of your future.  You need not seek further affirmation.  You need only act.  And very soon that emptiness will vanish as the fulfillment of your purpose serves to fill the void within.  True happiness is found in answering your calling from above, not in listening to the voices of the world.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 26: knock and the door will be opened

During the pursuit of my own personal growth transformation I’ve learned a lot about who I am as a person.  One particular flaw that I’ve discovered to be easily identifiable within me is my analytically driven mind.  There have been times when that aspect of my personality has served me well.  But most often it can be quite the burden.  I believe that its negative consequences far outweigh its benefits, so it’s certainly something that I’d like to restrain a bit as I move forward in my life.  When I overanalyze things, I invite stress and anxiety back into the driver’s seat.  And my faith in God’s plan diminishes as I scramble to find answers to the problems that He has already offered to handle for me.  In moments when I’m overly consumed by my analytical mind, I allow my wisdom to supersede The Lord’s.  And it becomes quite apparent to me that I’m in desperate need of a reality check.

Each and every time that it happens I state that this will be the last time that I allow myself to scrutinize things to death.  But ultimately the sinner within me takes hold of my mind and causes me to slip back into the learned behaviors of my past.  Thanks to God’s grace however I am forgiven and offered the opportunity to aim my sights back in His direction time and time again.  And boy, am I thankful for those second chances.  It’s certainly taken an abundance of them to help me understand the battle that’s been taking place in my mind throughout the course of my entire life.

I believe that the majority of human beings struggle with an analytical mindset from time to time.  It seems to me to be very evident in the way that we tend to approach the pursuit of our most elusive dreams and goals in life.  Often we spend so much time overthinking things and redirecting our minds “back to reality” that we never allow ourselves the opportunity to pick our feet up off the ground, let alone give ourselves the opportunity to fly and soar to unprecedented new heights.  You see, the world has guided us to follow society’s system of beliefs with regards to what is possible in life.  And we’re constantly evaluating ourselves and our performances against those standards, filling our minds with endless assurances of lack and failure before we ever even take one step in the direction of our dreams.  So it’s no wonder why we fail…our visualization process has guaranteed it.  But most people don’t even reach that stage, because they never take action.  Their analytically driven, negative self-talk precludes their efforts to even begin.

Success can be intimidating.  Everyone will encourage you to “dream BIG” but no one is really capable of offering you the blueprint to achieve your lofty pursuits.  And that can be frustrating.  You may find yourself intensely motivated yet still find that you can’t seem to get your feet moving because you don’t know how to effectively see yourself doing what the masses consider impossible.  So your fire dwindles, and you put off taking action for yet another day.  And before you know it, weeks and months pass until your dream is long forgotten.  But that internal grinding you feel within remains.  That feeling is your heart reminding you of how badly you want change as your mind works to slow you down and settle you back into comfort.  It’s a tiresome battle.  And it will go on forever unless you decide to empower your will and spirit and do something about it.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is Matthew 7:7, in which Jesus states “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Wow, now that’s powerful.  God has offered His assistance towards the realization of our dreams.  This verse confirms one very, very important message that has guided me every step of the way along my own journey to personal transformation: I don’t need to have all of the answers.  I don’t need to worry or overanalyze every step that I take.  It’s not important for me to envision a road to success that fits within society’s comfort zone.  I am guided by a limitless, miracle offering God who loves me – and He has offered to open doors for me that no man can ever shut.  All I need to do is invite Him to take the reins and trust that He always has my best interests in mind.  I simply need to die to my analytical self to empower my spiritual soul within.  And then I will achieve things that even I could have never imagined.

A wise man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”   You don’t need to know exactly how you’re going to arrive at your final destination.  You just need to be willing to let go and believe that if you knock, He will answer, and the doors of prosperity will be opened to you.  What may seem impossible to the masses can happen in a heartbeat at the hands of God.  I’ve witnessed it myself many times.

May God Bless!