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Entries in goals (4)

Friday
Apr262013

startitude

Some days are easier than others. And some days, it's like trying to drag a toddler out of a toy store. You still feel the love, but you'd rather be anywhere else. 

Days like that, it would be easy to roll your shoulders and say, "That's OK. I give it a good effort every other day. I can slack off this time." Maybe you're blocked. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you just have  nothing to offer.

Days like that come around more often than I'd like. This is one of them—a day when I've started this post three times, and even with a pretty good chunk of stuff written I've scrapped it because it wasn't honest or it wasn't my best work or it wasn't moving me forward. But then I think about why I do it, and that does tend to push me forward. 

My first and highest rule is to do what I do to glorify God. That ain't easy, especially in an age where friends and family may roll their eyes or condescend or flat out tell you that you're a nut for believing in this "God stuff." 

My second rule is to do what I do to help you. Yeah, you specifically. I pray about you, did you know that? I pray, before starting every one of these posts, that God will give me the words to glorify Him and to reach you. I want you to get something meaningful out of these posts, to take something away with you that makes your life better (even if just a smidge) and that you can spread around to the people you love, to help make their lives better, too. 

So if what I'm writing doesn't do both of those things, in my estimate, I scrap it and start over. And if I can't think of something that will meet both of those criteria, it can put me at a stand still. 

What I've discovered, though, is that if I start the work in honesty and earnestness and with those goals in mind, it tends to form itself despite me. Yeah, I may scrap the work a few times. I may have to shift and go in a different direction. But the work is still there. It still makes its entrance.

One of the most important things you can do to be successful and accomplish your goals is to start. To try, to push through when it's hard. This isn't new advice, right? You've heard this before. I have, God knows. Every day, practically. Start. Try. Push. 

You have to actually have a goal, of course. You have to have a direction. But if you don't take a step, even if it's the wrong step in the wrong direction, goals tend to be dreams more than reality. Moving from dream to reality takes action.

You may go backwards for a while. That happens, and it can be frustrating. But when you know where you're trying to go you can more easily judge whether an action is a step in the right direction or just a wrong turn. You can correct course easier and faster. And sometimes, going in the wrong direction for a bit gives you a chance to see things from a new perspective, to appreciate the journey more, to learn something knew you can bring to the game.

This morning started off as a tough one for me, just because I didn't know what I should actually write about. But once I started, and restarted, I found that I had a message after all. I had part of the story to tell. I could move forward.

Know where you want to go. Know when you need to be there. Know why you want to make the journey. Map out a route. And then take a step. Start moving, and even if your destination changes along the way you'll have a whole lot of new experiences and accomplishments under your belt, teaching you new ways of thinking and giving you new tools for dealing with the next challenge you encounter.

Like "What should I blog about today?"

Thursday
Apr042013

budgeticity 

Last night was "Week 3" of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. In general, the message for the evening was "Tell your money what to do or you'll wonder where it went." We learned about the importance of sitting down and planning a budget, finding an assignment for every single dollar that comes into your hands, and doing that every month for the rest of your life.

Sounds kind of scary when you put it like that.

And yeah, when the class started I was a bit intimidated by the whole concept. Budgets, for me, have always felt like shackles. They were something used to limit me. Whatever I wanted out of my life, it definitely did not involve allocating every dollar to a task, every month, forever.

But then, what exactly did I want out of my life?

See, there's the problem, right there. I have had no plan for forty years. No real goals. Yeah, I've had a list of wants, things I was keen to accomplish. Wealth has always been on that "list." I've even gone so far as to figure out my own definition for wealth:

Wealth is the freedom and ability to do, have, or be anything I want, including the ability to give to others and to help others achieve a wealthy lifestyle.

That definition changes all the time, actually. I modify it as I learn more. You should have a definition of wealth of your very own. Just keep this rule in mind: Wealth is about more than money. 

Having a defintion is great, but the problem is I had no plan. How, exactly, did I intend to get to wealth? I know the destination, but I don't know the route. I haven't sat with it, written out a plan of action, set milestones and goals that will continuously get me closer.

That's the biggest reason I enrolled in FPU in the first place. I recognized, eventually (FINALLY), that I lack a financial education. Or, at the very least, my financial education has some major gaps in it. I understand business, I understand strategy, I understand marketing and consumers and how industries and markets can move and grow. I don't understand money

And even though wealth and money aren't the same thing, you're going to have a much easier time achieving wealth if you have control of money. Money is a resource, a tool, that helps you achieve your goals faster.

Think of building a skyscraper. 

In theory, you could start searching the Internet for everything there is to know about building a skyscraper, from building techniques and materials to local laws and restrictions. You could go and interview people who have built skyscrapers, from contractors who put up the support beams or dug holes or laid tile in the lobby, all the way up to the guy who oversaw the entire project, from blueprint to majestic tower, rising into the sky. You can learn everything there is to know, and then move on to gathering materials. Mining and then smelting iron into beams. Making your own cement from scratch. Building a factory that churns out any and all materials, from floor tiles to window glass to the flag that will wave from the building's roof.

That's a lot of work. So yeah, in theory, you could get it all done, and nary a penny might leave your pocket. You may also be the approximate age of Methuselah by the time you turn that first shovel-full of dirt for starting the foundation. 

But let's say you have a few hundred million dollars at your disposal. Wouldn't that speed things up a bit? Pay an architect to design the building. Pay a builder to oversea operations. Pay contractors to do the labor. Pay for materials. It all happens so much quicker with money. Money is like a time accelerator for getting stuff done.

Common sense, I know.

And yet, this is not how we tend to think about money in our personal lives. We think of it as the end, not the means. My own theory on this, from my own experience, is that we don't have plan for how to use the money we make. If we have a plan, a budget, money stops being the end in and of itself, and starts being the tool we use to get to what we really want.

We tell our money what to do, instead of wondering where it went.

My skyscraper analogy isn't mine. It actually comes from the Bible. Check it out:

28 Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

Luke 14:28-30

Whaaaaaat? The Bible is telling me to plan how to use my money? Set a goal? Manage things? 

And look at what you can accomplish when you do that. You can build a friggin' TOWER. If that's your thing. Or a small business. Or a large business. Or a house. Or a vacation to Europe. Or college for the kids. Or a debt-free life. Or steak dinners every night. Or a million other things that all add up to ONE thing: Wealth.

I haven't done this. I'm doing it. I can't tell you it works for me personally, but I bet I'll be able to soon. I do believe, though, that telling your money what to do is what God wants from you, as a good steward.

Be faithful with a little and you'll be entrusted with a lot. That's from the Bible, too. 

 

Friday
Mar292013

hopeitude

I was reading Following Your Bliss, Right off the Cliff on the New York Times website. Long and the short of it, "Following your dreams is risky and sometimes you fail." 

Duh. But yeah, it's true and it's something to think about during the planning process for your business (or your side business, or your community program, or wherever your dreams fit in the scheme of things). Sometimes the dream isn't enough.

There's some science in this article, about the part of the brain that controls worry and the pain that comes from it. And to overcome that physiological reactionso that we can take action and attempt to make our dreams come true, despite the risk of pain and failurewe feel hope.

I love this line from the article:

As paradoxical as it sounds, [Michael Derring] said, “If you stop worrying about the outcomes, you will achieve a better outcome.”

Stop worrying about the outcomes? Yikes! Most of the time, it seems like "worrying about the outcomes" is all we do! But there's a sweet sort of logic here.

The article is more or less saying, "Don't let your emotions become invested in the business." Don't put your self-worth on the line for a shoe store or an auto shop or a novel. If you fail, you'll believe you are the failure. But that's not how failure works. A person isn't a failure. Only actions can be failures. A person is a decision-making, action-taking, hope-and-faith-having machine. We make decisions, we take action, we have hope and faith that it will work out. And if it doesn't ...

If you approach a business or any other endeavor with the attitude that, should it fail, it isn't the end of the world, you can pick up and recover, you're chances of success actually increase. You're willing to take more risks, for starters, and risk is the price of momentum. You may take actions you wouldn't have taken before, in a more cautious mindset, and those actions lead to results, and those results may end up bringing you increased benefits. Or they may blow up and fade out. It happens.

From a financial standpoint, this is why you want to be smart about the way you invest in a business. Make the decision early on to stay away from debt. Take on investors, but don't take on loans. Investors know that they're taking a risk, and that it may not make a return. Lenders don't care either way if you succeed or fail, they expect repayment with interest and they'll try to destroy you if you don't follow through. Investors empower, lenders enslave. 

Trust me on this one ... I'm enslaved to a lot of lenders at the moment.

From a spiritual standpoint, this is why you want to ensure that your business is built to glorify God. God likes it when we do things that are empowering, that build something that brings good into the world. Staying focused on God's Ultimate Rule—Love your neighbor as you love yourself—means you're doing everything right. You won't have to worry about mistakes coming back to bite you in the ... assets. The business may fail, due to a lack of demand or bad timing or myriad other reasons, but it won't take you with it. 

So what happens after failure? Learning. This is the point where you pray and ask for wisdom. "Show me, Lord, where it went wrong. Show me how I can pick up and start again. Show me how to change my plan and build something that glorifies you." God never denies the request for wisdom. He just requires you to commit some brain power and effort to it.

This article ... I'm on the fence about it. I get a real "don't pursue your dreams because they're risky" vibe from it. But there are points made that are more encouraging. Hope—that's a good message. So read it as a cautionary tale. Have hope, but also have a plan. Have a goal, but don't worry about the outcome. Invest, but don't enslave yourself to the dream. You belong to a greater power than dreams.

Friday
Mar082013

expectationism

Things don't always turn out the way you blue bird in that tree outside my window.

But that's the point, isn't it? Life ... it's like it was meant to be unpredictable and unknowable. Yeah, we can predict and know a lot of the bits that are a granular part of this nutritious existence, but we can never see the whole. We don't have the perspective. Ain't no mountain high enough.

We set ourselves on a path, with every intention of just keeping one foot in front of the other, only to discover that the path itself is moving. We thought we were walking in one direction, when all along the path was taking us in another. In fact, we weren't walking at all. We were being carried, the whole time. We were essentially marching in place.

I believe in choice, and purpose, and goals. I believe that you can't have success without those. But God is teaching me that I can only choose and plan so far ahead. I can choose the next step. I can pick the next direction, the next distant goal. But I can't determine the journey as a whole with my "planning." Life happens way too often for that.

Recently I've watched my amazing wife deal with changes to her plans. And, just as she (and me, too) was thinking, "OK ... that didn't work out, so I'll pick this direction instead," it all changed again. And then, quicker than we could blink, it all changed AGAIN, and even the small bit of planning she'd committed to was shot, worth nothing. Ferriss Bueller was right, life does move pretty fast some times. It's like a slight of hand trick, and in the end your wristwatch ends up in someone's bag of Doritos, and you're asking, "How'd that HAPPEN?!?"

The most important thing about expectations is how you deal with them when they aren't met. 

Right now, I have a vision for myself—for my career, for my marriage, for my physical fitness. I'm making plans, and I'm acting on them. I'm praying that all these plans will glorify God, because that's the rule of my life now. And even as I'm planning, I have this awareness, tickling at the confident bits of my soul, that these plans, too, shall pass. Tomorrow I might have to improvise, because everything I thought was anything is anything but everything now. 

That's the point, though. When God says "have faith," it's not just a command to "shut off all your thinking and let me drive." It's about choices, really. It's about choosing to stand back from the plans you had, the expectations you were cultivating, and say, "OK. I planned, God. You laughed. So what's next? How do I serve you with the next choice I make and the next action I take?" And then you shut up and listen.

Advice even I should consider taking.