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Entries in health (5)

Friday
Apr122013

self controlitude

In my reading and studying over the past couple of days, one of the topics that has bubbled to the top is "self control."

Oy.

I have not been the most reserved, self-controlled person in the past. I like to "reward" myself for a job well done or for being "diligent" about something. You know what I'm talking about here? "I've done pretty well on this diet, so it's OK if I eat this entire carton of ice cream in one sitting." Or maybe "I've been pretty good about sticking to my budget, so it's OK if I over-spend on this pair of shoes." Guys ... this isn't just a woman thing. I've been known to drop some chunky cash on a pair of Chucks. Ladies ... I'm not going to let guys pick on you for your shoes. Feet have to look and feel good. Solidarity.

Self control is one of those things that we know ... we KNOW ... we have to develop, and yet we can't seem to get past stage one. We can't seem to make self control a dominating habit in our lives.

I have this theory that it's because we are looking at it from too far out.

"You mean I can NEVER HAVE ICE CREAM AGAIN?!?"

"I can NEVER BUY ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES?!?"

"I have to exercise MORE THAN TEN MINUTES PER WEEK?!?" Ok, that one is probably more of a Kevin thing.

And no, none of that is true. It's not even the goal. It's the thing our brain screams when we start projecting outward, looking into the future that we can't know, extrapolating from the present moment that "this is how life is now." 

Developing good habits takes time and effort, but we tend to get bogged down by the sheer volume and weight of it. It's too much! It's too overwhelming! No one can bear up under that kind of burden!

True.

What, you were expecting a pep talk? Words of encouragement? "Keep going! Keep pushing! Keep doing!" Nah, that's for suckers. Everyone knows that you can't overcome obesity or debt or potty mouth or lack of education. Impossible!

Right?

But we do know that these things can be done. We see examples every day of people who have accomplished the very thing we want to accomplish. We see folks who have dropped all the extra weight, who have paid off the debt, who have cleaned up their language, who have gone back to school and earned an advanced degree. Did they do that over a weekend?

No. They did it one bite, one dollar, one swear jar, one class at a time. 

The key to developing self control is repetition. Do the small things, the smallest chunk, over and over, and eventually that becomes your habit.

The usual analogy is eating an elephant.

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at at time!"

I don't eat a lot of elephants. What I understand easier is books.

How do you write a book? One page at a time!

Maybe you're better with LEGO. 

How do you build the LEGO Death Star? One brick at a time!

Big stuff is made of small stuff.

Let that soak in for a second. Big stuff, no matter how big it is, will always, always, always be made of lots of small stuff. Your car is made of thousands of small parts. Your house is made of small bricks and bits of plaster and wood and tile. The whole UNIVERSE is made of teensy, tiny little atomssuckers are everywhere.

And habits, like self control? They're made of small stuff too.

You decide to take a bag lunch every day instead of buying lunch at a restaurant. That's self control, and it helps you control your calories and your budget.

You decide to take a course on household accounting at your local junior college. One class, once per week, for nine weeks, and suddenly you have more knowledge, more friends, and a firmer grasp on how to manage your household budget.

You decide to lose weight. You change one small thing at a time, take it day by day and week by week, and suddenly this massive goal turns into a whole bunch of tiny little goals that you can manage.

Losing 100 pounds sound daunting? How about doing 10 sit ups today? Now, maybe 10 more tomorrow? 

Paying off $50K in debt got you worried? Can you put ten bucks into a savings account? Can you do that once per week?

Eating an elephant looking a little tough to swallow? Don't eat an elephant. What are you thinking? That's not good for either of you.

Take a look at the big, scary thing you're facing, and ask yourself, "What is the smallest action I can take, right this minute, that could start chipping away at this?"

I remember hearing a story about someone asking Michelangelo how he carved his David out of marble. He replied, "I looked the marble, then chipped away all the parts that were not David." Chip, chip, chip. One chip at a time, until the huge block of formless marble becomes one of the most recognizable pieces of artwork in the world. Can you handle a chip at a time?

Self control is about repeating good habits. It's about committing to asking God and yourself what is right, and then doing that. Chances are, if you're questioning whether or not a choice you're making is the right choice, it isn't. So ask yourself, "What's the right thing to do?"

Tempted by chocolate? Me too. That's why I let myself eat a small piece of dark chocolate every evening, after dinner. It's also why I eat as much chocolate as I want during the weekends. Hey, don't give me that look. I have to wait all week for that chocolate! And frankly, by the time the weekend gets here I'm so stuck on the idea of skipping chocolate I tend not to even think about it. It helps, too, that I don't keep much of it in the house any more. Easy to avoid temptation when there isn't anything to be tempted about!

Set up some kind of automated process to help keep you honest. It's not cheating! It's winning! It's OK to park at the very end of the parking lot to force yourself to get in a little extra exercise. It's OK to set up an automatic draft on your paycheck to put money into savings each month. It's OK to give someone else your shopping list and money to do your shopping, to keep you from grabbing stuff that isn't on the list. It's OK to build some backup into your plan. That's self control, too.

Self control is a tough habit to develop. It only comes when you start using it. Kind of like faith, huh? It's there, waiting for you to start before it really kicks in. So the only real self control you need is just enough to make that first decision, to take that first step. Then you just need enough to take the next step. And then enough to take the next step. And enough to take the next step.

So really, on the whole, all you need is enough self control to do one small thing right. And repeat.

 

Thursday
Apr112013

perspectification

It's a pretty gloomy day here in Houston. The sky is as gray as wet newspaper. A steady drizzle is coating everything just enough to make it seem that there is a thin slime eveyrwhere. And despite temperatures in the 80s early yesterday afternoon, by late afternoon we were already heading into the 40s. Just outside my window it's cold, it's wet, it's kind of depressing.

And yet here I sit—warm, dry, in a pretty happy mood. 

What a difference a half-inch of glass can make! I can see a world, just beyond, that I know to be unpleasant and even painful, because I was out in it for a time. I know it's there. But here, where I choose to sit, I'm beyond that world. I'm outside of it, in a sense, by being on the inside. 

Life is like that for most people. Me included. We were out in the storm for a while, but then we chose to come inside. Maybe we were forced to be out there, to get to our job or to get back home. We come in contact with it from time to time, it can't be avoided. But ultimately that outside world, with its cold and drizzle and whipping wind, isn't for us. It's not where we choose to stay. Why would we?

Some do, you know. There are some who can't seem to escape it. The best they can hope for is to huddle up, to bundle up, to take shelter anywhere they can find it. They may know of a way out, but are unwilling or unable to take it. 

Sometimes it's up to us, the inside-dwellers, to help them get to someplace safe and dry and warm. Sometimes we have to take them by the hand and lead them, because they don't know the way on their own. We have to nudge them. We have to do a little investigating and thinking, find a way to convince them to get somewhere safe. Sometimes the burden of the other is on us, simply because we have the perspective of having been inside.

We should also remember that if we can still see that world, it'd be easy enough for us to end up back out in it. We do have to pass through it, sometimes. We have to operate in it, while trying to hold on to our dry, warm, comfortable existence. We have to pass through a rainy patch, open to the sky and the wind, before passing into the next warm, dry corridor. It would be so easy to get to the door and find it locked. So what then?

We knock like crazy. We bang on the door and beg to be let in. And if that doesn't work, we go looking for another way in, another door that isn't locked, another building that offers shelter. From our perspective, there's no need to resolve ourselves to our fate. We don't have to stay out in the cold and the rain.

Sometimes, though, we forget. Or we get discouraged. We decide that there really is no hope. The doors are locked, and that's the end. Why go looking for another way in? All the doors are probably locked anyway. The people inside either can't hear us, can't understand, or they don't care, don't want to hear our plight. 

So we give up, and we huddle up, and we bundle up as best we can, and we just try to tough it out until the rain and the cold give way to a warmer, dryer world. That happens, from time to time. The rain stops. The cold fades. And life seems pretty good, out here in the world. 

Trouble is, the rain and the cold come back. They always do. It's the nature of nature. It's the way of the world. No matter how nice the day is, it's just a day. Later, the day turns to night, clear days turn to storms, summer turns to winter, and there you are again, right back in the drizzle and cold of the world, trying to survive, trying to get by.

Come inside! 

Door's locked? Find another! Find a window! Keep banging until someone hears you, or go find a different building with an open door and a dry, warm place to sit! 

Often, our mistake is to get locked into only one way of seeing our world. But that's not how the world works. The world is a place of perspectives and opportunities.

No one wants to lose their job, because no one wants to struggle. I've been there. But I've also been in the spot where I was stuck in a job I hated, because I was too afraid to start looking for something else. I was afraid I'd just make a bad choice, end up somewhere worse. I was afraid my boss might discover I was looking and fire me for it. I was afraid I would just move laterally, from one crummy gig to another.

And then, when I lost that job, I suddenly had to get creative and proactive and organized. I got my resume together (finally). I started talking to people I knew (finally). I started putting in calls and applications (finally). I started thining about what I would want to do 40 hours a week for months and years at a stretch (finally). I started asking myself what I really needed and what I really wanted, and where, in that Vinn Diagram, was the overlap? Finally!

No one wants their health to go bad, because they fear being weak or sick or even dying. I was there, too. I was weak and sick, and then someone happened to notice that my pulse was too low. My heart wasn't working right. I had a birth defect no one had ever known about.

I ended up with a pacemaker. And at first, all I could think about was how much I might have to give up. How limiting it might be. I was afraid. But turns out, I'm more alive than ever now. I have more options. My health is getting better. My energy is getting better. My life is getting better. That's a new feeling, and a new perspective!

No one wants to lose a loved one, because the pain of loss is too great. I know that first hand, too. I've lost some of the dearest souls in my life. It hurts. It always hurts. It hurts even now, years later, just as much as it did the day I lost them. I didn't "grow past" that pain. It became a thread within me. Something I could feel occasionally, even if I'd rather avoid it. 

But what wonderful memories I have of those amazing people! What brilliant, bright lights they have been in my life, even after their deaths! What great and wonderful growth I've experienced because of what they taught me while they were with me! I'll never stop missing them. I'll never stop loving them. I'll never stop being better because of them.

God doesn't want us to suffer or be targeted by evil. And we wonder why, then, it happens. And the reason is, at best, difficult to explain, and at worst, impossible for us to understand. My own take on why evil is allowed to exist is this: God allows some bad to happen so a greater good can follow

The argument I heard for this that resonates most with me, and even haunts me, was made by Christian Apologist Dr. William L. Craig. I'm going to paraphrase it, so what you read next is my interpretation and not a direct quote.

"God allows evil, such as a school shooting, to take place so that a greater good, such as a nation focused on better laws and strategies for gun control, will be possible." (remember, completely paraphrased by J. Kevin Tumlinson)

God doesn't want children to die because of violence. It grieves Him. It horrifies Him just as it horrifies us. If such a violent act leads to a change in how we, as a nation, approach gun control? If it changes the perspective of the nation, and of the world? If out of the tragedy new laws and new ways of thinking evolve or erupt, and make it more and more difficult for such a thing to happen? If the lives of billions of children, spanning into the future, are spared because these precious, invaluable lives were lost at the hands of a lunatic? That serves a greater good. It has purpose. It means something. It defines the tragedy in terms of strength and grace and growth.

That is bitter, cold comfort for those who lose children in this way. No, we do not want it. No, we DO NOT WANT IT. Please, dear God, take that evil from us for ever.

The answer is yes. Don't you see? God is saying, "Yes. I will take the evil from  you. Bite down on something, because surgery like this always hurts." It's a new perspective for us to thinking of tragedy in this way, and it's not comfortable. But it's necessary. It helps us grow. It brings meaning to horrible, unjust things.

Look for the other way. Look for the new perspective. Your life, marked and marred as it may be, isn't the limit of who you are and who you can become. Look at the tragedy, the pain, the evil, the darkness and cold and rain that you're in, and choose to see the opportunity it can provide. Pray for wisdom. Pray for faith. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Go look for another way.

Thursday
Mar282013

wisdomification

I'm 40 years old, and I'm pretty sure I haven't done my best at being a steward of the gifts I was given. Some, yes, maybe. I've definitely nurtured skills such as writing, marketing and strategy, self improvement, knowledge about innovation and technology and leadership thought. My education in those areas isn't "complete." There's always more to learn and more ways to grow, but that's true of any field of expertise. I spend a lot of time growing in these areas.

I've fallen short in a couple of major areas, though. Money ... that's a big one. I had a lot of wrong-headed thinking about money, all through my 20s and 30s, and that has lead me to be deep in debt, with nothing put back for rainy days or long winters. I'm changing that now, growing in my financial education and developing the long-abused self discipline I need to be better with my finances, and to build a better future.

I've also fallen short on my health. I'm actually pretty "healthy," in that I'm not suffering from anything debilitating or inhibiting. I do have a pacemaker, but that's actually improved my health and physical stamina, rather than be a debit to my health account. Where I've fallen short is in diet and exercise, of course. I'm about 70 pounds overweight. I get winded walking from my truck to my office, or taking small flights of stairs. I'm chronically fatigued a lot of the time. I suffer from indigestion and other digestive irritations. In general, my energy and my stamina are low, and the way I look actually impacts my self esteem. I'm working to change these facts, too, by changing the way I approach food and by taking opportunities to move more, any chance I get. 

In both of those areas I have a ways to go. I have miles and years of damage and abuse to undo. Maybe some of it will never be undone, but I don't think that's true. I think that if I turn to the source of my strength, if I trust and rely on God's strength instead of my own, I'll be able to accomplish anything that brings good and joy into my life, and the lives of others.

The other area where I see need for change is my ego. I am utterly self-centered and selfish, much of the time. I know that my focus should be on loving and helping others, as often as possible. This is my mission from God, the commandment I can't avoid whenever I open my Bible or simply look around me. If I'm going to glorify God in all I do, I have to start with the one indomitable command He's given. I have to love others as I love myself. I have to help others the way I would want others to help me.

If I concentrate on that, it's possible ... more than possible, likely ... that the other areas of my life will fall in line, and even with all the work I'll have to put into it, they'll seem easy to me. 

This morning I started reading Proverbs (actually, I started listening to it from the Bible Gateway app ... worthy). I've read through it before, but this morning I approached it with new focus. I had read about Solomon, who was told by God that he could have any one thing he asked for. He could have asked for long life, or for all the earth to come under his command, or for more gold or more power, or for any number of things that might be attractive to anyone, even a king. But what he asked for was wisdom.

The result of that wisdom, beyond becoming a ruler who has become the benchmark for wise rulers throughout history, was the book of Proverbs. It's a treatise of Solomon's wisdom. It's written in simple language that, somehow, hides more truth than it reveals, and that can only be dug up through repeated reading and study. It's a guide for anyone who wants to improve his or her life, to get on a path that leads to greater life, to better health, the increased wealth. Looking for the ultimate self-help book? It was written a few thousand years ago, in the format of a letter from father to son. 

In Becoming a Millionaire God's Way, Dr. C. Thomas Anderson writes that if you want to improve your life in every avenue, if you do nothing else, read, study, and dwell upon Proverbs. Follow the wisdom there and you'll start seeing positive results in your life. I already am.

It's not all about money, obviously. Money is just a tool for reaching goals, helping others, serving God. It's not all about health, either. We need strong health to have the energy and physical reserves to do what's good for us and for others and for God. Really it's all about gaining wisdom, and using that wisdom to glorify God.

Pray for wisdom. Ask for it right now. I pray this prayer throughout the day:

Lord, change me. Give me wisdom. Increase my faith. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Show me how to glorify you in all I do. Amen.

Pray. Study. Pray and study. 

And it's not just about the Bible. Solomon studied the literature and wisdom of Egypt and other nations. He wrote about it all extensively, along with his insights and interpretations and ideas. He used what I call the REAL Word of God.

According to John 1:1-5 The Word was with God in the beginning. It was God. Ultimately, the Word became flesh in the form of Jesus, the Christ. So the Word is more than just the Bible. It has existed, exists, and will exist in all of creation and eternity. Which means you can find the Word, and wisdom, anywhere you look. So look broad and wide. Think about what you're seeing, consider it through the lens of your faith, and suddenly Wisdom starts to show herself.

Wisdom is the path to wealth, health, long life, and happiness. Wisdom is the road to God's kingdom. Trade everything for it. Forget feeling low about the failures of your life. Learn from them, grow from them, use them to cultivate a nice crop of wisdom. Every garden needs fertilizer.

I'm working on those rough patches in my life. I'm praying for God's wisdom and guidance, and that I wil receive increased faith and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And ya know, I can see it happening. I'm making a lot of progress, every minute of the day. I'm already well beyond the man I was just a couple of months ago. I'm grateful for God's touch on my heart and my life. I feel sorrow for those times I let Him down, and grieve the Holy Spirit, but I feel joy in His mercy and grace, and in the wisdom I'm seeing build slowly in me.

Wealth, health, and happiness come from love, righteousness, and wisdom. God wants us to seek all three, and he wants us to help each other in the search. I'll help you walk if you help me walk. We'll make the trip together.

Monday
Mar252013

stressicity

Last Wednesday I attended the first of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes. One down, eight weeks and a sizeable chunk of debt to go. And judging by the sheer volume of resistance I've already met from friends and family, not to mention my own stubborn tendency to want to keep doing things my way, I'm guessing I'm already on the right track.

That's how that works. Have you noticed? The thing that does you the most good takes the most sacrifice, the most sweat, the most stress. If something is going to build you up, first you have to be torn down.

For a large chunk of my life I've lived with the belief that my biggest enemy, the guy who stands in my way most often, the fella who tears me down most without bothering to pick up the pieces—yeah, that guy is me. I could say it was Satan or sin or the nature of evil that tears me down. But the truth is that Satan, sin, and evil have only the tools I give them to work with. I've busily handed over custom-made Kevin-manipulating tools, and then raged at Satan's efficiency in mucking up my life. And all the while asking, "Why, God, why?!?"

A sure sign that you're doing something good for yourself is to guage how uncomfortable you feel. There's actually a word for that, though one you may not have heard before.

You've heard of stress. It's that thing you suffer when bills are due, when the car breaks down, when you have a test you haven 't prepared for. Have you heard of eustress

Eustress literally means "good stress." This is stress that builds you up instead of tearing you down. It's the stress of putting money into a savings account every month, even if money is a little tight. It's the stress of taking your car in for regular maintenance even though you're strapped for cash and/or time. It's the stress of studying for a test ahead of time, doing the assignments, asking for help in advance when you don't understand something.

Think of exercise. Nothing is more stressful than that first time you lace up and hit the street to get some miles under you and some pounds off of you. Your  muscles tense up. You sweat. You breathe heavy. Your lungs burn and your stomach churns and you end up feeling like complete garbage. And then there's the aftermath! Strained muscles, weariness, headaches.

And the time! Holy hourglasses, exercise takes up so much time! Changing into workout clothes takes time. Stretching takes time. Stopping to drink water takes time. Doing a cool-down takes time. Just showing up, day after day, to do this thing that isn't always all that much fun, and almost always hurts, takes time.

But when you keep at it for a few weeks, suddenly that time doesn't seem so big a cost. Muscles loosen. Breathing becomes regular. Sweat becomes less unpleasant. Pounds start to burn away as muscle starts to grow. Energy starts to increase. And the time suddenly isn't such a high cost any more.

Eustress is that stress that's ultimately good for you. Working out gives you benefits that outweigh the suffering. So the suffering, the stress, is building you up instead of tearing you down. 

That's the key to understanding the resistance I'm dealing with, both externally and internally, when it comes to getting my finances under control. I lack a financial education, so I have to pursue one. I lack self discipline, so I have to develop it. I lack a wealth mindset, so I have to build one. I have to work for it. I have to use muscles I haven't yet used. And that hurts. And it takes time. And it causes stress and headaches and nausea and tight feelings in my chest and stomach. 

But if I keep at it, if I keep carrying on, then I will eventually get past those pains. I'll cut debt down to nothing. I'll have money in the bank to support me and Kara if something goes wrong. I'll use money as it was intended to be used, to grow and support and promote and prosper me, but also to glorify God. I'll have true wealth. Wealth that isn't defined or limited to a number on a bank account. True wealth is freedom. It's controlling my resources—time and money—instead of letting them control me. 

So I'll take some flack from friends and family. I'll be laughed at because I'm forced to do some things I blatantly said I'd never do, like sell something I like that costs me a fortune to keep. I'll  have to eat a little crow, soak up a little humility, and suffer through a little indignity. That's stressful. But it's good stress. Eustress. It builds me up instead of tearing me down. 

So for that, I'm grateful.

Wednesday
Oct102012

less of me - 257.8

I'm consuming enough of this now that I should be able to burn hotter than the sun for a few seconds. No one light any matches.With all the video posts lately I bet you forgot that I’m actually the “Wordslinger” and not the “Videoslinger,” didn’t you? Yes? No? It’s no, isn’t it. 

Well, it’s been over a week since my big announcement that I’m making less of myself, and that means I owe you an update of the updatiest variety. 

So last week, I weighted in at a hefty and bulging 265. I was getting out of breath just typing that entry, and I had the aroma of chicken wings about me. Today, though, I can proudly proclaim that I am at a still-slightly-bulgy but working-toward-dainty 257.8. I’m throwing the “.8” in there in the interest of honesty, but the truth is I just drop that tiny little sucker altogether in my head, so I can go around saying, “Yeah, I lost 8 pounds this week. Yeah. I’m that guy.”

Whew! To be honest, I was half afraid when I posted last Monday that I would end up GAINING weight. After all, Kara and I flew to Colorado on Friday for a weekend full of family fun and food frolicking. I was worried that after a few days of travel-eating I’d put back any weight I had managed to shed. But I did try to keep to things like chicken and fish while I was away, and even though I overdid it a couple of times, I more or less kept the calorie count down. I had just one measly mojito in the booze column, too, and I’m pretty sure that helped. 

Oh … and the Aztec Quesadilla Burger. Yeesh. That little beauty was about 1,600 calories all by itself. For those who may be Kevin Spotting, that’s as many calories as I tend to eat in a day right about now. Luckily, I had that huge hunk of deliciousness on a day when I hadn’t had much to eat for breakfast and zero to eat for lunch. Besides, it was Saturday. I’m retroactively making Saturdays my “day off.”

So here’s what I’m doing so far:

  • Light breakfast, usually a banana and an orange
  • Plain ol’ coffee (regular brewed most of the time, an Americano if I’m hitting an espresso bar)
  • Keep my calories under 1,600 per day
  • Exercise (which lets me buffer some “extra” calories), mostly hitting the bike every morning for about an hour and taking a walk in the afternoon for about 40 minutes
  • Drink more water
  • Eat less sugar
  • Eat lots of fish, chicken, and vegetables
  • Take magnesium tablets

That last one probably begs for some ‘splainin. I read about the benefits of getting enough magnesium in your diet, and some of those are pretty relevant to me. Muscle cramps are something I tend to have an issue with, for example.  It also helps “alleviate heart disturbances,” which is kind of vague, but considering my ticker has it’s own backup battery I’ll take any help I can get. It lowers high blood pressure (another Kevin need). It helps cut down cravings for sugar, booze, etc.  It helps calm anxiety. And it helps regulate insulin, sugar levels, excess sweating, cortisol levels, and a bunch of other stuff.

Basically, I don’t get enough of this stuff in my diet, so I suffer from about 2/3 of the things it helps prevent.

Magnesium gets depleted from your body thanks to stress, high sugar intake, and (wait for it) … coffee. Dammit. I probably chug down enough brew to keep my magnesium levels at effectively zero. And that stresses me out. I’m going to eat this entire box of candy bars.

Anyway, I didn’t mean for this to become the “all hail magnesium” entry, but there it is for ya. Magnesium. It fixes you.

So the weight loss thing continues. The first ten pounds are usually “easy” to lose, so I’m not going to get all hyper about it or anything. But know that I am dancing the happy dance of pantslessness on the inside. I anticipate that many more pounds will fall screaming into the abyss. And those that don’t will wish they had never been born.