Dr. Robert Goddard, 1882-1945, is considered by many to be the father of American rocketry. His passion to keep climbing higher and higher propelled men into space and can propel you and me toward our God-given goals.Read More
Filtering by Tag: goals
Back when the South Pole was one of the last explored places on earth, two mean, representing two countries and two very distinct styles of exploration, raced for historical immortality as each sought to plant his country's flag first, at the true South Pole. There's a lot to learn from how these men pursued their goal. (Part 2 of 2)Read More
Back when the South Pole was one of the last explored places on earth, two mean, representing two countries and two very distinct styles of exploration, raced for historical immortality as each sought to plant his country's flag first, at the true South Pole. There's a lot to learn from how these men pursued their goal. (Part 1 of 2)Read More
Nothing will determine the success, or ultimate failure of an organization, more than it's ability to communicate. Your marriage, business, ministry, family or team will only be as strong as its communication.Read More
I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role.
I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1
, Mistake #2, Mistake #3, Mistake #4, Mistake #5)
Mistake #6: Dirty Delegation
I’m convinced that there are few more defeating mistakes made by leaders, than the mistake of dirty delegation. A top-down leader can dominate followers into frustration. A paperwork leader elevates task over people. A non-affirming leader has followers that aren’t sure if they are valued. A leader who rejects Mavericks has a team that is constantly stuck. A dictator robs his team or family of their creative freedom. And a dirty delegator creates a defeated, broken-spirited, culture.
What is dirty delegation? It’s the not-so-fine art of giving projects to personnel, only to add someone to the team, or invite someone else to do the same project, without communicating your intent. It’s asking a team member to work on a project, then outsourcing it to someone else or bringing in outside eyes to evaluate without communicating your actions. Top-down leaders and dictators can easily fall into the trap of dirty delegation...along with anyone else who has ever led a team.
Why? Because delegation is hard for many leaders! Maybe you relate to one of these fears about delegation?
- Fear of losing authority
- Concern for the quality of work (no one can do it as well as you, right?)
- Fear of work being done better (uh-oh...someone else might do your job better than you!)
- Unwillingness to take the time
- Too disorganize to even give necessary details about the area needing delegation
- Lack of leadership training or other positive delegation experiences
- Fear of losing value within the organization
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Dirty delegators usually push the good men and women away from their group because they lack the self-restraint to allow them to produce. Good leaders recognize the delegation allows for personal ownership and investment, and this is crucial for: happiness in the home or workplace; inspiration for creative new ideas; freedom for personal expression and the opportunity to learn from mistakes.
Kaleo Korner (By Justin VanRheene, founder of Kaleo Media)
I’ve had jobs and have watched friends be employed in places that have managers that succumb to the fears above. Its very frustrating. Here are a few ways I’ve seen help bringing clarity, and empowering productivity.
Start with why. One principle I start with on all new clients is, start with why? Having a clear understanding of the big idea will help bring freedom to employees as you begin going after the four parts of delegation that Finzel states: assignment, authority, accountability, and affirmation.
“Because I said so?” As a parent, coach, teacher, etc. I’m sure you’ve said, or wanted to say, when questioned about a project, assignment, or task, “Because I said so!” Being in a position of authority, that seems like a great thing to say because you’re the boss. There is an older volunteer I work with at my church, who said one time, “Has that ever worked?” I’m not sure it has but I’m in my 30s and I heard it when I was a kid.
But so many of the things we’ll be involved in as a leader demand more than a “because I said so.” They require vision. And believe it or not, those who struggle with dirty delegation, don’t have a vision for their organization. In many situations, their identity is their organization and to leave their reputation in the hands of someone else is just not possible.
If anyone had the right to over-manage, it was Jesus. If anyone was confident he could do a job better, it was Jesus! And yet, as His ministry progressed, He began to release more and more opportunities for His disciples! On one occasion in the Gospel, he sent out 72 disciples to spread the Good News all over Israel, and He gave them power and authority to do miracles, to heal sick people, to cast out demonic spirits and to put a blessing (or curse!) on the towns they entered (Luke 10:1-24). Jesus delegate real opportunity, real authority and gave his followers a chance to experience the joy of ministry (10:17, 10:21).
Han says there are four parts to real delegation: Assignment, authority, accountability and affirmation. These four parts answer the main questions most followers have. What am I supposed to do? An assignment answers the question that is tops on most children, team mates, employees, managers or coaches, the question about activity. What is my job?
Once they know the “what”, they want to know if they will have the freedom and authority to execute that task: Will you let me do it? If you assign the brand redesign to an employee, but don’t provide the time or financial resources to accomplish the task, they will fail. Do they have the authority to do the task? The next question is, Will you help me when I need it? It’s the question of accountability and follow up: will you help them through the process and check on their progress along the way?
Finally, the fourth question employees ask is, Will you let me know how I’m doing? Every follower wants to know that their work is valuable, helpful and contributing to the overall goal! Does the word affirmation mean anything to you (Mistake #3)??
Of course, every follower has a different capacity for delegation. Not all followers can handle, or even desire, stand alone work. Some players are just more efficient, effective and happy when working under closer supervision. Others want a long leash and only occasional check-ins. Learning how each of your team members works is crucial, and honestly, it’s why many leaders don’t delegate. The work of learning who your team members operate, is sometimes harder than the work of releasing the labor!
I love the list Finzel ends the chapter with, giving 9 guidelines for clean delegation:
- Choose qualified people
- Exhibit confidence in your team
- Clarify duties
- Delegate proper authority for the work
- Avoid telling them how to do the work you’ve just given them
- Set up accountability points throughout the project
- Supervise according to their work style
- Give room for mistakes
- Give praise and credit for work well done
Delegation can be challenging, but if you want to multiply your effectiveness and influence, it’s a skill worth mastering.
So go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!
Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!
Have you ever watched an episode of Hoarders? There is something disturbing about entering someones home that is covered, floor to ceiling, with “stuff” that they just can’t release. I seriously can’t stomach more than one episode of that show at a time, it just makes me ill.
One episode Traci and I watched showed a woman whose house was completely filled with boxes upon boxes, each overflowing with trinkets and garbage and books and food and... As the hoarding psychologist walked through the house with her (literally walking on paths barely wide enough for one person) he asked her, “So why are you keeping so much of this stuff?” He was trying to start the unpacking process (pun intended) with her. She replied, “I think a lot of this stuff will make some great gifts for others.”
The psychologist wasn’t buying her line, and pointed out that she was hoarding gifts, not giving them away. Clearly she was a collector of sorts, not a giver. Seeing someone’s house full of stuff, it’s easy to see their hoarding behavior, but I wonder how many of us hoard gifts of a different sort?
Toward the end of the book of Exodus, God is giving Moses the blueprints for building the Tabernacle, and all of the items that would be a part of Israel’s worship of Him. The details God gave were so specific, and required serious skill to execute. God gave plans for curtains, for giant copper washing basins, large gold rings, intricately carved flowers and birds, and expertly woven tapestries.
I’m guessing, that at some point, Moses had to think, “How on earth am I going to do all of this work??” Maybe he was an accomplished Gold or Copper smith, but he certainly wouldn’t have had the skill, or time, to accomplish everything God was requesting.
That’s ok, God had plans. In Exodus 35 we see that God had already orchestrated skilled laborers to be a part of Moses’ team. Two men in particular, were especially talented artists, and were gifted as teachers, able to show others how to be skilled in their craft, too. Men, women and children were put to work preparing the articles of the Tabernacle and worship, and God had already put the perfect team together (Exodus 35:30-35).
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some pretty amazing people; great managers, pastors, leaders, musicians, performers and every day moms and dads. Men (and women!) who were incredibly talented in some areas and once or twice, I’ve met a person who seemed talented in almost every area of life! They could sing, preach, build, paint and more. You know the type of person I’m talking about?
I’ve also met the some people that were really hard to work along side. People who led small organizations or churches that could never quite get over the hump, as well as people who led large organizations that could never seem to get their team all pointing the same direction. Some of these people seem to be so talented (or cocky?) they push other talented people away from them. Big lofty goals in their families or teams, in their businesses or ministries, continue to go unmet year after year, because they are hoarders...talent hoarders.
I think it’s so interesting in Exodus that God gave Moses this massive vision for a building a place where God would be worshipped while Israel wandered around the wilderness, then surrounded him with the team necessary to see the dream completed. Moses wasn’t greedy to be the guy who had all the skills or know-how, he apparently, was eager to release it to others. He was happy to bring a team alongside him.
Earlier in Exodus, Moses father-in-law, Jethro, stopped by to check in with Moses and to bring his wife and kids back to him (Moses had apparently sent his wife back to her home when things in Egypt got kind of crazy). When Jethro saw Moses acting as judge for all the problems the people had, he flipped his lid and told Moses to let others help carry the load, saving the largest issues for Moses to settle. Moses was more-than-happy to follow his father-in-laws advice, and let other talented people step in and use their gifts (Exodus 18:13-27).
The same was most certainly true in Exodus 35, because by the middle of Exodus 39, Moses’ final inspection took place and by Exodus 40 the new mobile place of worship was being set up! God gifted others to help Moses see the Tabernacle dream completed, and by releasing other gifted people to serve (instead of hoarding the work and talent himself!) Moses was able to reach the goal.
How about you? Are you a gift hoarder? Are you trying so hard to accomplish God-given dreams by yourself, that you keep spinning your wheels and getting stuck? Do people keep leaving your team because you aren’t releasing or inspiring them to use their gifts? Are you worried about who is going to get the credit? Have you ever feared that a project would be completed differently than you imagined if others came along and helped?
Almost everywhere you see true Kingdom work being done for the Lord, you’ll find a team of people using their gifts to see that work accomplished. Gift hoarders can only go as far as their own talent and management can take them, but those who will allow others to use their talents, gifts and perspectives will find greater joy in the journey, and help for the tough seasons. In fact, most often when I find myself stuck, I find God has already prepared someone else to come along side, to use their gifts, to help me move forward again.
Hoarding gifts can feel safe, and can give us a false sense of control. Where as releasing people to use their God-given talents can feel frightening, and even like we’ve lost control. But learning to work with others, and learning to appreciate how God gifts those around us can make the difference between finishing our dreams and goals, and stressing over another year passing without them being completed.
Is it time for you to stop hoarding gifts?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
This blog has always been a great place for me to “keep it real” with readers, to share honestly about my own struggles and shortcomings, and to openly work through my flaws. For example, if you missed my fantastic parenting fail from earlier this year, feel free to learn at my expense. Seriously, parents, it could save you a little heartache. Today I want to openly admit another flaw: I’m an absolute sucker for any movie involving Sylvester Stallone (can we all just agree that he’s one of our nation’s finest actors?) and the Rocky franchise. (Fun fact for you: I read an estimate that said the Rocky franchise, to date, has grossed 1.1 TRILLION -- that’s with a “T” -- dollars over it’s lifetime!) So when I saw that a new Rocky movie was coming out Thanksgiving Day, I was already fully convinced of two things: It will be the Movie of the Year AND, Sly will finally win an Academy Award.
Ok, probably neither of those things will be true, but c’mon...can you think of a better way to enjoy the after-Thanksgiving Day coma than to watch a Rocky movie? Exactly!
Whether you like Rocky or not, you should stick with this blog. (If you don’t, you can probably already answer the question in this blog title!) Because 1.1 trillion dollars doesn’t happen by accident.
The story of the first Rocky movie is pretty well known, and part of what made the Rocky movie such a glowing success. There’s a little fact, and certainly a little fiction involved, but overall the story incapsulates the American Dream.
Sylvester Stallone wrote the original Rocky script and wanted to see it produced in Hollywood. He shopped it to several studios, and a couple showed interest, but they didn’t like the one caveat that came with Sly’s proposal: he had to be the star of the movie. According to one report, he turned down $150,000 for the script because they refused to allow him the lead role.
Time passed, and Sylvester and his wife were near the end of their resources. Down to around $100 in his bank account and with his wife pregnant and no acting opportunities in sight, Stallone had to sell his beloved dog that he could no longer afford to feed. Near the ratty Hollywood apartments they lived in, he posted a sign at a bar, listing his dog for sale, for $100. He finally sold him for $50 to man named “Little Jimmy” (a dwarf).
One week later, Sly received word that a studio would take his movie and he would get to star in the Rocky lead role. The studio was willing to pay him $30,000 up front. He signed the contract, took the money and immediately went back to the bar to find Little Jimmy and his dog. After a few days of searching, several minutes of negotiating and multiple threats from Little Jimmy, Stallone bought his dog back...for $3,000! (He even gave Little Jimmy a cameo in the first movie.) His dog went on to star in the first two Rocky movies, though he passed away before Rocky 3 was filmed.
Stallone was absolutely relentless in pursuing his dream and he didn’t settle for less when he had the chance. Think about it: I wonder how many people would have happily taken $150,000 in his circumstances, and celebrated the sale of a screen play? Sure, they would have been wealthier but they would have compromised on their dream in order to do so. What would you have done? Down to your last $100, and no one seeing your dream with the same clarity or vision you have? Would you have settled?
The Apostle Paul had a dream to “know Christ more” and he was willing to give up everything else, in order to see that dream come true. In Philippians 3:8 he writes, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...” Listen to his passion as he continues to describe his absolute commitment to the goal: “...for [His] sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ...I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection...”
Peter was passionate about helping others stand firm in their calling as children of God. In 2 Peter 1:12 he says, “So I will always remind you of these things [the Gospel and God’s divine power to produce righteousness in us], even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” Look how committed he was as he continues to describe his passion for this goal: “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body...And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things...” (2 Peter 1:14-15).
John was absolutely committed to proclaim the message of Jesus that he had witnessed with his own eyes, a message he believed would unite the brothers in fellowship with one-another in love, and in fellowship with their Creator and Savior. Read 1 John and see how his passion emerges over and over and over again!
Abraham was relentless in his pursuit of the promise God had given him, so much so, that he was willing to give up the very thing he prized most in order to see God’s Word fulfilled. David loved the house of the Lord, and spent the last years of his life preparing the raw materials needed so his son could build it. Esther trusted God’s ability to save her people so much, that she laid her very life on the line in a desperate attempt to see Him show up. An impoverished widow trusted God’s ability to provide for her needs, to the point she gave Him her last two pennies as a show of her faith. The list goes on and on and the question remains: how committed are you to what God has put on your heart to do?
Overboard Ministries exists to help believers live their God-designed lives, out of the comfort of the boat, and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom. It’s a passion God has put into our hearts for years, and today we are embracing the challenges, testings and opportunities that come from stepping out in faith to see this dream become a reality. The dream of speaking to more students, the dream of inspiring couples to embrace an Overboard marriage, the dream of empowering believers to use their God-given gifts to reach the lost and the dream to lead others leaders into the pursuit of faith-based ministries and work is as strong as ever.
So are the challenges. And each day I have to answer the question, “How committed am I?”
Sylvester Stallone didn’t build a 1.1 trillion dollar franchise by merely showing up with a manuscript. He was relentlessly committed to seeing his dream realized. Paul gave up his life, prematurely, pursuing his goals, as did Peter and 11 of the 12 disciples of Christ. Abraham died not seeing his dream fulfilled but left the hope of legacy with his family. David gave Solomon everything needed to see the House of God built and Esther saved her people. They were all, absolutely committed to God’s work in their lives, and to the dreams and passions He had placed inside of them.
What do you need to add to your life (habits, disciplines, friendships...) to keep your dreams front and center? What distractions do you need to remove from your life (habits, disciplines, friendships...) to keep your dreams front and center?
How committed are you?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Last Thursday night my family packed up our belongings, again, loaded up the van, again, and moved into some temporary housing, again. This time, our temporary housing is in the vicinity of where we hope to set up a more permanent home in August, and where we hope Overboard Ministries will be unleashed to be all that God wants it -- and us -- to be! When we arrived here in Kalakaska, we met up with some good friends and celebrated, with pizza and pie, the passing of one part of our journey. After moving to Michigan two years and three months ago for one job, God has redirected us toward this new adventure in a place, that until a year ago, we didn’t even know existed! We are chasing a God-sized dream that has been burning in our hearts for quite some time, and while the future seems a little blurry, the next step (maybe even the next two steps, but certainly no further) is right in front of us. The dream is beginning to take shape.
And the doubts are bigger than they’ve ever been.
Have you ever lived in that tension between your dreams and your doubts?
The scope of what we’re about to undertake is intensely exciting, and it is terrifying. (Thus we’ve coined the phrase, “Excitifying” and use it quite frequently around our house.) As a husband, I feel the strain that I’m putting on my wife. There has been, and at least for the immediate future will continue to be, a great deal of uncertainty. We don’t know exactly where we will be staying, 90% of our earthly possessions are in storage and we are truly living on the goodness and kindness of friends and fellow dream-sharers. My wife is a rock, and she takes care of our family in extraordinary ways, and is doing so in the midst of deep uncertainty.
As a dad, I feel the burden that I’m putting on my children. AJ is about to enter the 9th grade, and will be doing so in a brand new school with kids he did not attend junior high with, and whom he does not know. BJ is switching from 6th grade to 7th grade, and moving to a new middle school that doesn’t have choir (one of her true passions) and is smaller in three grades (6-8) than her previous 6th grade class alone. CJ is leaving a great school that loves her and what she brings academically and socially (3rd grade student of the year!), to enter a 4th and 5th grade only, Jr. High prep school. They load up the van like troopers on one end, and unload it like moving professionals on the other, and yet I can tell the bed-shifting, suitcase-packing, school-changing gypsie-life is taking its toll.
As a man, I feel the weight of wanting to provide, for my family, the basic comforts of a home, the relief of a steady paycheck and the peace of mind that comes with good insurance, retirement contributions and a growing nest egg. Today, however, none of those are realities. More than once I’ve wondered if I’m making a mistake pressing on toward this dream, questioning whether or not the burden of moving forward will be worth it for my wife and my children. Honestly, I think the burden is almost multiplied by their unwavering trust and the way they’ve embraced each new move “forward.”
The doubts that once were subtly in the background are now fully exposed, and they are ugly, vocal and stalking me in my thoughts, my planning and even in my dreams at night.
Friday morning, after our first night sleeping in the Starwood Ranch, I woke up and pondered my night of restlessness and the attack I felt in my sleep. Literally, I dreamed of failure over and over again, and I had to shake off the sleep reminding myself that those were images provided by doubt (and maybe the pizza and coke I enjoyed before bed!), and not the realities in front of us. I had to remember that the giant doubts are present, because the dream God has embedded in my heart and mind is massive! When the dream was little, the doubts were in the background -- they didn’t need to appear since I wasn’t pursuing the God-given vision with any fire. As soon as the dream became my focus, the doubts emerged with an unholy fervor. The size of your doubts will be proportionate to the size of your dreams.
I stumbled in and out of the shower Friday, then sat down to blog. Before I typed a word, I picked up my Bible and began reading in Genesis 12, where God first connects with Abraham (then called Abram). In the first verse Moses writes, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘leaver your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’”
Notice the phrase, “...the land I will show you.” In other words, God was moving Abraham and his family, and Abraham had to trust God that this land existed, and that God would reveal it in time. The dream was huge as God had promised Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” In order to embrace the dream, Abraham had to embrace the unknown and follow the Lord.
And when they arrived in the land of promise, it wasn’t ready for Abraham. Look at verse six: “Abram traveled through the land...At that time, the Canaanites were in the land.” So he visits his future home only to find out it already has occupants (occupants, by the way, who weren’t thrilled at the idea of giving their land to someone else!), then leaves the area and settles outside of the region, and ultimately, just a short time later, leaves the country in order to survive a severe famine.
I wonder what kinds of doubts Abraham had to fight? Occupied land? Famine? (How great could this land be if there were famine issues?!) Some of them are revealed, like at the end of the chapter 12 when he lies about his marriage to Sarah in order to save his own life or in chapter 16 where Abraham tried to speed up God’s promise by having a child with a woman who wasn’t his wife. In chapter 18 Sarah laughs at God’s direct word promising them a child (she was almost 90!) and I wonder if Abraham shared in her doubts (he was almost 100!). After all, how could Abraham’s children inherit the land of promise and all of God’s blessings...if they didn’t exist?!
Without question, Abraham occasionally stumbled under the weight of his doubts, but he always managed to get back on the path that led to the dream. Ultimately, his faith was bigger than his fears and he reaped the reward of trusting in the Dream Giver. Hebrews 11 describes his journey like this:
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents...For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren -- was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
So Friday morning I acknowledged my doubts as a husband, father and as a man. I recognized my fear of failure and the sense that the task in front of me seems preposterously overwhelming. Then I chose courage, like Abraham before me, in the One who gave the dream and in whom there is no fear or doubt worthy to be in His presence. While I can’t see how He will pull it all together, I am confident that we are on the right path, and that the monumental task in front of us is nothing compared to the greatness of our God. The doubts are out on the water with us, screaming for us to get back in the boat, but He who called us stands confidently next to us, speaking clearly, yet quietly, urging us to keep trusting Him. I hear His sweet voice, and by His grace and strength, I will hold this course.
What about you? Are you living in the tension between doubts and dreams? Let me encourage you to root yourself, even deeper, in the One who gives the dream. Spend time in His Word daily, speak to Him often in prayer and surround yourself with those who will run the race with you. One of my life verses, Ephesians 3:20, continues to stand out -- almost daily! -- in my thoughts: “God can do anything, you know, far more than you could ever imagine, guess or request in your wildest dreams” (The Msg). What ever He has in store for us next, I know that being out on the water with Him is the best place for me and my family.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always best -- even...maybe especially!...when your doubts are biggest! -- out on the water!
It’s not a 4-letter word, but to many, “accountability” is still a dirty word. When I was younger, I think I worried that accountability showed some sort of weakness in my person or character. As I aged, I realized...it did! However, embracing accountability not only exposes my flaws, it also reveals a great strength: humble recognition that I can’t do this life on my own. If I am going to achieve my best, it will happen because of the help and influence of others.
Accountability is huge for my success, and I can confidently say it’s huge for yours, too. Here are a few ways accountability is working in my life:
- My computer is armed with software to help protect me and my family -- and keep me on track -- while surfing the web. That software reminds me that everything I’m doing on the web needs to be God-honoring.
- I wear an "Up" health band. Up records my exercise and sleep each day, then posts it online for my wife and friends to see. (If you’re using “Up” by Jawbone, add me to your team. (@joeacast)
- Now that I’m working more from home, my wife is able to see my work each day. She can see when I’m loafing or when I’m working too much. Just last week she helped me see that I was totally blowing off the kids to finish a couple of encouragement notes to others. How ironic, I’m trying to encourage other people, and neglecting my own children to do it. Hmmmm.
- This blog has some built-in accountability. When I’ve missed a posting day or two (I usually post on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays) it’s not uncommon to get a call, text or email form someone wondering if everything is ok. I cringe when I get one of those notes and I don’t have anything going, but the accountability is good and helps me work hard to stay ahead of the game.
- When I travel, or when my wife travels and leaves me home, I have a couple buddies who call and make sure I’m doing ok. These guys want to see me be successful, and they are eager to help me make sure I’m making the most of my time.
- I have another couple friends that ask me about my marriage quite frequently. They ask if I’m honoring my commitment to date Traci regularly. Especially during this particularly stressful season of life, they’ve been asking about our marriage and whether or not I’m doing my job to provide for, and take care of, Traci.
- When I’m working on a book, I set up a small team of people to help me meet my writing goals. They know my schedule and my deadlines, and they pray for me along the way, and ask keep me track.
The reality is that all of us need help in this life, and God has hard-wired us for relationships in order to find that help. From day one, He gave Eve to Adam (and Adam to Eve!) and all throughout Scripture you find the value and power of teamwork, friendship and accountability. So what happens when we don’t have that accountability?
- We treat people as property, and leave a wake of damaged relationships in our past. People without accountability often have few real friends and use their work as a shield to hide their insecurities or arrogance (or both). It’s hard to maintain good relationships when you live life without the input of others.
- We fall behind in our work, as no one is around to ask about details, confirm deadlines or even know what we’re working toward. A stay-at-home mom, a CEO, a college student or a Southern California pool boy can become lazy and ineffective, addicted to Netflix or video games, a busybody or micromanager when they live without meaningful input from others.
- We blame others for our failures, because no one in our lives is giving us the perspective we need. I’ve known too many leaders who operate without solid accountability, and they are professional blamers when it comes to organizational short-comings because it’s easier to blame a subordinate then it is to see yourself as the problem (or at least part of the problem). My lead pastor in Salem, Oregon, set a stellar example of submitting himself to accountability. More than once I saw him listen as a member of the Elder board, or a member of the congregation, confronted or challenged him on something related to his leadership. He was always willing (and eager!) to learn from those moments, and able to admit his own flaws when necessary. Accountability allowed him to see mistakes or shortcoming he maybe couldn’t see himself. That’s a good thing!
- We put up a front that hides major problems behind. As a pastor in the Pacific NW for almost 17 years, and now having served in Michigan for over two, I’ve seen too many ministries fall apart because a pastor held up a great facade while his marriage or personal purity or financial integrity was in shambles. When no one is asking us the hard questions, it’s too easy for us to hide the trash.
- We never realize our true God-given potential, because that potential is connected to the relationships God has given us. Leaders fail to get their organizations to their goals, marriages never reach the intimacy either spouse desires, families live in constant tension and people settle for ordinary lives because they neglect accountability.
Do any of those items resonate with you? If so, you might be lacking accountability in some area(s) of your life. Trust me, you can’t live the Overboard Life without the help of others, so the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can begin moving toward the goals, and ultimately toward the life, God has given you.
When I look at this list I know I’ve been guilty of each of these byproducts of living life without accountability. I’m thankful for the men and women who’ve stepped up to help me, for the ones who said yes when I asked, and for the ones who simply invited themselves into my life. In each case, the accountability has helped me live my God-designed life out of the comfort of the boat.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.
Crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon was a thrilling event. I don’t know how to put it into words, but there was something very special about coming down the last stretch of road and stepping over the curb ,and onto the grass, where cones funneled us through the final 50 yards that led to the finish line. Many spectators, including runners who had already finished their races and were dressed awaiting the awards ceremony, were cheering us on as we jogged our last few steps. There were whistles, claps, loud cheers and even a couple of cowbells clanging as we sauntered home. Best of all, our friends Clay and Lisa were waiting to congratulate us on having completed our 13.1 mile run. It was a memory I won’t soon forget.
Finishing the goal was the best the feeling of all. The energy we had in finishing was better than the energy we had in miles 1-3. Finishing was more joyful than the pace and rhythm of miles 4-6, and made the work of miles 7-9 almost forgettable. When we crossed the finish line, I wasn’t thinking about the wall we hit in miles 10-12, instead, I was taking in the moment and enjoying -- yes, enjoying -- the aches and pains, the sights and sounds and the emotional thrill of victory. We had beaten the course because we had finished.
As I’ve thought back to the finish line, there are three big take-a-ways I have from completing my first half-marathon:
- Train for the finish line. Traci and I trained hard during the months that led up to the race. We ran two or three times a week, every week, splitting up long runs with short runs, fast runs with slow runs and doing intervals and other types of sprints that helped us build up strength and endurance. And the whole time we were training, we were working toward 13.1 miles. We didn’t train for a 5k (3.1 miles) and then try to run a half-marathon. We trained with the finish line in mind.
- Public goals are harder to blow off. After we both agreed to run the race, we made our goals public. Believe me, that was one o the best moves we made. Why? Because so many friends and family members were cheering us on through the whole process. I had calls, emails, texts and FB messages of encouragement, in the days leading up to the race. Our friends wanted to see us succeed. That kind of public accountability made it almost impossible to do anything but finish! We had so much support, failing was not an option.
- Enjoy the journey and victories. Even during the race, Traci and I took time to “High-5” each other when we met certain markers. At mile 3.1 for example, we celebrated the first 5k of the race. At mile 9 we commended each other for the furthest run either of us had completed. At mile 10 we fist-bumped for making it to double digits and when we crossed the finish line we joyfully put our hands in the air and gave it a big “woot woot!” The race is long, the journey is hard but there are always moments to celebrate. And when you cross the finish line, take some time to soak it all in!
Race day was a big learning experience for me. From start to finish, I learned a lot about who I am and what I’m capable of doing when I work hard and choose to not give up. Through the ebb and flow of two hours and forty four minutes of running, I caught the bigger picture of life and realize that I’m on another journey, too. And as great as it felt to finish my first half-marathon, I can only imagine how great it will be to finish this journey with the same commitment and dedication.
I wonder if what I experienced at my race on Sunday was the same time of feeling Paul had when he told young Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my face...” Paul was at the end of his life, and he knew that his journey on earth was almost over. As he faced that reality he did so with an overwhelming sense of completion because he had beaten the course -- he had run the race God had given him.
It’s my hope and prayer to end my race the same way. I want to finish my journey with the satisfaction of knowing I did my very best, that I worked hard, ran thru walls and challenges, that I took advantage of the help offered me, and I encouraged others and allowed them to do the same for me. I hope people will see an excellent runner in me, one who embraced his course and, in faith, followed God where ever He led. And along the way, you’ll see me celebrate the little moments -- the milestones and the victories -- that God gives us each and every day.
Thank you for following along on this journey, and where ever it may lead, your encouragement and friendship has helped make it a reality. Let’s keep running together and pushing for the finish line one day at a time!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.
Yesterday, Traci and I completed 7 months of training and preparation by running our first half-marathon -- 13.1 miles in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Marathon event. We joined nearly 400 runners (150 full marathoners, 250 half-marathoners) on the very hilly run just outside of Sleep Bear Dunes National Park. A great run with truly stunning vistas. Until our run yesterday, Traci had never run more than 8.2 miles and I had never extended a training run past 8.6. In fact, in the last three weeks leading up to the run, Traci had been battling a foot injury that allowed her just two runs during that time: a 1-mile interval run that ended with great pain, and a 3.5 mile run, just 5 days before our race, that revealed her pain was gone.
The encouragement we’ve received from friends near and far, made it possible to finish the race when our strength was entirely gone. More than that, the comments of our friends after the race has truly humbled us and reminds us of the importance of what this race represented to us. Over the next five blog posts, I want to break down the lessons I’ve learned form this race through each section: Miles 1-3, miles 4-6, miles 7-9, miles 10-12 and mile 13. Thanks to all of you who “ran with us” and are continuing to join us in the journey.
Traci and I have had the privilege of hosting 3 different races, and now we have shared in this half-marathon. Most races are quite festive since there are lots of people out to enjoy the event. There are serious runners (like our friends Evey and Clay) and people like Traci and I who are there to conquer the course without any kind of time goals. There are people walking, people running with a goal (yesterday a brother and sister team had “For Ma” on the back of their shirts) and people who just enjoy the atmosphere.
And when you first start out on a race, it is a very enjoyable atmosphere! The energy of all the participants, the loud music and the big start where everyone takes off to cheers and whistles through the large starting gate is a big thrill. It’s also a pretty significant adrenaline rush and sends most runners out onto the course with joy and an extra spring in their step.
Yesterday held that kind of thrill for me and Traci. We got off to a great start and we were definitely feeding off the group energy as we began the race. Running with hundreds of people as we each faced the course for our various reasons was exciting. In fact, the first three miles held the same kind of excitement as each runner was establishing his or her pace, and slowly, the crowd began to spread out.
A big part of each race is relatively easy: you need to start!
How many times have we approached a new venture in work, started a new project or began working on a significant change in our lives with energy and excitement? I think most of us are usually pretty good starters and starting is very important! Traci and I began our race today with two goals: Start and finish. As you might guess, one of those is actually much easier to accomplish than the other.
I love starting. I thrive on the energy of the group, the enthusiasm of new ideas and the life-giving excitement of tackling something hard. My wife loves gathering data, organizing new structures and laying out the long-term plans for achieving her goals. She is fired up when starting out. Can you relate?
Starting is usually pretty fun as we set out with new goals, ideas how to accomplish those goals and the lack of awareness of just how painful or difficult the challenges facing us will be. This was certainly true of how Traci and I started our race yesterday.
There are, however, several potential -- and generally expected -- problems with starting a race (or a new venture):
- Starting isn’t usually a very fair representation of the actual goal, project or sought-after change. The energy of starting can be swallowed up in the miles that follow and the hard work of grinding out the miles that are come. Ever started something with zest only to a hit a wall that brought a screeching halt to progress?
- Starting is a vital component to completing any objective, but the objective’s goal must be clear. In other words, Traci and I began a race yesterday knowing what the end goal was. We weren’t running until the end of our strength and then merely stopping and calling it good. Granted, we came very close to the end of our strength, but the goal remained crystal clear: finish the 13.1 mile course. Starting a new plan, going after a new dream or chasing down a great objective without knowing the end goal cannot end in success.
- Starting energy is an important part of the whole project. While we recognize it’s not a fair representation of the whole process (see #1 above) it is a vital part of the getting the ball rolling. Without starting energy, it’s hard to generate momentum, difficult to generate a strong community and almost impossible to get past the first obstacles you will, most certainly, encounter.
What about you? Is it time for you start something? Are you in the middle of starting energy right now and in need of clarifying your goals? Are you sitting on the outside of the race course contemplating your next move?
Since February when Traci and I agreed to prepare for this half-marathon together, Hebrews 12:1-2 has been a big part of this journey. The writer of Hebrews states, “...run with perseverance the race marked out for you...” In other words -- Start the course that God has laid out for you! We will rarely (ever?) know the result of running the race but we will never be wrong in starting God’s ordained journey for our lives.
Are you ready to start?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
I think it was Plato who receives credit for the saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It’s easy to examine and critique the lives of others, but often somewhat painful when we turn the lens of inspection onto ourselves. Most of us don’t like seeing our flaws or weaknesses exposed; personal examination is, after all, personal. Over the past several years, September has been my personal reset month. As a youth pastor for almost 17 years, and now working at a camp primarily with students, there is a rhythm to the start of the school year that makes this month a natural fit for evaluating goals, laying out new projections and regaining personal realignment. While January is a great time to roll out those new goals, September has proved to be the best time to evaluate them, and to make sure I’m still on course with the projects God has put on my heart.
Since today is the start of the month, I thought I’d lay out my thirty day action plan for you to see and evaluate. Maybe you, too, feel compelled to make September a month for personal realignment and I’d love for you to share that with me so we can encourage each other over the next 4.5 weeks. Please feel free to ask me how I’m doing and to check-in on my progress.
For the next thirty days, I’ll be working on five areas of my life. I’ve laid out 3-4 targets for each area in order to reset my personal discipline (the summer routine is vastly different than the school year routine) and to realign myself with my January goals. So here we go!
As I continue to work on my health, my primary focus will continue to be taking steps (literally hundreds of thousands of them!) toward being ready to run 13.1 miles in my first half-marathon on October 5th. The byproducts of this kind of training have included much higher energy levels, loss of weight and my wife regularly telling me that I’m looking good (she’s always been generous with her compliments; they just seem to be coming more frequently and that is absolutely inspiring!).
Take supplements twice a day, every day! My wife, Traci, has worked for Usana Health Sciences for over ten years, and as a result, I believe we have access to the best vitamins around. However, lately I haven’t been making sure those vitamins are making it out of their daily packs and into my body. For September, I plan to go 60/60 on my vitamin pack in-take. (Usana makes it easy to order your daily vitamins in customizable morning and even packages, so that I don’t have to sort or count vitamins; I just have to open the stinkin' pack and take them. So I’m going to open and take 60 packs this month!)
Drink my water and take my steps! Another big one for me is making sure I’m drinking enough water, especially during this season of life where I am running a lot. Hydration is another huge aspect of overall health, and it’s really not that hard to drink my water each day, since I have easy access to good filtered water all over the camp property. So here’s to 60oz a day, every day, during September. And since I’ll be nice and hydrated, I should have fewer issues getting out there and running, so I plan to run 3-4 times a week over the next four weeks as Traci and I prepare for our big race day.
No area of my life affects all the others, quite like my spiritual health. When I am staying closely connected to God, I find my marriage is stronger, my parenting is better, I’m more motivated to work on projects and engage people, and regardless of my immediate circumstances, I have a clearer perspective on God’s work. And while there are good (and bad!) seasons of life in my spiritual growth (or lack thereof), there is always room for growth.
Start my mornings with God, first thing. Last school year I had a great morning routine that started each day with God. During the summer, my time with God was often relegated to later in the morning, or squeezed in-between other camp activities. I want to get back to starting my day on better footing, and so He and I will return to our 5:55am meeting time. I am not a morning a person at any level, but that’s the time I can snag with God before I have to wake up kids and get the day going. Many of you are morning people, and 5:55am is almost your lunch hour, but for me, it’s easier to stay up until 5:55, then it is to get up at 5:55. This is a big realignment for me.
Attend church prayer meeting on saturday morning. Our church hosts a Saturday morning prayer service at 7:30am on Saturday. The problem is that our church is 45-minutes away, but for September, I plan to attend each Saturday morning prayer time in order to pray with church family.
Memorize Colossians 3. Several years ago, I set out to memorize Colossians 3. I got about half way and then trailed off and I’ve never gone back and finished. I will finish memorizing Colossians 3 during September.
Here, I am breaking up professional goals into two areas: Overboard Ministries and Lake Ann Camp.
Write something, every day! I have really fallen off the wagon when it comes to this habit and I plan to hit it hard this month. I am going to write something, every day, during the month of September. Whether it’s working on my book, writing a blog, sending out some letters or developing a study guide, I am going to write every day for the next 30 days.
Finish my book. I had dreams of finishing my latest book, Overboard, by July 1. That didn’t happen, and then camp did happen, and now my book is still sitting on my laptop near completion. My awesome editor Michelle has finished her work and is waiting on me to finish mine so we can get this thing published! So get ready Michelle, I am going to wrap this project up!
Implement a new system for tracking inquiries at camp. One of my jobs at the camp is to respond to guest inquiries for camp rentals. The current system we have in place for tracking those inquiries is lacking in several areas, and after 16 months of doing this job, I have a much better handle on the changes that need to be made. During September, a new system will be put in place.
Fill our Youth Pastor’s retreat in February. Traci and I host the youth pastors and wives retreat the camp puts on in February. Last year there were four couples and we had an amazing weekend. This year, however, we want to grow this retreat, and that means laying the ground work now. My goal is to have at least 12 couples here, and so I will contact two dozens youth pastors during September to challenge/remind/encourage them to be apart of this year’s retreat.
During the summer, our kids have the joy of living on a 320 acre play ground with hundreds of adults who know them, keep an eye on them, and invest in their lives. As a result, our family time looks very different for two full months and our kids love the freedom and fun that comes with living on a camp ground. As the school year hits, our family routine is important for all of us, and getting back on track has a big impact on the kids' success at school.
Intentionally connect with each child, each week. We have our family meals and enjoy time in the car going to school (25 minutes each way), going to church (40-45 minutes each way) or driving in to town (30 minutes each way), but that is vastly different than carving out intentional time with each child. My goal is to spend at least an hour, each week, intentionally investing in each child (on top of our regular connecting points). So that might be a Nerf gun war with AJ, reading a book with CJ or playing a game of cards with BJ. Whatever it is, it needs to be at least an hour and it needs to be intentional on my part.
Restore our weekly date night. Traci and I have always been huge advocates of date night, but during the summer, weekly dates are far more challenging since I speak to campers twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. We managed to carve out time for a snack at the lake or for a drive off camp for a quick meal, but in September I want to restore our weekly outings and reconfirm my commitment to my marriage through our weekly dates.
Confirm our Christmas plans. This will be the first year that Traci and I won’t be around family at Christmas since we were married without kids in Seattle. Our kids have already talked about it and are a little bummed about the notion, so Traci and I have been talking about ways to introduce some new traditions and new ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus in our Michigan home. I know planning is one of those things that makes my wife super happy, and she is, without a doubt, the Christmas party animal in our house. So I want to help her nail down our Christmas plans now and kill two birds with one stone: eliminate possible future planning tensions, and score some points with the little lady!
Traci constantly challenges me with her own journey of growth. She just came back from a conference about business, and so much of what she learned is really personal growth that will impact her future business, too. So here are a few areas I want to grow in (or realign myself with) in September:
Get up at 5:55am. Have I mentioned that mornings are hard for me?
Outline daily goals in the morning, evaluate at night. Each morning I want to lay out my daily/weekly/monthly goal list, and then take a few minutes at night to evaluate my progress. It doesn’t make much sense to set these goals if I’m not going to take time to see where I’m at in the process of meeting them. So after my morning time with God, I will take the next 10-15 minutes to lay out the daily goals and to make sure I’m staying on track with weekly and monthly targets. Each night, I’ll take a few minutes to evaluate the day's progress.
Create at least 25 lifetime goals. I recently re-read Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker. At the end of the book, he spends a lot of time writing about lifetime dreams he has, and it really got me thinking. A few years back I laid out some long-term dreams, and it’s been fun to see a few of them come to be (take Traci to Hawaii, write a book) and to realize that I am still making progress on others, while a few have totally fallen off my radar. I’ve already started working on this list and I’ll be excited to share it with you after the list is finished at the end of the month.
Read a book on creativity. I love the creative process and I love how God has designed each of us with our own creative concepts. And while you can’t necessarily teach creativity, you can help people release their own creative juices. I’ve felt a little stuck in this area of my life. So this week I picked up a book on the topic, and during September, I’ll read it and take notes (creatively, of course!).
Ok, there you have it. If you endured this entire blog I’m assuming you have: Questions, input and most importantly, some goals and projects of your own. Share those with me via the comments in this blog or more personally in email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Joe Castaneda This past year I’ve been working my way through Ken Burns’ amazing documentary called Baseball. Yes, it has a lot of baseball in it, but whether you like the sport or not, Burns does an absolutely phenomenal job of wrapping the American story through the game of baseball. The Great Bambino, Babe Ruth, flourished during...the roaring 20s! Jackie Robinson is famous because...he helped America break through the color barrier, starting with baseball. The civil unrest of the 60s and 70s echoed through a sport that still practiced horrible wage discrimination and a continued struggle to accept blacks as equal citizens. From the 1800s to the early 21st century, if you enjoy American history (and certainly if you enjoy baseball), do yourself a favor and dial up Burns' Baseball on Netflix.
As a baseball fan, one of the more interesting aspects of the series is how Ken weaves the births and deaths of famous players into their context. One of those stories begins in the late 1800s and ends in 1960s, and revolves around baseball’s greatest hitter, Ty Cobb. He died, on this date, in 1961.
Cobb was loved by fans, but lived his life with a deep seeded hatred for almost everyone. He played the game, and lived most of his life, full of fire and venom. He would spike opponents with his cleats when he slid into second, he cursed at umpires, argued and fought with fans and he was always yelling at his own teammates. A longtime member of the Detroit Tigers (he played his last two years in Philadelphia), Cobb epitomized the rough and tough nature of baseball and American culture in his day.
He was a fierce competitor. Today, most of his records have been passed, although still -- 100 years since he first began playing! -- he is in the top 5 in many offensive categories (2nd in runs scored, 2nd in hits, 4th in number of double, 4th in number of stolen bases). He was relentless at the plate, a pure hitter, and he strove to beat every pitcher he faced. He hated losing, almost as much as he hated missing the ball. His .366 lifetime batting average is still the highest in baseball history! In fact, it’s fairly safe to say no one will do what Cobb did: 23 consecutive season of hitting over .300 at the plate.
While most of us will never excel in baseball like Ty Cobb, all of us will face the same end: our lives will come to completion. On July 17th, 1961, the great Ty Cobb passed away. Less than 400 people attended his funeral (by contrast, Babe Ruth had hundreds of thousands of fans come to his viewing!), and only 3 of those 400 people had ever played with Cobb. None of his teammates or the other players of his day came to see him off.
In an interview right before his death, Cobb said this: “If I had life to do over again, I'd do it a little different. I’d have more friends.” He died by himself. He had divorced two different women, and lived alone with fear and anger. He drank profusely. He was miserable.
Death always makes us reflective. Cobb, reflecting on his life, realized that all his great athletic feats meant nothing at his death. He wasn’t surrounded by people he loved and who loved him, he was alone and a mess.
What will you and I reflect on at the end of our lives? What things are we doing today that we’ll be thankful for in the future? What behaviors, fights or activities will we regret?
I recently turned 40 and had some time to reflect on the “half-way” point of my life. (You can read that here.) I’ve come to realize that as I’ve aged, my life is becoming more and more focused on a few things, instead of spread out over many. I don’t want to come to the end of my life and wish I had lived it differently. Of course we all make mistakes, we all get on the wrong path, we all say things we wish we could take back and involve ourselves with things we wish we hadn’t. But at the end of it all, I want my life direction, my greatest moments and achievements to point to a life that loved God, loved others. I hope people will see that I spent more time on the water with Jesus, than in the comfort of the boat with those that lack the courage and conviction to step out.
What about you? Are there course corrections you need to make? Are you on a path that you already know will not take you where you want to be? Are you in a relationship that is hindering your commitment to the Lord? Do you need to reinvest in your marriage? Are your children eager for you to make them as valuable to you as your work? Are the important things in your life true priorities?
Live today with the end in view.
So go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Have you ever sat back and wondered what happened to your dreams and goals? I've had some God-sized dreams over the years that just seemed to disappear -- they were so close at one point I could almost touch them, then something happened: I got derailed and the dream disappeared or seemed so unreachable that I quit.
I was looking back over some content for today's #tbt blog, and I found this one, detailing 5 dream killers that those wishing to live the Overboard Life must be aware of. Have you found any of these in your life?
(Originally appeared on January 11, 2012)
Gary Ryan Blair asked this question in his 100-day challenge program: "If your goals, dreams and hopes could speak, what would they say about you?" I took it a step further and thought about this question: “What would they say about how I operate and the passion with which I pursue them?”
What keeps me back from achieving the goals God has put on my heart?
I thought about this question for a little while and came up with five possible answers. Each of these is a personal reflection from my own life, especially thinking about those times I set out to do something, but failed to complete it. Maybe you can relate to a few of these. These are not necessarily listed in order of importance or significance, but the first one is definitely the top problem area for me.
- Lack of decision: I can clearly see some big objectives in the past that didn’t get completed simply because I failed to set my course. I said, “I want to achieve [X]” but then did nothing to actually push myself that direction. It’s like saying, “I want to lose
weight and get in shape” but then continuing to eat junk food all day and failing to start my membership at the local gym. (By the way, if you need help with food and tackling it from more than the perspective of ‘just another diet’, let me encourage you to get connected with my good friend Amber Thiel and her amazing program, The Healthy Edge!) Saying that I want to do something, and making the decision to start shaping my life towards that goal are two very different actions. The words are easy to say, but it’s another thing entirely to step out and start. I have had more than one venture in my life begin strong -- but unfortunately I’ve had many of them never get past the start. I think I have 5-7 unwritten books on my laptop alone, each of which got a great start, but none of which were finished because I never made a choice to go after them. Project Joseph was the first book I finished, and it too had 3-4 month stall period. This is a big one for me.
- Fear: It’s not often that I’m afraid to try something, but if I’m being entirely honest and transparent, then I have to admit that fear has sidelined me more than once. Fear kept me from starting Overboard in early 2010. I was afraid the money wouldn’t come in (which it didn’t when we first started). I was afraid that people would think I was a cheeseball for starting my own “publishing company” (and many of them did). I was afraid that I wouldn’t pick up any other authors and that editors wouldn’t be too interested in helping out. All of these were legitimate concerns, but none of them were valid fears. Thankfully, because of how God used my amazing wife Traci and my dear friends Danny Ray and Kevin Flier, I was able to overcome those fears and step out of the boat. Still, fear has kept me out of the game from time-to-time. It’s good to note, too, that on occasion, the fear of success has put me out of commission. Fearing what people will do/think if I succeeded at something. Kinda of weird, but just being real.
- Excuses: Excuses are the best. I can play the blame game as well as anyone, and when I make excuses, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Blaming the economy, the weather, the publishing industry, my editor, my graphic artist, my distributor, my printer, my kids, my tennis shoes with a hole in the bottom and my mail man for never bringing me "checks in the mail." The list could go on and on, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming everyone else for my problems, instead of owning what I’ve done and who I am. When starting Overboard Publishing, one of my best excuses was, “But I don’t know anything about publishing a book...” It was true, but it was also easily remedied. Excuses make us feel safe. They become a huge wall that surrounds us so that no solutions can get in, and certainly no good ideas will get out. Excuses are warm and comfy and they long to sleep around us and keep us comfortable, but as my friend Andy Hartfield says, "Excuses are like armpits. Everyone has them and they stink!"
- Lack of Discipline: Here is another zinger for me, personally. This would be number two on my list if I were listing them in order of impact. I can blame my ADD (there goes those excuses again!), but reality is that discipline, more-often-than-not, boils down to choices. Choices to do one activity over another. Choices to stay up later than I need to, thus making it harder to get up for my personal growth time in the morning. The longer I live, the more I realize how discipline doesn’t have to be a straight jacket. I always strayed away from discipline because it seemed to cut off the circulation of life. In reality, a healthy discipline allows us to enjoy life more deeply, while living it more eternally. When I’m rightly disciplined, I get more done, and enjoy more time with my family doing the things we love to do together. But discipline requires work and it requires diligence in the little things. Check out this blog on that topic.
- Lack of Focus: Some would put this with lack of discipline, but I think it’s another topic entirely. In my world, discipline is about making right choices when options compete; focus is about intensity. I can make the right choice, but lack the intensity to maximize the benefit. For example, I could get up at 6:30am with the goal of writing. I could open up my lap top, open up Scrivener, and begin my writing for the day. However, if I have the curtains open in the front room, it’s easy for me to find a squirrel and get distracted from my task. I’m still somewhat disciplined (I got up on time and started writing), I’m just not maximizing my writing because I lack focus. This is another big one in my life.
Today I will review and assess my goals. I will see if there is some course correction that needs to take place as I long to keep the course on some big goals. I’ll let you know what I come up with, but I’m curious if any of you would add any other obstacles you face that I didn’t list here? Leave comments and help your fellow readers!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
If you could hear the thoughts bouncing around in my head while I’m running, I’m pretty sure you’d demand immediate psychiatric evaluation. It’s crazy what goes on in my brain as I train for my October half-marathon, and one thing is certain: I’m a quitter.
Tonight I ran my first 10k distance: 6.2 miles of non-strop running. I actually logged 6.24 miles (but who’s counting?) in just over one hour and four minutes, and the battle to stay out on the course was significant. I originally began the night thinking I’d try to run 5-miles again, since I had just completed my first 5 miler last week. But after I finished 3 miles, I had this crazy thought to push through to 6, and as I got closer to 6, my legs told me to go ahead and finish up a 10k.
Sounds sane, doesn’t it? Once I got past the one mile mark however, the conversation in my head was a constant battle. On the one hand, I really wanted to achieve this goal, on the other hand, I wanted to quit and head back to the house to sip a cold beverage and admire how easy a mile was.
As I finished up three miles, my wife split off from me and I headed out on my own. When I’m running with my wife, I know I have her encouragement to stay on the trail and keep up pace. As soon as she peeled off, my desire to quit grew even stronger. So as I turned to complete my second 3-mile circuit, I did a mental check:
Me: Self, how are you feeling?
Self: Lousy. I hate running. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My eyes hurt. My hair hurts.
Me: Wait...your hair hurts?
Self: If that will get you to stop running, then yes. My hair hurts.
Self: Okay, but I was serious about my feet and my back.
Self: I really don’t like you.
It was crazy, every step of the way I kept trying to come up with reasons why I should quit. Do you ever do that? Are you ever looking to stop?
You know what I realized: there is always a reason to quit! In running, every step is a reason for me to quit: My feet can be sore, my calf might be aching, my back gets tired of the bouncing and, as you can tell, my brain is working against me. Tonight my shoulders were tense, and even though I tried to consciously relax them, I kept finding myself tensed (not sure why!). Even on the night of a good run, like tonight, there is always multiple reasons to quit!
What about you? What are you trying to fight for, but find yourself in the mental battle about quitting? Are you wrestling in your marriage? There will always be a reason to give up. Are you contemplating how doable your God-sized dreams are? There will always be a reason to quit. Are you struggling under the burden of debt? Every day you will have the chance to put it off another 10 years! Are you working hard on improving your health? Temptation to give-in is always just around the corner.
You see, the easy choices in life don’t require much effort. Choosing to stay unhealthy is easy. Letting my marriage go to pot doesn’t require any work on my part. Giving up on my dreams is as easy as making Netflix a 2-hour/night habit. The easy choices don’t require much effort. It’s the ones we really want that require effort. And even more than effort, they require a reason!
And I realized tonight that what kept me running after mile 3...and 4...and 5...and 6 was a BIG reason; it wasn’t my effort, and it certainly wasn’t my passion for running. My preparation for this race is a picture for my life right now -- I’m running because this process represents the work that I believe God is doing in my life. I’m in the middle of a long stretch of His working, and He is opening up doors and opportunities for me that require patience, discipline, hard work, endurance and even some joy in the journey! As I physically prepare for a 1/2 marathon, God is teaching me that what it takes to run long distances are the same qualities needed to run spiritually, and to chase after God-sized dreams.
Hebrews 12:1-2 have become my theme verses this year. The writer encourage the readers to strip off anything that hinders them, so that they can “run their race(s)” with perseverance and focus. "Running our race" is a spiritual discipline, that's hard, requires a great deal of effort and sometimes doesn't feel very rewarding in the moment. But God uses that discipline to make us into who He wants us to be, so that we can do what He wants us to do.
Yet, as most of us know, discipline isn't pleasant. We often like the results of the discipline, but the process of being disciplined is far from enjoyable. In fact, we usually tend to resist it and that's why we don't "run our races!" So as the passage goes on, the author gives the big reason why we should run and endure the discipline: “...but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11).
Physically, I'm looking forward to the fruit of discipline that will reveal itself when I complete my race in October. Crossing that finish line will be a big accomplishment, whatever form it takes (even if I'm crawling across!). Spiritually, I'm looking forward to the fruit of the discipline that is required to achieve the God-sized dreams placed inside my heart. In both cases, I have to be willing to be trained by the discipline and the hard work of grinding out the pavement, mile after mile.
And that's why I kept running tonight.
What's your BIG reason for pushing on? Why will you fight for your marriage? How will you keep pressing on toward your God-sized dreams and goals? Where will you find the strength to eat up more pavement when your brain is telling you to quit?
When we live the Overboard Life, we are focused on the BIG why's in our lives, pressing on in the race that God has given us. It's not easy and the process of discipline hurts -- but it has a big payoff when we've truly been trained by it.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Project Nehemiah was written to help people identify their goals and go after them with passion and faith. This tool is available in our bookstore in both print and e-book formats (and soon in audible format, too!). Grab a copy today!
We moved to Michigan in March of 2013. During the past 14 months, we have enjoyed getting to know our new home, learning about the area and beginning the process of understanding the people and cultural dynamics that affect my job here at the camp. This is a great state with four distinct seasons, nice people and some beautiful scenery.
It’s also a state that has been hammered by the economic downturn of the past few years. The auto industry was the backbone of this state’s economy for so long, and today it is barely a shadow of what it once was. A million people have left Detroit, The Motor City, and houses, buildings, schools and businesses have been abandoned to be vandalized and ultimately destroyed. Detroit is the largest city to ever file for bankruptcy.
Detroit might be the biggest city hit, but it’s not the only. Almost every town in Michigan has houses and business that have been abandoned during these past ten years. At one point, Michigan was one of just a few states with a negative growth rate: more people were leaving MI than moving here.
As part of my new job, I’ve had the privilege of traveling all over this great state, and everywhere I’ve gone I have seen the effect of Michigan’s struggle. Just this last week we drove through a town and saw “Two Brother’s Bakery” all painted up on the outside, totally shutdown on the inside. A sign in the windows says, “Closed for the season, see you in 2011.” We passed a run down hotel, an abandoned gas station, we even drove through a neighborhood where 10 of 12 businesses had moved out of a strip mall, and it looked more like the set of a zombie apocalypse movie than a place people would go to buy party supplies, get a hair cut, grab a bit to eat or meet friends for coffee.
Traci and I were talking about some of these buildings and wondering about the previous owners, wondering out loud what had happened there. Most businesses are started with a fundamental dream to do something awesome. I don’t know many business owners who start a business and hope it fails. Often, big loans are acquired to get things started, savings accounts are depleted in hopes of soon overflowing with new income, and countless hours are spent by friends and family members painting walls, hanging signs, comparing other stores online and spreading the word about a new business.
And then one day it all died. The neighborhood changed as people moved away. The income of his customers dried up. The bank said “no” to her next loan request and all of the sudden, the dream seemed hopeless. Traci and I speculated about whether or not some of these businesses reopened later in another location. We wondered whether or not the owner started a totally different type of business, or if she just packed up and found a job wherever she could, or maybe he just left it all behind and started a new life in another state or country; the empty buildings a remnant of a past life.
Whatever happened, the desolation and emptiness that’s left behind is a little haunting. Whether things changed because of bad business acumen or because of social/cultural/economic issues, the reality is that these dreams are done. Our friend Michael suffered such loss when his fruit stand and neighborhood market went under. The final day he was open, as he sold off everything but the doors and windows, Traci and I visited with him. He was devastated. He owed a lot of money to the bank and to some family members, and now he was returning to an hourly job in construction. His spirit was crushed. His family had suffered because of the business and his dreams for financial freedom seemed destroyed as he turned over the “Closed” sign for the last time.
Those abandoned buildings and financial woes are the reason some of us never dream. We like the comfort and stability that comes with not dreaming. There’s not as much risk when you don’t dream, there are fewer unknowns and generally speaking, the outcome is far more predictable when you work inside the box. And if you live this way long enough, you can practically kill off any internal motivation to dream in the future. Soon, you don’t even want to think about something as dangerous as a dream.
Yet that seems so contrary to how God made us. It seems each of us a capacity, indeed a built-in desire, to pursue something bigger than what we can see. Sure, you can dull that desire and practically destroy it by constantly ignoring it, but it never totally goes away. I’ve visited with prisoners who have 20 years left to go on their sentence, and they are talking about their future outside of jail. I’ve met cancer patients facing a terminal prognosis who are dreaming about life after they kick cancer to the curb. I’ve met homeless men and women who have larger-than-life goals when their financial situations turn around. Traci and I have met some stay-at-home moms who want to manage their homes with excellence while jump-starting their own businesses on the side.
In fact, the truth is, as a pastor, friend, coach and writer, I have never talked to anyone who didn’t have some hopes and dreams for something different. Sometimes those dreams were hidden deep in the recesses of some small corner in the back of their brain, but with the right questions, enough prodding and sometimes threats to keep them locked in my office until they shared their dreams, something emerged. Dreams for a vacation with the wife. Dreams for a better a life for their children. Dreams for financial security. Dreams to reach their neighbors for Jesus.
I believe the Overboard Life is dream-driven. The whole notion of getting out of the boat is based on the belief that you can walk on water -- you can do something that seems almost impossible to you now! Dreams are risky, they are hard to attain (or you would already have them!), they change, they move, they morph, they grow and just when you think you can lunge and grab them, they shift upward just out of your grasp. And so many people stay in the comfort of the boat because of those factors.
But not you and me. Not anyone who wants to live the Overboard Life. Like Paul, we “press on toward the prize” of a life lived for God. With the writer of Hebrews, [we] throw off everything that hinders" in this world so that we can be something different, focused on Jesus, running toward a bigger-than-life goal. Maybe it’s like my friend Tim who sets up each week in downtown Salem with a desk, a white board and a question. He uses a question written out on a white board to talk to total strangers about Jesus, and shares his heart with them. Maybe it’s like our friends Andy and Jodie who traveled to Tanzania to be a part of helping a people group know the story of a God who loves them so much, that He sent His only Son to die for their sins. Or it could be like my friend Jay, who runs several successful businesses and uses each of his ventures as a means to show God through beauty, creativity and other powerful expressions of his faith. Or it could be like our friend Nora who uses her teaching job as a way to show the mercy and grace of God to children and families in need.
What about you, what God-sized dreams do you have? Do you want to start a business? Write a book? Start a publishing company? Parent better? Have an off-the-charts marriage? Improve your health? Get to know your neighbors? Learn a new skill? Become a public speaker? [enter your dream here]?
By God’s grace, I want to live a dream-driven life, with my faith placed squarely on the One who put those dreams in my heart. This isn’t a “I can do anything I want” motivational blog, this is a “I can do all things through Him, who gives me strength” kind of a speech. This is a “God gives you everything you need to do everything He wants you to do” kind of a speech. And when you put your faith in Him, grab the sides of the boat and jump, all of your dreams are within reach. The Dream Giver, is the One who makes them a reality, too.
I hope you’re chasing your God-sized dream today. I don’t need you to chase mine, and I don’t want to chase yours (but I want to help you reach them! Let me know what I can do!). God made you specifically for dreams He placed in your heart, and it’s time for you to “throw off everything that hinders” and “fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2) as you go after them!
Go ahead and take the plunge, your dreams are always better on the water!
As a boy growing up in the 80s who enjoyed playing basketball, I loved watching Magic Johnson lead the L.A. Lakers to five titles in 9 years. The man was an amazing player, a highlight waiting to happen, and he truly redefined the position of point guard, and the game of basketball. I tried to model my own game after his, in fact, there many (none) who would say Magic and I have a lot in common when it comes to basketball.
For example, he played basketball, and so did I. He dribbled the ball, and so did I. I once saw him make a shot, and so did I.
As you can see, we are practically basketball twins.
I’ve always had a very active imagination. Maybe not quite as active as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (a great movie well worth watching, by the way!) but pretty close. And back in the day, Magic Johnson and I used to play a lot of ball together.
Because I grew up with Swegle Elementary School just a fence-hopping away from my house, the school’s playground became my personal basketball court. I would shoot hoops under the “covered area” for hours a day, rain or shine, and often played in some very intense games against Larry “Legend” Bird and the evil Boston Celtics. And just like real life, my Lakers always came out on top of the Celtics (no, that wasn’t a shot for a buddy of mine who might be a Boston fan and might be reading this blog).
I remember running from one end of the court to other, as if I was playing in front of 20 thousand screaming fans, I was leading the Lakers (ala Magic Johnson) in game 7of the championship series. I would shoot like Cooooooooper from 3-pt range, I’d make passes to myself (I also happened to play a very good James Worthy) off the end wall, and I’d even steal the ball from an unsuspecting Kevin McHale and shoot the “baby hook” to win it all. I could make awesome crowd noise, do the play-by-play announcing and celebrate the championship by running crazy over the playground trying to escape the nutso fans that charged onto the court.
And I could do all of this, day after day, all by myself. I was a one-man basketball game.
Imagination is fun. I also think it’s a powerful tool that God has given us in pursuing His dreams for our lives. In Genesis 15 God was talking to Abraham about God’s big plans for Abraham’s life. But Abraham was frustrated that he was approaching 100 years old and he still didn’t have a kid. (Even back then, 100 year-old-men and women were dropping pups very often!)
God took Abraham out of his little village and had him glance into the night sky. Then God said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be.” Wow, what a promise! If Abraham could count the stars, then he would be able to count his offspring! How many nights after that, did Abraham take a moment from a late night walk to glance skyward and imagine his children, grandchildren, great-great grandchildren that would one day walk the earth? How did he imagine the dreams God had given him?
Have you ever imagined your life being totally used for God? What would that look like? How would you serve your spouse? How would you raise your children? How would you do your job if you imagined a life totally devoted to God? Have you ever dreamed about doing something remarkable for the Lord? Have you dreamed about doing something extraordinary that would require great faith, patience, love, courage and an awesome community?
I imagined some great basketball games and “played” them with enthusiasm, joy and sometimes a lot of endurance. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had some new imaginations and dreams, some God-sized goals that I’ve gone after with a similar passion, energy and focus. I hope the next 40 years of my life will be filled with great joy as I seek to the live the Overboard Life and watch to see what amazing work God does in and through me. How about you? What dreams are you chasing? What God-given imaginations are you living for?
12 down, 28 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
By Joe Castaneda Are you a procrastinator? Have you ever said, “On Monday I’m going to...” All of us, procrastinators or not, tend to function better when we have deadlines pressing in on us. Gary Ryan Blair says it this way, “You will always work best under a self-determined or externally fixed deadline.”
Often with the Overboard Life we have work that has to be done, projects that need to be tackled and short-term goals that need to be met. Yet, without some kind of “externally fixed deadline,” those things can go undone. We have the “best of intentions” and want to pursue what God is putting out there, but fear, procrastination or just a lack of know-how keeps us from being effective.
A simple fix can found in using a deadline that puts something concrete on the calendar. Just the act of writing the matter on the calendar can create the necessary motivation to get the job done. Here are three thoughts about why deadlines work:
1. Deadlines represent commitment. When you commit to a deadline (whether it’s one you chose or one that was placed upon you by some other external force) you are committing yourself to completing a task or project. 2. Deadlines also enforce accountability. I recently signed up for a 1/2 marathon with my wife Traci. We’ve picked the event, the Sleeping Bear marathon, and chosen the date: October 5th. Having done that, I announced through this blog, through facebook and twitter that I’m running and now a lot of people are tracking my progress as the race moves closer and closer. Announcing the deadline has created accountability. 3. Deadlines help to create urgency. As a college and seminary student, nothing propelled a mid-week all-nighter more than the looming deadline of a mid-term, 10-page paper or some other class project. Deadlines create urgency.
Do you need create some movement in your life? Simply adding a deadline to your activity may be all you need to move out of the boat, and out on the water where God is working!
What do you need to put a deadline on?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
My wife and I love dreaming big dreams about our future, and about what God is doing in our lives and in our family. Not only do we like to think about our work and our goals for projects etc… we like to dream about vacations, events we want to be a part of and special trips we hope to take. One of the realities we have observed is this: If we don’t put those things on the calendar, they rarely come to be.
A couple of months ago, Traci and I had the privilege of teaching our couples’ small group at church. It’s a class of 12-15 couples that we enjoy being with every Wednesday night. Back in November, we were given the chance to teach two of our weekly classes.
During those two sessions, we talked a lot about goals and dreams, and about this idea of getting them on the calendar. Well just a few days ago I was talking with my pastor and he told me, “Kori and I bought our books.” I asked what books he was referring to, and he talked about the books that would prepare them for their dream vacation 2-3 years out. They’ve put it on the calendar and now they can start preparing to enjoy it, and watching to see what God will do in the weeks and months to come as they steer towards this special trip.
But this idea of putting a date on the calendar isn’t just good for vacations and dream trips, it’s good for goals and plans etc… For example, after coming back from a conference in California, I knew it was time for me to tackle a challenge, both physical and mental. It would be easy to put this activity -- running a 1/2 marathon with my wife -- on the “to-do” list that would never quite finish. Mind you, me not running a 1/2 marathon is a to-do list item I wouldn’t mind leaving unfinished!
However, since I know this run means more to me than just completing a physical challenge (it is symbolic of theme God has put in my life) I had to put a date on it. My first half marathon is on the calendar for October 5th; Traci and I will be running together (along with a couple of other friends who will be running both the 1/2 and the full marathon). The date brings a certain urgency and expectation to the commitment.
What do you have on your dream list, goal list or to-do list that needs to get put on a calendar? Want to multiply the success rate of that particular event? Then don’t just put it on calendar, but announce it others, too. The extra accountability creates even more potential for you to experience success.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Are you pursuing some great plans in your life? Check out Project Nehemiah from the Overboard Bookstore. It’s ON SALE for this month (only $8.99), and includes free shipping!
Ultimately, every change you want tot make in your life, no matter how “big” or “small,” boils down to every individual choice you make. My wife loves this saying: “How you do anything, is how you do every thing.” In other words, the way you approach the little things in life is how you will approach the big things in life. And this is never more true than when it comes to how we create change.
In 2014 I’m eager to shed a few pounds and get back in shape. My new job is pretty stationary and I’ve reclaimed some bad habits around eating too much, working out too little, and generally not taking very good care of myself. The result has been some weight gain, a loss of energy and even my sleep has been affected. For all the great events and changes of 2013, my overall health has taken a hit.
I’d love to drop 15-20 pounds tomorrow, but barring a horrific accident involving my rear-end falling off, I’m not losing that weight in a day. That shouldn’t be too surprising, since it took a lot longer than a day to put the weight on. The weight came on little by little, choice by choice. My overall health experienced decline over the last 12 months because of hundreds choices that I’ve made along the way. Choices to sit instead of get up and exercise. Choices to go back for seconds…then thirds. While none of those choices were individually responsible for a turn in my health, all of them collectively contributed to the problem.
In the same way, all of the choices I make in 2014 can contribute to changes that will improve my health. In one sense, each individual choice won’t make the difference; I won’t lose 20 pounds, reclaim my energy and sleep better with one good choice. However, in another very real sense, each individual choice will make all the difference -- If I put a bunch of good individual choices together, the results I’m after can be a reality.
So I need to start seeing every choice as a crucial cog in the mechanism to reach my goals. I can sit here and wish all day for good health to come back to me, but if I don’t make the little choices to bring about some change, all my wishes and good intentions will result in 2014 looking a lot like 2013.
What about you and your goals? What little choices do you need to start making to see your dreams and goals for 2014 take shape? If you know what changes you want to see in your life, what daily decisions do you need to make to see them become a reality? Take some time to review your goals and dreams and then next to each one think through the choices you will want to make in order to see those dreams take shape. Next to those choices, list the actions that those choices will require.
Here’s an example based on my health goals for 2014:
- Return to the habit of taking great supplements twice a day: Take first pack in the morning with breakfast; put second pack in my pocket so I have them with me at dinner.
- Work out 4 x week: Write out on calendar each Sunday night, the 4 days I intend to workout; use 1-hour lunch time to sneak in a 30-minute work out at least 2 x week.
- Eat a low glycemic meal at least 1 x day: Work with Traci to create the menu each week; look on the calendar each week and plan ahead for travel, work meals out and other opportunities to create wins (pack good snacks in to work and in the car so I can try to eliminate those moments where I’m starving and tempted to stop and eat anything that’s nearby and fast!)
Now it’s your turn. Lay out your goals (ie. “Improve my health”). List some choices for each goal (ie. “Return to the habit of taking great supplements twice a day”). Then write down the action steps you need to take to make those choices, and ultimately your goals, a reality.
The Overboard Life is based on the reality that by the grace of God, you and I have the capacity to make big changes in our lives. Left to ourselves, we’re in trouble, limited to our own strength, ideas and knowledge of the future. But in God’s hands we have His limitless resources and can find ourselves secure in Him, knowing He knows the future. That freedom makes it possible for us to be changed into who He wants us to be, so we can do what He wants us to do. Change is possible because God makes it possible! Goals and dreams can become reality, because God has given us the freedom (in Him) to make them a reality!
So what are you after in 2014? Ready to start working on becoming the parent God wants you to be? Ready, with God’s help, to make your marriage work? Ready to start obeying God’s Word to “honor your father and mother” in 2014? Do you have health goals? Business goals?
Go ahead and take the plunge -- life is always better on the water!
This is part 3 of a 4-part blog about the New Year. My wife and I are tag-teaming to create these special blogs, so be sure to read part 4, tomorrow, at www.tracicast.wordpress.com. If you missed parts 1 and/or 2, just click here to read them: Part 1 // Part 2