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Royal Weddings and Real Marriages

In just a few days the world will experience a royal wedding. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed and the world will watch. Prince Harry is the son of the first royal couple that I recall catching the world’s eye. I remember watching as Prince Charles and Diana Spencer wed in 1981. I had just finished my 9th grade year and our family was moving from Wake Forest to Washington that summer. I was in Charlotte at a summer Bible and Music Institute put on by the church denomination we were a part of. People talked about the wedding and even woke up early to watch it. It is estimated that over 1 billion people watched that wedding.

Why are we so enamored with a royal wedding? Some of it has to do with the fact that most people see it as some sort of fairytale. It is one of the few times in real life that we get to use the word prince and princess as actual titles for a real people. Another reason for our affinity is that most people want their wedding to be a fairytale. They actually want their marriage to be a fairytale, which is where the tension evolves. What is the difference between a royal wedding and a real marriage? What happens between the wedding and the marriage? Let’s see if we can identify what some of the traps are and why our marriage may not resemble our wedding day.

Royal Weddings

On our wedding day we want everything to be perfect. We have worked tirelessly to make sure that everything is exactly like we want it. We search for the right venue, the the best caterer and the photographer with the best eye. Usually there is some form of premarital counseling. We choose the right people to be in the wedding and our family plays a prominent role. The groom tends to be very agreeable to whatever the bride wants and everyone works to support them. We practice before the big day to make sure everyone knows their role. We pray that everything will come off perfectly. The ceremony is centered around love and God’s word. There are many people doing many different duties to make sure everything works perfectly. So many hours and so much energy goes into making that day the best that it can be. Months of preparation culminate into a 30 minute ceremony that seems to pass in seconds and then we are married. We soon find our marriage does not match our wedding and we wonder what happened.

Real Marriages

For all of the effort that goes into the wedding day, that same effort begins to wane after we get married. Instead of looking for the best, we just get by. Instead of being agreeable, we start to want our way. Instead of spiritual things being at the center of everything it gets moved to the borders of our life. We avoid counseling and often resist the help of friends and family who want us to succeed. Instead of making sure our lives are filled with just the right people we allow less than positive influences into our lives. We make decisions independently and don’t take time to run through the process first with those who are involved. We spend hours on our jobs, our hobbies, parenting and a myriad of other things while our marriage gets the leftover time that we have. Then we wonder why our marriage is not the fairytale that our wedding was. It is because we do almost everything opposite in our marriage as we did for our wedding.

If we could carry over the effort, energy, planning and preparation to our marriage that we have for our wedding, we might find that our marriage looked more like the fairytale that we desired. As a matter of fact, I would encourage couples to be intentional about making their marriage great and accept a wedding that is less than perfect if necessary. The wedding lasts for moments. We want the marriage to last a lifetime.

Why Am I Not Successful?

One thing is for certain, everyone wants to be successful. Every single person wants to feel like they have accomplished something significant with their life. We want to feel like we are living with purpose and achieving the things we were designed to do.

Most people do experience many successes in their lives, however, they would tell you they are not successful. If you asked them why they did not feel successful, you would probably not get a very clear answer. Some of that is because we don’t want to be arrogant or assuming. But there are several more reasons why people feel like they are not a success. Here are three common reasons why people feel unsuccessful.

We Have a Limited View of Success

Culture often dictates what we view as success. Much of what culture views as success is centered around money, power and sexuality. If we have achieved what we consider to be a lot of money or a lot of influence or we are noticed for the way we look, we feel like we are successful. The problem is these three areas are so limited. Certainly there is value in having resources, influence and being desired (at least by our spouse), but they are not the only measures of success. Living healthy is success. Having a good marriage is success. Having peace in our life is success. Living out our purpose is success. I have seen people make plenty of money but lose their family only to realize the money was not a good measure of success. Success involves so many things and often power, money and sexuality play only a very small role in it. Broadening our view of success will help us to see the areas where we are successful.

We Have Not Defined Success

Even when we are sure of the areas of life that we consider to be important for our personal success we may not have defined what success looks like in that area. We struggle with two words: “more” and “enough”. If money is our measure of success, what is enough? There seems to be the pull to always want more. If power is our measure of success, what is enough? We have some confidence with how we look, but want to look better. Our marriage or children are never good enough. I am not talking about personal growth or continual improvement. These should always be a part of our lives. What does success actually look like? Have you given yourself a clear definition of what success looks like? Or are you chasing some fuzzy goal that you can never seem to achieve? Do you constantly say “One day I will get there”, only to have no idea where “there” is? Defining success for our lives will relieve some pressure, give us direction and help us know how we are honestly doing.

We Are Measuring By Someone Else

One of our struggles is that we compare our lives to someone else’s and then don’t feel like we have accomplished all that they have. They may or may not be successful, but their definition of success may also be different than yours. One of the magnifiers of this problem in our culture is social media. We view everyone’s highlight reel while living out our entire movie. Based on those comparisons, we think we are not doing as good as they are. Have you ever seen a movie preview and thought that it would be a great movie only to find out when you watched the whole movie that all of the good parts were in the trailer? If you saw everyone else’s entire movie, you would feel better about your own. Live by your own definition of success and don’t allow comparison to trap you.

All of us can be successful. When we have a correct, defined view of success in our lives we will feel better about our own situations. Live out your own life of success, not what someone else has decided success is for you.

5 Ideas for Overcoming Jealousy

There are a number of emotions that can creep in and test us. Things like an anger, selfishness, fear, hopelessness, insecurity and arrogance are just a few. One of the most dangerous emotions we can experience is jealousy. Jealousy usually involves personal relationships which makes our response even more critical. The Bible addresses jealousy in Proverbs like this, “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” (Proverbs 27:4 NLT). Jealousy is more dangerous than anger and wrath.

When we are struggling with jealousy, we cannot seem to think about anything else other than the object of that jealousy. Those thoughts consume every idle moment we have. We typically don’t want this to be the case, but can’t seem to find a way out. Here are some helpful suggestions for the times when we find yourself trapped by jealousy.

Know Who You Are
One of the struggles with jealousy is that we are not confident in who we are. We are aware of our own flaws and shortcomings yet only see everyone else’s highlight reel. Comparison is dangerous. Most people are a little too hard on themselves and struggle with overall self confidence. This is not true for everyone, but most people try to avoid being arrogant which will often cause them to avoid confidence. Everyone is a 10 at something. We cannot be like everyone else, but we can live with confidence in the talents and abilities that we already have.

Shift Your Focus

One of the problems with jealousy is that we are often looking at the wrong thing. We focus on what we feel as a slight or a mistreatment when we could be focusing on what good things we have or what good things may be happening. We may be focusing on one small event, conversation or action and not taking the entire picture into account. As the old saying goes, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Improve Who You Are

There may be times when we have a deficiency that is creating the tension that leads to jealousy. We truly may need to step up and raise the bar in our own life. This may be taking a course, practicing our trade or getting assistance from someone who is ahead of us. Personal growth should always be a part of our life, but sometimes it requires intentional focus on a particular area to help us escape the jealousy trap.

Practice Trust

Sometimes you have to trust people even when they have not earned it. It is easy to trust those who have earned it, however, those people are usually not the object of our jealousy. How would your situation change or look differently if you gave someone the benefit of the doubt? What if you chose to believe them even when it was difficult? I do not mean we should place ourselves in harm’s way, but we can put trusting others into practice everyday. As we do, trust grows and jealousy wanes.

Be Generous

Selfishness is a sign and usually a precursor to jealousy. We are only thinking about how we feel in a particular situation. Practicing generosity is one of the greatest cures to selfishness and jealousy. One of the best ways to be generous is in our praise of others who are getting what it is we want. Cheering the blessings in other’s lives helps us overcome jealousy as effectively as anything we can do.

We all struggle at times with jealousy. Knowing how to overcome it effectively will allow us to quickly move on and not find ourselves in a situation we regret. Jealousy is dangerous. Don’t allow it to linger.

Blossoms Are Beautiful, But Temporary

Spring brings blooms that are beautiful to see. Trees, flowers and plants begin to show new signs of life and are a reminder that the season is changing from a gloomy winter to warmer weather. As beautiful as these blooms are, they are only temporary. Depending on the species, some blooms last longer than others, but at best they will only be around for a short time. In the world of botany, there are many other things that are important to the life of that tree or plant. If we make a judgment based solely on the beauty of a plant’s bloom, we may miss some important indicators signaling for attention.

I find the same to be true in life and with people. People have moments when they blossom and their beauty attracts a lot of attention; moments when we begin to notice an individual, their accomplishments or activities. The problem is that we often become enamored with that shining moment. We don’t take the time to examine the underlying character or ability of that person and later find ourselves disappointed when they aren’t what we thought. The blossoms serve a purpose, but there is more to the tree than the blossom. What can we learn from this as it relates to life and people?

They Serve A Purpose

Blossoms are beautiful. They catch our attention. There are entire festivals around the blossoming of trees, such as the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. But beauty is not the only benefit. Blossoms play a large role in pollination process. They provide pollen for pollinators such as bees and initiate cross-pollination necessary for the trees to reproduce by producing fruit. Before you gripe about the new shade of yellow your car has acquired from the pollen clouds, understand that it is part of the life giving process of trees and plants.

Sometimes it is talent or opportunity or personality or appearance that gets the attention of the right people. All of those attention-grabbers serve a broader purpose as well. Not only do they get the attention of others, they multiply that person’s results when everything else is strong. A person with great talent and strong character can accomplish incredible things that someone with only one of these attributes may be able to do.

They Are Lost With The Least Disturbance

We have a cherry blossom tree in our yard and it is beautiful when it blooms. The white and pink blooms are incredible. But, the slightest wind creates what looks like a snowstorm in the Spring. As the wind blows, the petals detach and float to the ground and make a mess instead of a beautiful blossom. Occasionally, one the grandchildren will climb the tree and the simple shaking of the branch from the weight of a six-year-old gets the same result. Even though they are temporary, the slightest disturbance shortens even further their temporary beauty.

It has been said that talent will open doors for you but character will keep you in the room. That is true. Talent without character is temporary. Talent, beauty or personality that is not grounded in a strong foundation can be lost with the least little disturbance. Lives get turned upside down very quickly when the things people were depending on are only surface level and shallow.

There Could Be Disease

The beauty of the blossom often causes us to ignore potential underlying problems. The tree itself could be diseased or have an insect infestation. I recall a story in the Bible depicting Jesus visiting a tree in order to get a fig but there was no fruit. It apparently had the signs of having fruit, but it was barren. There was a problem that could not be seen without examination. A bright leaf or beautiful blossom may distract us from things we should be looking for..

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this in businesses when hiring an employee or with individuals looking for a mate. They pass an eye test or an ear test and they don’t look for more important underlying problems. Then you hear things such as “I had no idea they were like that” or “it was like they were a completely different person”. I am not saying that people don’t change, but usually the problem occurs because we were enamored with the wrong things and missed the most important things.

I hope you are enjoying your spring and catching the beauty of the blossoms and blooms that are showing up all around. Just be aware that they are only a small part of the process. Enjoy their beauty while you can but understand that life is bigger than a blossom.

4 Ways to Navigate the Twists and Turns of Life

Are you where you expected to be 20 years ago? Are you doing what you thought you would be doing? Is your life today what you planned for it to be or envisioned it to be when you were younger? For some, there may be similarities. For a limited few, it may look exactly as you expected. For most, things look completely different than what they thought it might.

As a kid we dream of what we are going to be when we grow up. That changes as we get older and by the time we begin choosing our vocation or tackling life, we often are surprised with where we are and what is happening. Sometimes life has thrown us a curveball and we are dealing with a different set of circumstances than we expected. It could be the loss of someone in our life that is significant to us. The economy could have tanked or technology could have changed a field. We could have changes in our health or many other areas of our life.

These twists and turns do not just come prior to starting on our career journey, they continue to happen throughout our lifetime. The question is not whether you will face sudden changes or challenges. The question is usually how will you deal with them. Here are four ways that will help you navigate some of the challenges of life.

Margin

One of the reasons that sudden changes cause us so many problems is because we have no margin in our lives. We have every plate available spinning on a stick. When one of them needs attention it causes the other plates we have spinning to lose their balance. We leave no margin for error or change. Margin in our time, finances or health allows us to deal with sudden changes or challenges without creating a crisis in every other area of our life. Margin keeps everything from being an emergency because we have room to absorb the change.

Preparation

There is an old proverb that says “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. One of the reasons these twists and turns create such turmoil in our lives is because we have not prepared very well. There are things we can do before we get married that will make us a better spouse. We can prepare for the new job or promotion we desire. We can prepare our bodies with exercise and proper diet. We can prepare to retire both financially and the things we want to do with our time. We can prepare to be parents, leaders, business owners or any other thing we may attempt in our life. Not only that, we can continue to grow after we start down a path so that we stay prepared.

Determination

Sometimes we just need grit. I recently listened to a book about the importance of grit, or sheer determination, and the role in plays in success. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and be determined to endure for a little while. Determinations keeps us from giving up in the dips of life. You are not alone in facing challenges. Usually we can overcome them by just being willing to endure for a short period of time.

Flexibility

Stuff happens. I have heard that said a few different ways. One of the greatest qualities you can have when dealing with the challenges of life is to be flexible. Adaptability will allow you to work through the twists and turns of life without breaking or getting “bent out of shape”. Flexibility allows you to accommodate other people, new opportunities and emerging changes on the horizon. Flexibility in life will broaden relationships and allow you to experience more things than you could if everything was so rigid. There may be some things that you should not be flexible about, but they will be very limited.

You are not alone dealing with curveballs in your life. There are some ways that you can better deal with them. Don’t be overwhelmed. Be prepared.

4 ways to make better choices

Everyday we are faced with choices. Some of those choices are simple while others are much more complex. Some have very few consequences while others may affect us for the rest of our lives. Some of our choices are daily like what to eat or what to wear. Others may be one-time decisions like who to marry or where to live. Some choices we make in nanoseconds while others may need weeks of consideration.

If we are constantly making choices, how can we better make those decisions when faced with a choice? Good decision making does not happen by accident. Occasionally we will get lucky, but usually making the right choice is influenced by a number of things. Here are four tips to help you make better choices.

Review Previous Choices

This is one of the easiest ways to help you make better choices: simply think through the choices you have previously made. Understanding both the good and bad choices that you have made will assist you with your current decision. Why did you make a choice? What was the result? Did things turn out the way you expected? What did you miss? Your past choices should be learning experiences that guide you in your future choices.

Get Advice

There are people who have faced the same decisions you are facing and can offer valuable feedback on your process. Most people are willing to offer feedback based on their own experience. Sometimes a little insight from someone else will give you the clarity that you need to proceed with confidence.

Do What Is Right

When there is a clear right choice, do what is right. This makes things simple. Many times we try to make things gray that are much more black and white. Some decisions are good or bad. Some are good, better or best. But a great deal of the decisions we make have a clear right and a clear wrong choice. When right or wrong is clear, always choose right.

Choose People

Many of our decisions involve others. When possible, we should choose what is best for the people involved, not just what is best for ourselves. This can be difficult at times. Sometimes our choices may cause temporary pain but are best for everyone involved in the long run. Other times, it just requires us to sacrifice our selfishness for the betterment of everyone. People matter and they especially matter when we are making choices that affect them.

Don’t allow choices to paralyze you. Learn how to make better ones. Don’t live in fear because you have made some bad choices previously. Learn from them. It has been said that we are the sum of the choices we have made. That being the case, let us learn to make better choices so that our sum is greater in the future.

6 Ways To Deal With Weakness

Weaknesses are not something we like to talk about. As a matter of fact, the average person is probably not even aware of their weaknesses. When we are, our response is usually shame or embarrassment. I am a firm believer that you should work towards your strengths, but I also believe you must be aware of your weaknesses and the limitations they present. Every single person has weaknesses; places where they struggle or are not as productive or efficient as they are in other areas. Weaknesses should not be an excuse for constant problems and mistakes. There are ways to deal with weaknesses that will allow you to accomplish more and avoid pitfalls that weaknesses can create.

I am not talking about weaknesses of character. I am speaking about gifts, talents and abilities. Character weaknesses must be corrected or eventually they will overcome any strength you may have. Character weaknesses cannot be ignored or avoided. They must be dealt with immediately. Understanding your performance weaknesses though, will help you avoid certain pitfalls and disasters.

There are numerous tests and evaluations that will help you understand what your weaknesses are and help you evaluate them and how they may be affecting your life. There are lots of tools and resources available that can help you magnify the things that you are best at while dealing with things that trip you up. Here are some things about weaknesses that are important and will help you navigate life much better.

Know it

The first step in dealing with the weak areas of your life is to know what they are. You have them. We all have them. For most of us, we are at least aware of them in the back of our mind. I have met people who seemed oblivious to their weaknesses. In the early weeks of the season, the television show “American Idol” tends to exclusively ai

r contestants like this. People who believe they are destined for stardom but have no clue they just cannot sing. Sometimes it is painful to watch how confidently they butcher a song, completely unaware how bad it is. Take time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses so that you do not find yourself on a big stage embarrassed because you were completely unaware. Knowing your weaknesses is the first step in becoming more effective in your life.

Say it
Verbalize your weaknesses to the people around you. Not necessarily to everyone, but certainly to the people closest to you like family, close friends, coworkers and people who I would consider valuable on your life journey. I have met people who felt like revealing their weaknesses made them weaker with the people they led or worked with. I have found that to be quite the opposite. Usually they already know what your weaknesses are. If they know you very well, they have probably made an observation or two. Saying them out loud relieves some of the pressure and gives you even more credibility with those people because they see that you are self aware. Weaknesses do not have to be advertised on social media but there are forums where it is necessary to talk about them.

Get help with it

When you know and verbalize your areas of weakness, it opens the door for others to step up and help you. Though it may be a weakness for you, there are others for whom the same thing is a strength. Some of those people will gladly pick up the slack because they find fulfillment in the things you struggle with the most. When you know and verbalize these things, often people will come along beside you without you seeking them out. Other times you have to be intentional about inviting them in. Either way, there is help available for the places where you struggle the most.

Delegate it

Delegation is difficult for most people, but delegating your weaknesses is one of the most effective things you can do. The struggle with this is that we often start insecure about our weaknesses anyway and then we have to turn those responsibilities over to someone else. Delegation allows you to be more effective at the things you are best at while being more effective in the other areas at the same time because you are allowing someone else to use their strengths.

Avoid it

Look for opportunities that play to your strengths instead of your weaknesses and seek to avoid things that require you to lean too hard on areas of weakness. When you are aware, this will allow you to be selective about the things you get involved in. From careers to volunteer opportunities, avoiding situations where you have to depend on these areas will help you succeed and make what you are doing that much more enjoyable.

Improve it

There are rarely things that we cannot improve in our life. Back to the American Idol example, most people can improve their vocal skills with some coaching and practice. They may never arrive at superstar level, but they can become respectable and certainly not embarrassing.  If you are a level 3 or 4 out of 10 at something, you may be able to raise that level to a 5 or 6. Though not proficient enough to be called a strength, it can be utilized effectively when necessary. You should not spend enormous amounts of time attempting to improve a weakness, but spending some time can certainly be valuable.

There is no way to avoid having weaknesses. It is part of how we are all created differently. Understanding them and how to deal with them will make our life much easier. Using these 6 tips will help you in your weakest areas.

4 Ways To Avoid Settling

Recently I wrote about the Dangers of Settling It is a temptation that all of us face in almost every area of our life. Our marriages get stuck. We settle in our careers. We accept whatever is happening with our children. We get in a rut in our organizations. We often excuse the situation with sayings like “it is what it is” or “I am satisfied”.

Many times when we settle our intentions are good. We may have stopped for a little while to rest. Things may be better than they were so we don’t want to disrupt the improvement. There are good things happening even though they are not the things we desired. We measure ourselves by other’s opinions and do what they think is best. Besides, it is easier to keep something in motion than it is to get something started.

If settling is dangerous, are there some ways we can avoid it? Can we create some systems or put in place some habits that might help us avoid getting stuck in a place we never intended to stay? If we are aware of the dangers, I think there are some things that we can do that will help us avoid settling for less than where we are supposed to be or what we are called to do.

Try Something New

When was the last time you did something for the very first time? Trying something new will often break you out of a rut or get your attention focused on what is possible again. It does not have to be something spectacular; simply trying something new is good for you. It can be as simple as a new food, a new route to work or a different morning routine. Just try something that you have never tried before and see what kind of impact it might have. As a matter of fact, Mary Schmich says you should “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Try something new today.

Set A Deadline

There are times when we have a legitimate reason to stop where we are for a while. We may need to rest or we may need to assist someone else for a period of time. There may be a season of life that requires us to hold off on some things until a later time. One of the ways to avoid getting stuck in one of these places is to set a deadline for how long we will be there. If it is a season of rest, determine ahead of time how long that will be so that it does not turn into a permanent situation. For example, some dieters have “cheat days” built in. Sometimes those cheat day turns into a cheat week then a cheat month until they have abandoned the diet altogether. There is nothing wrong a temporary stop, but we must be careful that it doesn’t turn into a permanent location.

Make Growth A Daily Habit

Growth is not a destination, it is a lifestyle. Growth is something that we must be doing daily. It must be a part of our routine of life. There are countless ways to grow, but much of it has to do with the things we consume and the people with whom we associate. Healthy growth rarely happens by accident. We must constantly be aware of whether or not we are growing. The greatest thing growth does is to not allow us to remain the same. All change is not growth, but you cannot grow without changing. Those changes are often the very things that will help us move out of our settled place.

Ask Questions

Asking questions is a great way to get a better understanding. Sometimes we are questioning ourselves. Other times we are getting input from others. John Maxwell wrote an entire book entitled “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions”. If you are no longer questioning things, it very well may be a sign that you are stuck or settled. Simple things like “Is this where I am supposed to be?” or “Is this what I am supposed to be doing?”. Questions from others may center around effectiveness or their observations of specific things in your life. Questions are your friend. Don’t be afraid to ask them.

All of us have settled in the wrong place at times. The problem is when it becomes our permanent location. Use some of these simple methods to make sure you don’t settle for less than what you are created to do.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.