Proverbs 14:12 A Way that Seems Right

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. -Proverbs 14:12

The way can often be treacherous, especially for those whose arrogance blinds their steps. Better to be humble and welcome correction. This is how we guard our lives from the pitfalls and the snares.

Proverbs 13:20 Raising Your Average

“Walk with the wise and you become wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” -Proverbs 13:20

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you look around at the people you spend your time with, do they elevate you or bring you down? Do they challenge you to grow in wisdom or lead you down a path of destruction?

This is a challenge I present to my son: Consider carefully who choose to spend your time with. It is also a challenge I present to myself. Who are the ones I talk to the most on the phone? Who are the ones at work that I can spend time with who will make me a better person?

If you feel like your “average” is a little low, seek out the ones who can raise it. Walk with the wise and become wise.

Proverbs 12:14 Producing Fruit

“A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth,”

The tongue has the power to lift up and the power to destroy. How will you use it today? Will it bear fruit edifying those around you? And if not, would it not be better to stay silent? By lifting others up, by bearing fruit with our mouths, we nourish other souls. And for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction (Newton’s Third Law of Motion). This is karma. How satisfying indeed!

“and the recompense of man’s hands will be rendered to him.”

Our hands were made for action. If they are idle, there will be no rewards. But if they work, they will receive their just due. What will your hands do on this day? Will they be used as they were designed?

To Take Your Reading to the Next Level: Use OPIR

One Take from the Week #8: OPIR

I cannot recall how many times I have found myself bogged down in the middle of a book that either lost my interest or was not pertinent to where I was in my life. Unless it is for pleasure (fiction before bed), I generally only read non-fiction. This is for the dual purpose of learning and growing. If I am not getting anything out of the book, then I consider it a waste of time. As William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” My goal is not to have time as something I use the worst.

How can I make the most of my time and prevent a loss of it through wasted reading? I could quit the book like I mentioned in yesterday’s post. This would allow me to discontinue my investment in an underperforming asset. But there is another way. This week I listened to a Living 4D podcast with Paul Check and Ben Greenfield. In this episode, they discussed a method I have heard of from other prolific readers but have never tried personally. It is called OPIR, a way to know what you are reading before you invest (or waste) the time it takes to read the whole thing.

OPIR – Overview, Preview, Inview, Review.

*This strategy was designed to use speed reading techniques to get through business manuals. However, I am not a speed reader. I have tried it and never liked it. It might keep me behind the curve, but I prefer to read at conversational speed. Because I am not a speed reader, the following is my adaptions to the original design.

Overview

  • Start with the cover.
  • Look at the front and the back.
  • Read the information inside the jacket.
  • If you are not familiar with the author, then read the bio.
  • Look at the table of contents. Are you still interested? If yes, then move on to the next step.

Preview

  • Read the foreword and the afterword.
  • Go to each chapter and read the first couple of paragraphs. Skim the rest of the chapter and highlight anything that stands out to you.
  • Is the book worth the investment in time you are about the make? Proceed.

Inview

  • Read the book.
  • Highlight content.
  • Make notes.
  • During the overview and preview, you read the table of contents and glimpsed each chapter. Was there one that you did not find relevant or interesting? Skip it. If at the end, you feel like you missed something, you can always go back to it.

Review

  • Go over your notes and highlights.
  • Take any actionable steps.
  • Hopefully, this book changed your life in some way. The review process is intended to solidify those changes.

Using this process to read a book might cost you a day’s worth of reading. Compare that to a week or a month’s worth wasted in a book that was not beneficial to you. This strategy will improve the value of the content, keep you from wasting your time, and give you a greater ability to retain the information. Give it a try. If you do, I would love to know how it worked out for you. Leave me a note in the comments.

Wisdom First

Does anybody begin life wishing for wisdom? Is that what one wants to be when they get older? Or is it a good job, a big house, lots of money, and of course lots of stuff? And when we come to the end, to our deathbeds, will any of those things matter? Hoping to have it ready available to you in the afterlife, will you bury your wealth with you like the kings of old?

“Yes, getting your wish would have been so nice. But isn’t that exactly why pleasure trips us up? Instead, see if these things might be even nicer—a great soul, freedom, honesty, kindness, saintliness. For there is nothing so pleasing as wisdom itself, when you consider how sure-footed and effortless the works of understanding and knowledge are.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5:9

Ah wisdom, that which Solomon chose first and foremost when God asked him what he wanted most. Imagine the djinn bursting forth from the lamp granting you any wish you desired, what would you say? Would you choose riches, power, or maybe a long life? Or would you, like Solomon, ask for wisdom? Riches come and go. Power is fleeting. Even a long life eventually comes to an end. But wisdom, it was there in the beginning and will be there in the end.

“How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is preferable to silver.” –Proverbs 16:16

Yet so often, we go for the riches first. It is the gold we are after, thinking that’s the vehicle that will get us to all the places we want to go. But if going for the riches is our priority, when will we go for the wisdom?

“Riches have shut off many a man from the attainment of wisdom; poverty is unburdened and free from care…After you have come to possess all other things, shall you then wish to possess wisdom also? Is philosophy to be the last requisite in life—a sort of supplement? Nay, your plan should be this: be a philosopher now, whether you have anything or not—for if you have anything, how do you know that you have not too much already?—but if you have nothing, seek understanding first, before anything else. “But,” you say, “I shall lack the necessities of life.” In the first place, you cannot lack them; because nature demands but little, and the wise man suits his needs to nature.”  –Seneca, Letter 17: On Philosophy and Riches

My wish is that you would push to become a millionaire. Oh, don’t get me wrong, not exchanging in gold but in the currency of wisdom.

“There is something infinitely better than to be a millionaire of money, and that is to be a millionaire of brains, of culture, of helpfulness to one’s fellows, a millionaire of character –a gentleman.” –Orison Swett Marden, Pushing to the Front

A Father’s Instruction

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That was one question that as a child, I could never answer. I didn’t know. Sometimes, I still think I don’t know when I grow up. When I was a child, it was all interesting to me. To pick one thing to be was absurd. I didn’t think there was a limit to my capabilities. If it was humanly possible, it was in the realm of possibility for me. There was just one problem. How would I learn? I didn’t grow up with YouTube. It didn’t exist back then. Role models? They were out there, but I didn’t know how to ask or even if I was allowed to ask. The possibilities were in my imagination, but unfortunately that is where they were left to lie dormant.

The best Christmas I ever had.

Of course, I loved getting presents at Christmas when I was a kid. Who doesn’t? But toys only have so much shelf-life. Soon they get forgotten about or discarded. Some other kid has something better that leads to the never-ending desire to acquire more.

There was one Christmas that I will never forget. It was the best one and came in my early thirties. I think it was the second Christmas with my wife. We had just moved to a new house in Tallahassee and her parents came up for the holiday. When it was my turn to receive a gift, I was told to cover my eyes. I did and soon my imagination ran wild as a key was placed in my hand. Eyes still covered and clutching that key, I was led out to the garage. Little did I know that my life was going to change when I opened my eyes. In the garage was a red, shiny, brand new…toolbox. That Christmas, I got all the tools every guy should have. Sixteen years later, I still use them on a regular basis. Here was the beginning of some of the possibilities I imagined when I was a youth.

Before I met my Father-in-law, Hank, I never worked on a car. I never worked on a house. I don’t think I ever built anything that wasn’t preassembled. After being married to his daughter for almost seventeen years, I can say that has all changed. Most of what I learned how to do over the years has in some way or shape been because of what I have learned from him, even if the lesson was in the possibilities that it could be done.

How much money have I saved over the years doing my own work? Does the money even compare to what I will be able to teach my own son as he grows into a man? That is actually the greatest gift. If I would have had children before I met Hank, I would not have been able to teach them much in the ways of self-reliance. My only advice would have been to get a good job that can pay for the things you want or need to fix.

The old man (said with the greatest respect) has many admirable qualities: A Marine veteran. A teacher. He is able to carry a tune, sling a gun from horseback, and fix about anything that could be fixed. He has been married to the same lady for almost fifty years, a feat that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. I probably can’t scratch the surface of what this man can do or what he has taught me over the years. I call him Hank, but in truth I should just call him father. He took me in and taught me things I wished I would have learned in my youth. He has always been patient with me, willing to go a little slower in order that I may understand. He has treated me as a true son and by his example taught me how to be a good father. Much of what I am today, I owe to the lessons he taught me.

Hush and Listen

 

The scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for the intelligent. –Proverbs 14:6

If a student mocks his professor or the professor’s lessons, he will never learn. Emerson said, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” If you believe everyone has something of value that you can learn, then being humble and respectful is your best means to acquire this type of education. Well, actually there is one more thing you need, and it is something you can’t do if you are talking.

img_5169
Merriam-Webster

You need to listen. Not only with your ears, even though that is a good place to start, but you need to listen with your whole body. You need to be observant. You need to watch others. You need to read what they write. The signs pointing you in the direction you need to go are out there. All you have to do is pay attention to them. Watch. Listen. Learn.

Alec has gotten into the habit lately of always saying, “I know.” It bothers me because I was the same way at his age. I was a know-it-all and it prevented me from learning more. When you are blessed with a few fast-firing synapses, the brain sometimes has trouble dealing with pride. And if pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:8), thinking you have knowledge that you don’t is a recipe for disaster.

According to the Army (FM 24-18), communication is made up of two parts: the sender and the receiver. Breakdowns between the two can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Such an occurrence may be the reason why the French language is not considered a universal language and Napoleon isn’t considered some god-like figure in our history books.

Who lost the battle of Waterloo?

There are many reasons why the French did not win this battle. It could have been Marshal Ney’s insane decision to send wave after wave of French cavalry against British squares, resulting in a loss of over 8,000 men and their horses. There are few historians that like the point the finger at Emmanuel, Marquis de Grouchy. He was a newly installed Marshal of France and led part of l’Armée du Nord. He was supposed to prevent the Prussians from entering the battle. The communication he received from his emperor, Napoleon, was not clear to him. The messages he sent back were even more confusing, but Napoleon brushed it off. As a result, the Prussians entered the battle and a third of l’Armée du Nord never made it to the fight.

Finally, I triumphed even at Waterloo, and was immediately hurled into the abyss. On my right, the extraordinary maneuvers of Grouchy, instead of securing victory, completed my ruin. –Napoleon Bonaparte*

img_5308
Just finished this account by Bernard Cornwell. Truly an amazing read.

The scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, because he is in a constant state of poor communication. The wisdom coming to him is broken and distorted. Why? Because the scoffer keeps stepping over the sender’s information. In other words, he can’t take his finger on the microphone button long enough to hear the call on the radio. The sender is doing his part, but the scoffer can’t receive the knowledge.

Turn up the television and try to read a thought-provoking book. It is hard to do. The intelligent get this. They know to filter out the noise, including their own noises, and concentrate on the information coming in. The intelligent are listening. They are observing. Gathering knowledge this way is easy.

My son:

You think you know it. But even if you do, be patient and listen. You may just learn something different. It isn’t always easy to do this. I know. I have struggled with it myself. But if you want to grow in knowledge, this is the way. Now hush, my child. Listen. Observe. Learn. Knowledge is there, waiting for you to receive it.


*Charles Angelique Francois Huchet comte de La Bedoyere, The Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of Napoleon Bonaparte Vol. 2 (London: George Virtue, 1827) 815. Taken from https://napoleon-series.org

The Skeleton Keys #3: Give to the World

Charity 11/27/2019

I doubt it began with the Egyptian pharaohs, but they are a good starting point. They amassed huge fortunes when they were alive. And when they died, they took their wealth with them to their burial chambers. Why? Maybe they thought they could it would help them in the next life. Better safe than sorry, right? And today, what’s the legacy left for the world? A few monuments and recovered artifacts.

Now, think of the old man. The one you know or the one you have heard about. His goal in life was to accumulate wealth. He was that crabby old guy that living only for himself. He was a hoarder of gold without a charitable bone in his body. When he dies, he will probably do everything in his power to take his loot with him into the next world. And what of his legacy? For a short time, he will be remembered as an old rich guy that died alone. And then as the decades go by, he too will be forgotten.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13

The greatest sacrifice you make in this world is dying for another. We don’t hear of these feats too often. But when we do, we never forget this ultimate sacrifice. The soldier doesn’t think of the consequences when he crosses that barrier between life and death. He is only thinking that he will cross instead of those around him.

I have always attributed these words in John 15:13, as the end-all be-all for a show of love. And it is, but is there a second best show of love? What could we do now in this world while we are still alive?

A small deviation about responsibility and employment…

When I was younger, I only lived for myself. It was childish. When I got married and had a child. I had to put away childish things and start living for the good of two other people. This is far better than living for just myself. Being responsible for three raises the stakes. It adds a little positive pressure in my life to do the right things.  I hold a certain value in my family’s life. They need me. Oh yes if I was to go away, they would move on. They would find a way to survive. In a sense, it is kind of similar to an employer/employee relationship.

An employer needs an employee. Terminate the relationship and both will find a way to move on and survive. Until then, their relationship is based on a contract. The greater the perceived value of the employee, the greater the compensation the employer will be willing to pay.

Back to the second best show of love…

There is a great joy in being able to help others. The more I help others, the greater the joy and drive to help even more. It brings value to my life and to the lives I touch. I may not have the opportunity to make the ultimate show of love, but I can do the next best thing: I can give my “living” life to my family, to my friends, and to those around me. I can give it to the world in an attempt to make it a better place.

Why the comparison to employment? If you live only for yourself and your contract ends between you and the world, the world will move on. It will forget about you like you forgot about your co-worker who was terminated last year. But if you live for the good of the world, the world will take notice and compensate* you based on your perceived value. Your legacy will be determined by how long you can stay in the memory of those you reached. For example, imagine Shakespeare whose writings will probably be with us in some form until the world is no more.

The first skeleton key to success is to combine your faith with your works. The second is to hope in your own self. The third skeleton key to success is to give it to the world. This is success that goes beyond the grave. It goes beyond our actual time on this planet. Of the billions of people throughout the ages, we have the opportunity to leave our mark by creating a legacy the world will remember.

 

To do more for the world than the world does for you –that is success. –Henry Ford

 

*This could be in other forms of compensation, not just financial.

 

The Skeleton Keys #2: Hope in Yourself

Hope 11/23/2019

America, the land of opportunity. It is the reason so many come to this country. They want a better life than what is possible by staying in their own countries. Here is a chance to live the rags to riches story. Here is the chance for success that they dream of.

This is why my father’s ancestors came to America in the late 1600’s. It is why my mother’s family, fleeing from religious persecution and the threat of communism, came over 300 years later in the late 1960’s. They wanted the freedom to pursue a better life, and not just for them but for their families and their future generations.

As a kid, I didn’t understand the sacrifices that were made by those who went before me. I saw the “have’s” who had more than me and considered myself a “have-not.” It was foolish, but I was young. I imagined all the things I could do if I came from a wealthy family. The aristocrats I read about in my books filled my imagination as well. It is amazing to think there was a time when people got a stipend for having a title in front of their name. Why couldn’t this have been me?

We live in a time when we can peek into the lives of celebrities and stars. We see the where they are today, but we don’t always see how they got there. Some were born with silver spoons in their mouths. Others had to earn it. It is these others that we should really look at. How did they get to where they are today?

This week, I listened to an interview with Shaun White on the Ed Mylett Show. This was the second interview I have listened to with Shaun White and was amazed to hear about his childhood. His family wasn’t wealthy. They made a lot of sacrifices so that Shaun and his siblings could get to the mountains. Where he is today wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. He had to earn it. He was willing to learn by watching the best until he became the best himself. He is a beneficiary of the America our forefathers imagined. Very little stands in the way of the one who has faith in the future and is willing to work for it.

That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well. –Abraham Lincoln

All through history, and not only in America, do we see the success some are able to achieve despite the circumstances of their childhoods. So many come from very little but are able to attain to great heights. Once again as a youth, I didn’t believe this was something available to me. What a fool! As I get older and continue to work on myself, I now have a different belief. I have a belief that I can do anything that I put my mind to and am willing to work for. If others can do it, so can I.

The first part of this skeleton key to success is to pray mightily and work hard. The second part is to have an unwavering hope in your own self. You have to believe you can do it. If the others can, so can you!

My son, do not think I have forgotten about you. These words are not just for me, but they are for you as well. Our family blood runs strong and the desire for the success of future generations continue to this day. You must believe in your abilities and work to cultivate them. Others can guide you, but they cannot do the work for you. You will have to find your own path and then walk it for yourself.

The virtues of faith, hope, and love make up these keys able to open any door closed to you. Two keys have been discussed, the third is next.

Pleasant Words

Temperance 11/12/2019

When you hear the words, you are refreshed. Invigorated. They stir your soul like a pat on the back or a gentle hand helping you up. It is a cup of hot soup on a cold winter’s day. The heat goes down to your core and warms your very being. We all yearn to hear pleasant words. They are the words that confirm your choices and justify your actions.

Think of that dog with nothing but unconditional love in his heart. Pleasant words and that tail will show it. But if you speak out in anger, that poor beast will shrink away from you, put its tail between its legs, and lower its head.

We want to hear the kind words. They are powerful and have more effectiveness than any venom a person can spew. And as bad as we all want to hear it, we can be the ones speaking them.

Imagine they that struggle. Why beat them down when you can lift them back up? Or the bitter. You could return their bitterness, but what good would that do? Return their words with sweetness and just maybe the harshness of their words will dissipate. Regardless of the outcome, you will be blameless if you return their hatred with love.

To hold your tongue when you are being attacked with words takes great discipline. To not return anger with anger takes humility. And out of love and charity, we can freely give kind words, words that cost us nothing, to those who desperately need it. It might be the difference in their lives. It might bring them the health they need to keep going.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. –Proverbs 16:24