The Gift-buying Intimidation Factor

this kid apparently does not appreciate books for Christmas

Buying gifts for nephews/nieces is more intimidating than I’d anticipated. Mental calculations for today’s shopping outing for Gavin & Owen’s 5th birthday:

1. Jan 3 birthday = just got Christmas presents, but doesn’t justify a crappy gift. Go big or go home! Wait, I still don’t have a job. Doh.
2. 5yr old gifts need to be fun and anticipate being used in short bursts of time, so don’t get something that requires much attention span, however, if the game is fun enough, these non-TV kiddos can probably handle it.
3. Having a winter birthday kind of stinks because your gifts are all ones that will be used indoors, but I really like those rockets!! (Clueless uncle act should work, no??)
4. Am I thinking of presents that I would enjoy rather than the boys?
5. What kind of present is suitable for a 5 year old, but doesn’t pose a choking/safety risk to a < 1yr old sister? 6. Why didn't I do this research on Amazon last week??!! 7. Don't they already have one of these? 8. Why don't they already have one of these?? 9. Phillip’s Toy Mart was made for adults, I’m quite sure.
10. Keep it cheap, quality, fun, educational, personal, unique, safe, age-appropriate and, and, and…!!
11. Maybe I’m over thinking this. :-/

I will hope for mercy. Thank goodness, I didn’t get books. (Found this on YouTube.)

Buy Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes


I couldn’t believe it when I stumbled across the Crane & Co. website. I’d been looking for these and even tried to recreate them because I couldn’t find where to purchase them online. My wife even tried searching for a couple hours and couldn’t locate them anywhere. That said, here they are in all their glory.

What Are Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes?

Hmm… Well, just in case you’re not a Tonight Show fan, Jimmy Fallon “writes” (actually, he scribbles a few lines while he reads) thank you notes every Friday night to random things and people. They’re the equivalent to the Jack Handy Deep Thoughts from SNL, and Jimmy has his own way of making these “Thank You’s” hilarious. People love this segment and have dedicated Tumblr feeds to it as well as other online montages. I’ve embedded a YouTube video below, so you can watch what I’m talking about.

Anyway, if you have a Jimmy Fallon fan in your life, this would make a great gift. Buy Jimmy Fallon Thank you notes from Crane & Co.

TN Capitol Prayer Day 1


My prayer for today is based around Jesus’ words in Matthew regarding obedience. “Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50b.

Heavenly Father,

I pray that you would bring your spirit of wisdom and understanding to Congress in the coming weeks and months. I pray that obedience to your Word would reign as the primary motivation in creating new legislation–not adherence to the desires of men.

You say that obedience is thicker than blood. That those who obey your Father’s will are your family. Father, would you forgive us for our selfishness? Would you give us a glimpse of what obedience to your will means for our lives?

We ask for your covering, your protection and your kindness to penetrate the walls of the Capitol. Please send your angels to stand guard around the grounds and in the offices of our representatives. May your Word set the direction and the standard for decisions made by Tennessee’s leaders.


The Happiness Equation

corvette bbq grill

Prosperity is Proportionate with Proximity to Productivity

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:2-4 NKJV

Prosperity of soul, or happiness, comes in many forms. We all know this because we seek it out daily. I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who did not want to prosper, but I meet relatively few who actually feel it.

With all the ‘things’ in life available to us, why are so few of us truly happy? Is there a formula for us to follow? Is there a way for us to dive into a task or circumstance and find that we love what we are doing?

Yes. It’s the formula that game companies have discovered and used to make us addicted to their $.99-turns-into-$99 apps. It’s the formula that psychologist have discovered and prescribed as treatment for depression. It’s why doing a seemingly menial task provides such a sense of reward. Some find it in prayer and spirituality, others in relationships, and others in work, sports or nature, but they all have something in common:

Proximity to Productivity

In my opinion and observation, this is the key. What do I mean by proximity to productivity? I mean that when your hands and knees are in the dirt of the garden that you tilled, you fertilized, you planned, you purchased seed for, you waited on rain for, you planted and now you’re harvesting, you are smack dab in the middle of your productivity. It was you. It was hard work. It was sacrifice, and it was beautiful. The sheer joy you received from being so closely tied to you the direct impact of your work could not have happened if you had hired a professional team to take care of the process from start to finish. I don’t understand it, but it’s simply the way we’re wired.

The list is infinite, but here’s a stab at a few things that give us such great joy (from a man’s perspective):

Working on cars
Playing with our children
Giving advice
Playing music
Cleaning (on our terms)
Watching football
Mowing grass
Working a shift in a soup kitchen

All of these things have a few things in common.

  1. We are involved
  2. Effort is tied to result
  3. Success is identifiable
  4. Success is measurable
  5. There is an emotional impact
  6. When we can directly impact the world around us, feel and measure the results, we as men, are deeply satisfied. It occurs all the time and if we can set ourselves up to measure and feel the positive results of our work, we are more likely to gain emotional prosperity out of every day life and work.

    The Equation at Work

    It’s not only restricted to non-work tasks, however. The formula applies in the 9-5 world, too. We just have different responsibilities and our paychecks hold us accountable to the primary tasks at hand, preventing us from doing some basic tasks that can be so fulfilling. So what is it at work that helps create prosperity? I’ll answer the question with a question: How long does it take for you to determine whether or not an action you take or a decision you make pays off? Better yet, how accurately can you determine the degree to which your decisions helped the company succeed?

    Our need to contribute to success is directly tied to these metrics. If you cannot measure your own success, you cannot take steps to improve. And if you cannot take steps to improve, then why do any work in the first place? As men, we need to feel valuable to our environment and measurement makes this possible. It’s the nature of business and in order to prosper in our work, we must create environments in which to succeed, but that success must be tied to accessible data that points to the correlation between our effort and its productivity.

    The post is not intended to dive into the myriad of measuring tools and methodologies in business, but that would be a great post for my Web Marketing blog if I ever get there.

    “But I’m a teacher,” you might be saying. “How can I even begin to measure to this degree? The system isn’t conducive to gathering metrics like this.”

    Ah, great point! Let’s expand the definition of measurement in our equation to include the intangible. A teacher’s success can come from his students’ grades on standardized tests, but that really has minimal emotional reward (relief, yes, but that’s different than emotional prosperity). Intangible measures include simple things like smiles, “thank you’s”, respect and kindness. It’s not all about dashboard reporting. If you’re working environment is not capable of creating success metrics, then create your own set of emotionally oriented measurements and keep track. It can be as simple as, “Did student A turn in her paper on time this week?”

    Small, trackable measurements, which your efforts affect, that are linked to a single emotional payoff will increase happiness.

    Parenting the Equation

    When the student has become the teacher, the equation gets flipped. You are intentionally putting distance between you and measurable success.

    Let’s take it out of the business world and put it back into every day life–father life–specifically. When a father begins to teach his son about the ways of the world and how to survive and thrive, he intentionally creates a buffer between his own effort and its result. That buffer, also known as a child, contains infinite unknowns for which there is no accountability by the father. He places trust in his child to take the instruction he’s given and carry it out to its successful progression.

    This is, by nature, far more difficult, but the equation is amplified exponentially. The emotional prosperity attained from a child’s success makes your own pale in comparison. How? Because it’s your own flesh and blood. It’s your sacrifice. It’s your blood, sweat and tears that made it possible for this person to carry out the success you were able to. You blazed the trail before him and you created an environment in which the proximity to productivity was closer for someone else. It is your child’s emotional prosperity that now affects your own, and this is where happiness shoots through the roof.

    So this Father’s Day, find a way to increase prosperity. If you’re a father, look at the ways your children are succeeding and encourage them in it. If you’re a child, work on a car together with your dad, grill out together and ask his advice. Acknowledge the path that was blazed before you and do your best to say thanks.

    To my father, I say thank you with all my heart. You have built a foundation on which I can stand firm and work toward my own success. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

The Problem with Freedom


Memorial Day, 2014
I don’t know that I’ve ever given Memorial Day it’s true respect. Quite honestly, I don’t know that I can without having experienced the life of a soldier. But to the degree that I’m able to say thank you, today I honor the lives of those who fought and died for the right for us to live in freedom.

Unfortunately, I think we’ve messed up freedom for ourselves. The goal of freedom isn’t to re-enslave ourselves, but that’s what we’ve done. The goal of freedom isn’t to live in constant conflict with one another, but if you look at Washington from the lens of the media, that’s what we see. The goal of freedom, as I see it, is this: to empower life. Yet, what we have done, in many ways, is to empower death–to render freedom powerless by installing a mantra of control, the exact antithesis of freedom–rendering the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom far less valuable.

When a prisoner is set free after decades behind bars, he finds freedom baffling. He finds it difficult to navigate the dozens of significant and insignificant choices he has to make daily. In some ways, it becomes preferable to default to being controlled again in order to remove the weight freedom brings. It’s the same in our lives when we choose to surrender our rights as American citizens to those who wish to decide for us what is best and what is not. When we, as a society, chose to defend freedom by sending our young men and women of to war, did we intend to negate their efforts by living in a system that surrenders it willfully?

On this Memorial Day, determine to live free. Determine to make choices that empower life. Determine to honor the lives of those who paid the ultimate price by fighting our own fight to remain free.

No Connection

view of the bay

This is the view from our porch in New Harbor, ME.

What does it take to slow down and think? How are thoughts supposed to form accurately in a world where our attention is diverted in 100 different directions all at the same time day after day after day?

Sometimes it takes being disconnected from the world. Sometimes it takes silence. Sometimes it takes getting away.

Thank goodness for vacations.

Know It All


Insecurity takes many forms. Identifying it as it’s taking place is done only by those mature enough to have experienced it themselves and healed from it. Telling someone all that you know on a given subject is often a sign of insecurity. Likewise, receiving someone’s over communication as insult to your intelligence only points to your own insecurity.

Speak only what is needed, and receive knowledge with grace. You will find more people ask for your knowledge and more people share it with you.

Awkward Loves Company


courtesy of

If you’re socially awkward, people will steer away from you.

If you’re socially awkward and know it, people will accept you you.

If you’re socially awkward and point it out in a self-aware manner, people will identify with you.

If you’re socially awkward and help other socially awkward people be okay with their awkward selves, you’re Tony Robins.

Understanding who you are and being willing to accept your own faults makes you more likely to accept the faults of others. Instead of hiding all your faults and pretending to be perfect, why not accept your weirdness and lower your standards of perfection for yourself and those around you. It might just make you a hero.

Why Budgets Don’t Shrink


When a good employee finds a way to save money, he pats himself on the back. But his manager is thinking how he can leverage that savings for other needed items.

The CEO, however, is trying to find greater profits for his shareholders and wants to find ways to increase efficiency with that savings.

Either way, the budget doesn’t shrink – until the market forces it to.