A swift kick in the pants

I had to share this with you all. It has really challenged me over the last 24 hours. I was encouraged to be less selfish with my time and focus on the short amount of time I have with my children. I know that one day I will look back and long for the days of having my little girls crawl up in my lap and want me to read to them.

I hope this challenges you as well. If you don’t have children, then please share it with someone you think would be challenged by it.

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Thanks for continuing to read and share my updates. It means the world to me to know you are listening. I love getting the feedback. Keep it coming.

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What does it mean when you turn 40?

For the audio version of this blog, click the SoundCloud link below:

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As I approached the cashier of a mom & pop candy shop the other day a young girl behind the counter declared, “Sir, can I help you with something?” My response was a simple reply, but her mention of the word “sir” did not fall on deaf ears. Although it only registered for a second, I knew what this would ultimately mean. I continued my search for the perfect chocolate covered pecans and then asked her for a specific item. She responded again with a few kind words, again tagging her answer with the word “sir”.

Many will say my discovery could be chalked up to living in the south, but this time I knew it was different. I have always taken pride in the fact that even as recent as last year I was carded when going to hear a local band or visiting a massive buffet at a gulf coast casino. I’ve always done a good job of hiding the grey in my hair. Recently, however, my wife removed all doubt when she mentioned the option of coloring my hair because of the recent crop of grey appearing on my well groomed mane that has been my source of confidence since middle school.

Was this the dreaded season of life that I had been warned about? Could this be the end of my youth and all that it represents? I don’t want to give up that easily. I can deal with the hair color and no longer being mistaken for a “young looking” adult, but the sudden weight gain? That may be the end of the rope and give way to accepting the term “middle aged” as mainstream and a part of my life, no longer belonging to those who are obviously more mature in years.

I’ve been skinny all of my life. Being given the name “chicken man” often had more to do with my size than my affinity for the almighty feathered bird. Sitting on the sofa at a recent gathering with other middle aged folks I was told by a good friend, “man, that gut looks good on you”. As my world came crashing down around me, I came to realize that I had begun a new chapter in life that was not waiting for my approval. It was moving forward whether I liked it or not.

I used to play drums in a band and commonly dressed like a high-schooler with no responsibilities. This was always reaffirmed while visiting my wife’s school as other teachers on occasion referred to me as her high school boyfriend. This was in comparison to most of the other husbands who dressed like the traditional man over forty with a mortgage and a “real” job. After leaving the band last year and sitting behind a desk for the greater part of the day, I too have joined the ranks of the traditional man. I finally broke 150 lbs for the first time in my life and find myself having to unbutton my pants at the table. (That last part may be more about denial than anything. New pants are in my not so distant future.)

From the outside looking in, it may seem a bit sad knowing the realization I’ve had. However, I’ve decided to use it as a launching pad of sorts. For me, turning 40 represented a coming of age. It represented a new era filled with adventure and excitement. After all, life begins at 40, right?

When I turned 40, I realized one very important thing. My excuses were gone. I could no longer blame my parents for who I had become. I could no longer use my environment as an excuse or justification for failure. I was FORTY YEARS OLD!!! I can’t blame anyone but myself. The buck stops with me.

Realizing this fact actually simplified my life. It also gave me a huge confidence boost. I stopped caring what most people thought about me and started becoming who I was created to be. After all, I was forty, right?

I had always heard this was the big one. The big birthday that changes everything. I just didn’t know what kind of impact it would have on my life until after I crossed over. The change was almost immediate. It seems like it happened overnight.

I created a new declaration for my life and where I was headed.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am responsible for my actions. I am the one who chooses where I’m headed. I can’t blame anyone else for the outcome. I no longer focus on the past. I will keep my eyes on the future and what is to come.

What about you? Are you living in the past? Do you hold on to excuses?

Like the movie Frozen says, “Let it Go.”

Start living the life you were created to live and don’t apologize. You only get one shot, you’re a grown up now!

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What’s your Why?

Why? Why? Why?

Why do you work where you work? Why do you get up in the morning and drive all of those miles? Why do you sell what you sell? etc…

The ultimate question- Why do you do what you do?

For so many, understanding the why has never entered their mind. For others, it is the life blood of everything they do.

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I’ve often heard of companies requiring workers that do very boring task on an assembly line to give their employees the chance to get in a car they have built or use the products they are working on. This is an attempt at helping them understand how the boring things they are doing daily are impacting the lives of others. I certainly commend them for doing that, but I often wonder if the rest of the workforce is doing the same.

You may have a career that is more specialized, but you still must be in-tune with your “why”.

With my short attention span, I could not imagine being a dentist having to spend all day looking into the mouths of countless strangers. I can only imagine their focus would have to be on the way they impact others lives by helping them feel good about themselves when they smile. Understanding the “why” can certainly help you get out of bed in the morning, knowing you have a day filled with strangers mouths.

I could also never imagine being a car salesman, but the way a quality car can impact a family and their life for years to come would certainly be enough to make me want to stand on a car lot looking for potential clients.

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Regardless of what you do, you have to remain focused on “why” you do it, or you will lose your passion and effectiveness. Understanding the “why” of what you do will also give your clients a connection and make it easier for them to jump on board.

I’m sure you can name countless businesses who understand this principle and several who don’t. I don’t mind being marketed to, but I would rather be part of a mission and vision. I love knowing I am supporting something greater than just a simple product or service. I like making a difference.

So many companies struggle to be successful in a down economy, however, if you can shift your focus from the bottom line of making a dollar to making a difference, you will likely be more successful than you could ever dream.

Why does it matter?

Here are a few reasons to focus on the “why”.

  • Eventually, money will lose its motivation
  • Eventually, you long for purpose
  • Eventually, you long for legacy

I’ve heard stories of people making millions of dollars who traded it in to do something that had a greater impact on others.

One of our greatest needs is to have a purpose and to know that what we do matters. It is nearly impossible to stifle this and prevent it from surfacing.

Discover the “why” in what you are doing and allow that to be your focus. If you can’t find the “why”, then you may want to find something else to do that will line up with something you are passionate about. The option of doing something for years and years and not having a connection with your purpose is not worth it. You will eventually get burned out and find yourself being no more than a cog in a wheel.

This life is waiting for what only you can do.

 

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Are you giving your children what’s best?

I’m well aware that my influence over my children will drastically change when they move out. With that in mind, I’ve got 8 more years with one and 12 more with the other. I’ve known this for a while now, and have made big changes in my life as a result, but have only recently had it fully sink in.

While I was a full-time musician, I was gone an average of 150 days per year, essentially loosing 40% of the physical influence I had in my family’s life. I know there are ways to influence your family from a distance, but there is certainly no replacement for being in the same room.

Most of us would agree with the benefits of raising children in the 1950’s due to a slower pace of life and fewer distractions. I always tune in when the Andy Griffith Show comes on because it’s such a contrast to what our current situation is. It forces me to analyze my life and compare it to what I see on the screen, in spite of the fact it’s a scripted representation of a false reality.

My mother had a phrase she used when we were growing up that I have borrowed and continue to use today. It’s called “Burning up the streets”. How many times have you found yourself “burning up the streets” with a car full of kids being nothing more than a taxi service that offers drive thru pick-up for the evening meal? On the other hand, how many times have you found yourself saying how nice it is when your family is seated around the table having an uninterrupted family meal? Knowing you long for more quality family time, what can you do to change?

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I think we as parents have a hard time dealing with the unknown, as we should.

Have you ever wondered:

  • What will my child grow up to be?
  • Am I giving them enough opportunities to develop their gifts and talents?
  • Am I giving them the material things they “need” so they won’t be deprived?
  • Am I helping them to be well rounded so they will grow up to be well adjusted adults?

While visiting Africa on a mission trip with World Vision I noticed most everyone we met was without the sadness so many of us were expecting. This might seem hard to believe knowing what they don’t have, but it forces us to acknowledge what they do have. They have strong relationships.

Imagine for a moment the impact you could have with your children if you would remove one extra-curricular activity per week and dedicate that time to each other. Too often we allow activities and other distractions to rob our family of what is most important. We have to continually question our motives when filling our schedule. Ask yourself why. Why are they taking dance, playing ball, participating in clubs, going to that group, etc…?

The harsh reality is most of our kids only want to casually experience the things we may want them to excel at. The percentage of kids who make it to the Olympics, the NFL, the NBA or the U.S Open is very small. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage them to develop their God given talents, but at what cost? Is it worth sacrificing the intimacy that is grown around the dinner table through countless conversations about their daily life for a few medals and trophies that will one day collect dust in the attic?

May we all live in such a way that we won’t look back with regret when our nest is empty. We’ve got one shot. Let’s make it count.

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Are You a Blessing in Disguise?

custom drumsticksAre you getting bored with your life? What about your job? Are you making a difference in the lives of those around you with what you do on a daily basis?

You may not have the right answers to those questions and feel like your life is average without having an impact on others.

Each year during the Christmas season, I ship out hundreds of packages with personalized drumsticks from www.CustomStix.com. After a while it can get mundane and boring. Tube, sticks, receipt, shipping peanuts, tape, repeat, etc… It becomes like an assembly line.

I had allowed myself to fall into that trap the other day until I was pleasantly surprised by a letter I got from the contact form on this site. Talk about a renewed focus. I was brought to tears by the words of a man who was impacted by a connection made with something as simple as a pair of personalized drumsticks.

May I never forget how God uses even the small things in life to bring about His plan in the life of others.

Don’t loose heart while doing what you do. Be faithful in the little things and God will bless you in much.

Here is the letter: (personal info has been changed)

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Hi Mr. Jones!

 My name is David Wilson and I’m writing to you from Orlando, FL, on a whim of inspiration. As a drummer (former?), I came across your customstix website to purchase a pair of cool sticks for my son, Christopher, age 10 – the light of my life – who is just beginning his adventure into the world of drumming, percussion and 5th grade band. I love every second of it.

I came to your site for a pair of sticks, watched video, heard (and felt) your message, ended up here in on your personal site, read, listened and watched some more. What I have come out with may have just changed my life for the better. Not sure how yet, though. One cannot describe the sum total of life’s experiences in one email, but I discovered something too important to ignore and felt that I wanted to share it with you: it’s never too late apparently. I spent most of life in a spiritually-rich manner (trying, anyhow), but over the recent years I have become spiritually-poor, lacking faith and all but given up on there being any more meaning in life other than living for my son while my marriage gets weaker and everything else goes nowhere.

Suddenly, I’m listening to you, speaking as a drummer, and something clicked. I can’t give up, and I’ve been going about it all wrong. My faith is still inside me, and I have this beautiful boy, and opportunities are there if I tap back into my motivation, energy and go do something about it. It’s not too late. In fact, it’s time to put my faith back in God, take a new walk, and get rid of the negative thinking. I want to make my life happen again, make it even better for my son and wife if not just for these simple reasons. I want to believe again, and your life and work represented that to me.

All because of a pair of new drumsticks that I await in the mail. I guess I just wanted to say thank you for something I’m not even sure of yet, but it’s there.

Thanks again. Can’t wait till I get the new sticks, and seeing my son’s face as he opens them – and as he sees the look on my face with a spirit of renewed energy.

I can’t give up now. Look what I have in front of me.

Have a blessed Christmas,

David

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Wow! Did I mention how that made my week? I have a renewed vision for the future and it is my prayer for you as well. I pray you will realize that God is using you in the lives of those around you in ways you can never imagine. Don’t give up. Keep doing what you are doing and I pray that God will give you a glimpse of the impact of your life.

Question:

Have you ever been encouraged by someone you had no idea was watching and listening? Share your story in the comments below. I would love to hear and so would others.

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What I learned by going to gymnastics

My two little girls take gymnastics weekly and I can’t bear the thought of leaving them there of fear that I will hear the sound of an ambulance only minutes after I leave the gym to get a scoop of ice cream just down the street. So, I stay and watch them tumble and bounce around from station to station with as much composure as I can muster. It’s often hard to watch them fall down, but I know that is part of the process and they must learn how to get back up.

One thing took me by surprise as I sat on the bleachers with the other moms and dads. I was suddenly aware of how many times they performed a stunt only to immediately turn to see if I was watching. Once we made eye contact I knew they were waiting on the wink, head nod or thumbs-up sign. This happened several times during the hour long class and then hit me with a sudden burst of emotion just as we were about to leave.

As I approach my 40th birthday in a few months, I realize I’m not immune to this type of behavior with my own father. Even as recent as a few years ago I can remember playing drums with my former band Big Daddy Weave and looking into the audience to see if my father was watching me play and if he “approved” of what I was doing. Why did it matter if he approved of what I was doing and whether or not he thought I was doing a “good job”?

I believe we are all wired the same and long for acceptance from our earthly fathers. I’m a happily married grown man with a beautiful wife and two precious daughters, yet my self-confidence can appear to hang in the balance based on my father’s approval. I’m not alone in this observation because I have listened to multiple friends’ talk of how they longed for acceptance from their father and often felt as if they never got it.

I’m grateful for a father who always supported me in everything I did and was always there to offer a thumbs-up or a head nod when the time was right. I know that is not the case with everyone but I wanted to write this to encourage you to find acceptance in the One who will never let you down. You may be a single mom with little ones and wonder if your children will struggle with this. You may be an adult and have a huge gaping hole inside waiting for your father to fill it will gestures of approval.

Wherever you find yourself, please remember that an earthly father can only do so much. They are not perfect and will let you down from time to time. That’s because they are human. However, please know that our Heavenly Father will not let you down. Regardless of your situation, you can have a father that offers unconditional love and approval if you will only come to Him and receive the free gift of salvation He offers.

A few final thoughts

If you are a father, let this serve as a challenge to you as you acknowledge the influence you have on your children. Remember the words of this 40 year old man who still longs for approval though I’ve had it all my life. As a dad, you can never stop supporting your children in what they do. You should always be their #1 fan. They are counting on it!

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Men, remember this one thing…

fatherMen, remember this one thing today…Before you are a preacher, a teacher, an engineer, a volunteer, an entrepreneur, an accountant, a CEO, a President, a Vice-President, a Fireman, a Policeman, a coach, a musician, or anythings else you do, you are first a husband and a dad.

Your family won’t care what you did for others if you forsake them while pursuing your own passion. Do all you can to be the best you can possibly be, make as much money as you can so you can be a blessing to others and climb as high as you can. But don’t forget this one thing. You are first and foremost a Husband and a Dad. That is what it’s all about. That is what you will be known for when others talk about you at your funeral.

Don’t give up what you have for something that won’t last.

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How to Take Action

Here’s a short video where I talk about the struggle so many of us, including myself, have when it comes to taking action vs. talking about it.

So many times we want to share with others our intentions about the future and what we hope to achieve. The problem often is that we too easily fail to follow through with our words. We end up with another unfulfilled promise and a regret for the words we so eagerly spoke to those around us.

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How do you handle this? Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts as to how others can avoid this continual trap.

 

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How I got busted at the movie theater by a 9 year old

Last night I embarked on the adventure of taking my two daughters to the movie theater to see the new movie “Turbo” which I highly recommend. I made my ritualistic journey to the drug store first so we could stock up on candy that would easily fit in my jacket pockets. Much to my surprise, the bag of gummie bears wouldn’t fit, so I searched for a sneaky alternative. Coming up short, I asked my 9 year old daughter to hold the bag under the jacket she brought with her. She quickly agreed, but then asked “Daddy, why do we have to hide it?” BAM! My days of sneaking candy into the movie theater are over. In reality, I was asking her to be an accomplice to my crime of stealing! Seriously! How could I do that? I then realized it was the same as when we as adults, observed our parents telling each other to tell the person on the phone that they were not at home. That was of course before the days of voice-mail. Now we can conveniently hit ignore.

Am I being extreme? No, I don’t think so. I realize most people would let it slide and justify the action, but if you want to be a consistent parent who is proactive in the  teaching moments as they arise, you can’t pick and choose. As a parent, I have to realize that my actions are speaking louder than my words. As a parent I have to realize that my children are going to grow up and be placed in similar situations where they will have to decide for themselves. The point is not candy, it’s integrity.

Are you going to allow your children to be an accomplice to your crimes?

I am praying for more awareness as I lead my family. I pray I would not look over the little things in life. Everything matters.

Parents, be aware that you are being watched and your every action is being recorded in the mind of your child.

Question: Are there any areas where you struggle with being consistent in the areas that most people ignore?

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A Letter to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus

Gone are the days of me cranking up the songs “Baby” and “Pumpin’ Up the Party” with the windows down in my Honda Minivan. I still long for the days of singing at the top of our lungs to both of those songs, but I can no longer bring myself to support them anymore. With impressionable 5 and 9 year old daughters to answer for, I have to be extra careful in the choices I make.

I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to start a career in your teens with a fan base primarily made up of children under 13 only to have ambitions of being taken seriously as a “professional” and “relevant” artist. I know it’s frustrating to be perceived as a child entertainer that doesn’t have anything to contribute in the “real world” of the music industry.

However, I wish you had realized that those children were not the ones buying your music and merchandise, it was their parents. I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” That is truer than you can imagine. Based on recent photos I’ve seen and public actions of both of you, I have completely removed the option for any of your music to be an influence on my children’s lives.

If you had stayed the course and continued to be “relevant” in the life of a preteen, you would have maintained your foundation on which you could have made a gradual transition to actually being a “relevant” adult artist, however, you completely went off the deep end with your latest material.  My whole family loves the song “The Climb” and I think that is a great example of growing into an adult artist. I only wish you had chosen to stay on that path.

I want you to take a few steps in my shoes as a dad who longs for wholesome entertainment that’s not limited to The Wiggles or Dora The Explorer. I wish I could give my daughters a Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber cd and not have to worry about whether the content was going to compromise my beliefs and standards that are appropriate for someone their age. If that were the case, I promise you the cd purchase would only be the tip of the iceberg.

As any parent knows who has had a child latch onto something, the sky is the limit when it comes to supporting them and their interest. Both of you have had tremendous success in this area in the past, but are slowly experiencing the backlash of disappointed consumers who don’t want to continue in supporting an artist who no longer supports them.

If you don’t stop going in the direction you’re headed you will end up like Britney Spears, or worse, Michael Jackson. My heart breaks for you because of the pressure you are under, but it also breaks for your parents who are probably heartbroken with the choices you’ve made. Justin, it seems like yesterday when your mom was sharing about the amazing future ahead. It’s very sobering to think about it now.

Miley, I can’t even let my daughter see a recent photo of you for fear of what she will see that she has never seen before and want to ask a million questions that she is not ready to have answered.

You can make a choice today that will change the course of your future and impact the lives of millions. Most people’s number one struggle is money and a lack of it. That is certainly not the case for you all. With that in mind, why don’t you stop focusing on “finding yourself” and “doing what YOU want to do” and focus on how blessed you are and how powerful you can be to bring about positive change in other people’s lives. Your argument might be that no one has ever done it before. I want to encourage you to be the first to do it. NOTHING great was ever accomplished that did not require faith and sacrifice. 

The next time you create a song in the studio or star in a movie, think about how you are impacting the future and those who look up to you as a role model. Don’t live this life thinking only of yourself. You have been given a tremendous gift, don’t squander it. You were created for so much more!

Signed,

The dad of these two former fans,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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