Category Archives: Productivity

Why blog?

Why blog?  This is a question that I’ve been asking myself for the last couple of years.  If you follow this blog, you find out that the usual answer is, “there’s no reason to.”  And for the past several years, I’ve managed to marshal some reasons not to blog that sound like good arguments.

I don’t have anything to say.  In other words, there’s nothing that hasn’t already been said.  Now, this form of thinking is one to which I am prone.  What I’ve discovered, however, is that there are new ways of saying what has been said, and new audiences who are looking for a fresh take.

I’m not that interesting.  Blogging is a good way to become interesting.  It’s good to have a driving force that will push me to be more engaging, develop new interests, and to pursue the interests that I have more wholeheartedly.

I’m not a narcissist.  While there is more than enough shallow, self-centered banality that sounds narcissistic, it doesn’t follow that anyone who wants to put their thoughts in public is a narcissist.  There are writers whom I read who stimulate me, challenge me, and edify me.  These are results that don’t come from navel-gazing narcissists.

I don’t write that well.  My self-evaluation of my writing has deterred me from sharing most of my writing with anyone.  But the opposing point of view says, “how am I going to improve?”  The path to improvement is regular writing, revising, and sharing what I write.

I don’t care about being famous.  There are bloggers whose readerships is in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.  Developing an audience and bringing dependable content to that audience sounds like pressure.  But building an audience is not easy.  It takes effort.  At this point, I’m writing as if I have an audience, but I’m far from being famous.

I’d rather teach than write.  Fair enough.  But won’t writing and editing and revising make me a better teacher?

I’d rather while away the hours in unproductive pursuits.  This is the honest truth.  But it’s one that I want to change.

What keeps you from blogging?  Why do you blog?  What motivates you to keep sharing and publishing content?  I’d love to hear from you!

Tagged , ,

About Changing the Script

     I read an article a couple of weeks about changing one’s internal script with writing.  It was one of those self-help things that you read and say “meh”.  However, on greater reflection it’s been surprising helpful in thinking ahed toward 2015.  The idea that stuck with me is that through reading, reflection, and writing, It’s possible to change a person’s inner thinking, and as a consequence, change their story.  It’s possible to bring the best out of yourself instead of scraping through every day unthinkingly.
     This year’s 500 word challenge turned out to be a trial run at this.  While I didn’t follow through with it for the rest of the year after the 31 days, there was something powerful about it that began to change my internal script; that is, the instinctive and reflexive governing of my life that is so influential, and often so self-limiting.
     “Change the Script” is a powerful imperative, like “Take Permission”, my theme for 2014.  While I still need to follow through with the Take Permission imperative, something deeper needs to change within me to generate the boldness to Take Permission.  That’s where Change the Script comes in.
     To begin with, there are a couple of ways I want to work toward Changing the Script:
     Internally:   I want to generate optimism, positivity, and encouragement instead of cynicism and negativity.  My default script tends to be cynical, sarcastic, negative, and a sense of smarminess that “I know better”.  I find this repulsive when I see it in others but tolerate and advance it in myself.
     Move forward to initiate new habits:  I can take charge of myself.  I can initiate change with others, I can work to lead those within my sphere of influence to a preferable future.  While my sister tells me I’m “regimented,” this regimentation can be positively used to work toward being willing to experiment, to try new things, to take risks.
     What are you thinking in terms of changing your script?  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and plans!

2014 Annual Review

2014 Summary: For my wife and I, this was a year of many transitions. My wife’s beloved grandmother, who loved me like one of her own sons, was called home to glory this past summer at 96 years old.  Our oldest son got married in the summer, and our youngest son went off to college, leaving us as empty nesters. To “prepare us for this,” our daughter studied abroad in Great Britain.  My sister moved in with us as she needed more care later in the summer. I started to transition into a larger pastoral role in our church. Then it became apparent that the “puzzle” of my own desires, God’s call, our family’s interests, our educational nonprofit, and church fit together better with me in a smaller role in the church and a larger role at our nonprofit. In the aftermath of all these things, I experienced a significant episode of depression required medical care and a break from church responsibilities. So, there were a number of goal set for 2014 that were not achieved. A result of this is a re-evaluation of goal-setting and annual planning for 2015.

2014: What went well?

  • Completed 1 100 K run (Iron Horse, February, 19:18)
  • Completed 1 12 hour race (Azalea, November, 40 miles)
  • Completed 46 Books (7 more than in 2013):
  • Preached 20 times at our church
  • Taught a summer class at our church
  • Taught full time for 2013-14
  • Taught a seminar for our Tutor Training, “Teaching Like Jesus”
  • Taught half-time for the Fall of 2014, moving up to ¾ time in second semester 0f 2014-15.
  • Our nonprofit remained self-sufficient and was in the black. My wife continues to do an incredible job managing it.
  • We were able to go as a family to our oldest son’s college graduation in New York, along with Mom.
  • Went to Colorado for our oldest son’s wedding. My wife, with much help from our extended family and our in-laws, put on a rehearsal dinner for the happy coupe that was a smashing success. We acquired a daughter in law who is a great blessing to our son.
  • Our oldest son found full-time, professional employment and loves his job.
  • Our family was also able to go on vacation in Orlando
  • My wife, youngest son, and I attended a Teacher’s Conference in Orlando
  • I was able to obtain better medical care as a result of some health issues
  • We stayed out of debt and were able to live within our means.
  • We upped contributions to retirement by ten times our monthly while not going into debt. This may not be sustainable but it feels great to be overachieve this much on one of my goals.
  • My health has improved with blood pressure and cholesterol being managed well.
  • We went through a trial period at the church of me taking on many of our lead pastor’s responsibilities and our lead pastor cutting back. With the elders, we determined not to press forward with this arrangement. So my vocational situation is settled for the first time in a decade.
  • Our daughter continues to make progress toward college completion. She successfully completed study abroad, staying on track for four year graduation, and is looking at grad schools.
  • Our youngest has matriculated at college in New York City and has made a good adjustment.
  • I’m not having to work most evenings for the first time since we’ve started our educational nonprofit.

What didn’t go well?

  • Felt overextended with work, church responsibilities, and extended family.
  • My sister needed additional care because of the effects of cancer and moved in with us in September. Even while suffering greatly and losing much of her independence, she has been a blessing to us in many ways with her childlike faith, positive attitude, and joy in the midst of suffering.
  • My depressive episode in October/November was a big setback. However, it also brought about good medical care, counseling, and brought out the love of my family, our elders and church family.
  • Had as many DNFs in ultras (2) as I had finishes, but I learned a lot from both of them. Training was sporadic so this could have been expected.
  • My prayer and spiritual life was sporadic. Not what I would like.
  • It’s not that the trial period of assuming more responsibilities didn’t go well, but it became apparent that the “work/life” balance was unsustainable.

Bottom Line on evaluating 2014: In a year that felt like “failure,” there were an astounding number of successes. It’s important to keep “the big picture” in mind rather than to dwell on the negatives.

What went well with you in the past year?  What lessons did you learn?  I’d love to hear from you!


Ideas For Writing Myself Out Of My Own Self-Preoccupied, Solipcistic, Navel-Gazing Corner

It’s Day Nine of My 500 Word challenge by Jeff Goins at  I have written myself into a self-proccupied, solipcistic, navel-gazing corner.  Here are some of the ideas that I’ve come up with to write myself out of it.

1.  Humor.  My humor tends to work pretty well.  But humor is difficult to write unless you and your audience share the same context.  On the other hand, I spend the majority of my hours at my day job with high school students.  It would be an understatement to say that there is a fair amount of absurdity in the high school world.  So there’s certainly some material there.

2.  Self-Improvement Kick.  Every January, I do some annual planning and set some goals.  While I reached about eighty percent of my goals last year, there is a certain folly in posting your own goals for public consumption, unless you are doing it for accountability and to show that any old schmo can make an annual plan, come up with some means to fulfill the plan, and improvise some checks and balances on the way to keep on track.

3.  The Folly of the Self-Improvement Kick.  This could be fun — and funny!

4.  Book reviews.  There are innumerable sites that write book reviews.  However, none write them for my audience, nor are they a combination of my tastes, interests, and personality.

What about you?  How do you write your way out of your own self-preoccupied, solipcistic, navel-gazing corners?

Tagged ,

Take Permission: Exercise

      I’m taking permission this year to exercise each day.  A couple of years ago, I made the commitment to exercise at least five days per week.  However, this is one of the disciplines that seems to erode when “crunch time” comes with work or family.  One of the things that I’ve learned over this time is that when I don’t take care of myself, somebody always pays — whether it’s me, my family, colleagues at work, or my students.  Rather than put myself in last place here, I’m going to put myself first.

Taking Permission: Setting Goals

Today, I am taking permission to set meaningful, achievable, and measurable goals for this year and to hold myself accountable to diligently use the means available to achieve these goals.

I’ve hated goal setting for most of my life.  This is because I am a recovering perfectionist.  I haven’t wanted to have to admit failure.  So, I haven’t wanted to be accountable.  In the past, I also haven’t done a good job of separating goals from desires.

Properly done, goal setting should provide a road map for the investment of time and resources into what really matters.  This shouldn’t be the bottleneck that it has been for me often, but it should inform my plans and desires and release me to accomplish them.

Take Permission: Take Care of Myself

I’m taking permission to take care of myself.  In the last couple of years, I’ve found that more self-care is necessary to be able to perform at an optimal level than I ever thought permissable, much less necessary.  No, I don’t think I’m turning into a narcissist.  Far from it.  What I have observed is that if I don’t perform the daily routines of prayer, reading the Scriptures, reading for my own growth and development, exercising, and eating well is that someone pays the penalty.  Sometimes it’s me.  Sometimes it’s my loved ones.  Sometimes it’s a student or a parent that just happened to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Regardless, I am taking permission to pay the price so that this doesn’t happen.  In this way, I will invest time and resources into what matters most and be better able to care for others as I do so.


Growing Up: Mediations of a Midlife Adolescent

I have to grow up.  This is a startling realization for a fifty year old.  But it is an undeniable truth that I’ve come to recognize over the last several years.  I’ve bought into the cultural lie that the abundant life consists of youth and immaturity.  This hasn’t worked well for me.  Moreover, my commitment to this unspoken agenda has caused some difficulty in the lives of those whom I love.  So, it’s time to grow up!

This realization has slowly begun to dawn on me in the last five to seven years.  It began with a series of what turned out to be poor decisions that resulted in me leaving the pastorate and then, shortly after, leaving the missions agency that had accepted my wife and me as missionary candidates.  This pattern of decision making caused some of the trust that my wife put in me to erode.  It resulted in me launching out on a new career path and learning how to teach high school in my late forties.   You can imagine that this was a difficult time in our lives.  Thanks be to God, we are in a much better place now.  While I am grateful and content for where we have landed, I would never want to repeat those years.

One of the main things through this painful series of events was that I had invested my hopes and dreams in the power of an outside agency to bring them to reality.  As a young person, I imagined that I would walk into a fortuitous set of circumstances and everything that I had ever hoped for in life would happen.  Later, this fantasy took the form of believing that a mentor would arise who would take me by the hand and show me what it means to be a husband, a father, and a vocational success.  As a Christian, I believed that the Holy Spirit would step in and remove desires that are sinful and immature and work in my life so that life would not be a struggle anymore.

I don’t deny that sometimes people come into a set of fortuitous circumstances that are created for them completely outside of themselves.  And I have had mentors who have been quite instrumental in my life.  However, none of them have been “messiahs.”  And while I continue to believe, perhaps more fervently now, in the presence and reality and power of the Holy Spirit, I no longer believe that His role is to do the hard work that we are called to do in growing up.

So, my paradigm of maturity has changed.  Growing up physically just happens.  If you feed children, they will grow.  But growing up mentally, emotionally, and volitionally takes a great deal of effort on our part.  It’s an effort that is countercultural.  It means that we stop blaming our challenges and problems on our psychological makeup, our outward circumstances, or on other people.  It is stepping up and taking responsibility tor ourselves.  It is putting into practice the habits of life that are required to create a better future for ourselves, our loved ones, and those who are in our circle of influence.

Tagged , ,

Ph.D. vs. DIYU

One of my resolutions when I began this blog — and that I’ve carried out religiously, meaning with the frequency of Christmas and Easter, is to round out my education. As a teacher and a manager of an educational program that would be classified in the “educational reform” genre, it has dawned on me recently that to speak of “reform” properly, there must be a “form” to “return to”. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure this out. So, what is the “form” that we are supposed to be returning to?

The “form” that previous generations have followed is a classical education. However, we have had many important thinkers arise since the Classical period. It seems to me that something along the lines of a Great Books education would incorporate both the insights of those from the classical period and later thinkers. It would also shield one from provincialism, as a number of the Great Books writers were Christian, but others, such as Nietschze attacked the Christian faith.

I have resolved to acquire this education myself. However, there is a newly minted Great Books Ph.D. via distance from Faulkner University that looks intriguing. I’m checking it out now and am deliberating whether to forsake DIYU for some more disciplined instruction. Any comments?

Tagged , ,

Renegotiating With Myself

Strewn all about my desk, I see the detritus of agreements that I have not kept with myself.  Books not read, articles not written, tasks not accomplished, meeting not set up.  What has taken their place?  Other tasks that have taken longer than expected, tiredness, escapism into food, television, reading mindless literature . . . What is to be done when all that is seen are evidences of ambitions not met, plans not carried out, and things that are not getting done.

It’s time to renegotiate with myself.  I made a number of agreements in good faith that I am not able to carry out at this time.  It’s time to declare the bankruptcy of good intentions and begin to edit my life ruthlessly.  As a creature, I can only do one thing at a time.  While I have twenty four hours in a day, it’s time to get down to the most essential tasks that will carry me through meeting the most fundamental commitments in my life.  Time to purge the Kindle, the RSS feeder and all of the other things that seem like good ideas at the time but take away time, focus, get down to the essentials, and move forward with them.

Tagged ,
%d bloggers like this: