Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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Half Baked Manor’s Foray Into Geekdom

While I have not become a full-fledged, card-carrying geek in this past week, I can share with you how to prepare yourself for your computer’s demise with a minimal loss of productivity.  It’s a fact of life — computers die — and you need to be prepared for this.  Here’s a quick guide to preparing for the worst.

Save all your files in Dropbox, Google Docs, or some other form of cloud storage.    This is 90 percent of the preparation right here.  If you can access your files from anywhere and not be dependent on one computer, this will help you immensely.  Go to and set up an account.  It’s free and it will pay you exponential dividends if you use it.

Use Firefox or Google Chrome.  Give them your data.  I recognize that this may be a controversial recommendation.  But Google already has your data anyway!  You may as well get something out of it!  If you set up your browser in your old environment and save your preferences, it will transfer seamlessly to your new environment.  All of the movements at the keyboard that have become second nature to you can stay that way.  You can pick up where you left off.

Find an old PC.  It doesn’t really matter what vintage it is.  Laptop, desktop . . .  If you have one hanging around your house that you are not using and you can get an internet connection on it, you are good to go.

Install Linux on it.  This may be the most daunting step.  I installed Ubuntu on my old PC laptop.  If you go to, there are tutorial videos that will show you how to do this.  It’s alot easier than it sounds.  You can either install it for a dual boot system so that you can run Windows as well, or you can do like I did and get rid of the safety net of being able to use Windows and go strictly with Ubuntu.

So, why Linux?  It runs very efficiently with a small amount of RAM and a low-speed processor and it doesn’t crash.  It’s open source software, so just about all of it is free.  And it really works!

So far, the experiment has worked out really well. I’ve had very little loss of productivity.  This nice little backup is doing the job quite adequately.

P.S.  I got the news on the Mac.  It will require a new hard drive.  I found out what I needed, ordered a 650 GB (!) hard drive for about $60 and the special Mac screwdriver for about $5.  Not nearly as devastating as I had feared.  


Why Run 50 Miles?

When I tell people about my goal to complete a 50 mile endurance event, the “why” question seems to be always stated or implied.  I think this is a sensible question, especially for the “weekend athlete.”  After all, isn’t the marathon (26.2 miles) far enough?  The marathon is the classic distance for endurance sports aficionados who want to “overachieve.”  So, why do more?

For me, it wasn’t that I wanted something “more,” it was that I wanted something “different.”  I’ve run two marathons.  The first one I was completely undertrained for and was a miserable experience for the most part.  I ran another one for two reasons:  my daughter wanted us to get in shape and complete a marathon, and, I needed to conquer the demons of the previous effort.  My daughter and I succeeded on both accounts.

After this, I really wanted to take on a challenge that was bigger than I really thought I could accomplish.  I really wanted a challenge that would have a goal that was intimidating enough to get me out the door so that I would train every day.  I wanted to see what I was made of.  I wanted the challenge to change me as much as I wanted to meet the challenge.

There’s a real possibility that I may not finish.  My training has not been great since the first of the year.  Any number of things could go wrong that are not related to my fitness.  However, even if for some reason I have to drop out at the first aid station,  this challenge has transformed me during this past year.  I have accomplished a number of things because of this goal that I would not have without setting this goal.  So in my case, even getting to the starting line is a measure of success and beyond that, will only be a greater measure of success.


Victory At Last!

We have not seen or heard any signs of the invaders of Half Baked Manor in the last 48 hours.  Our soffits are being repaired today as well as the drywall on the ceiling in the garage.  No more openings for home invaders to get in or out!  Victory is hereby declared!

The only sad thing about this is that our guests gave me some good writing material!

Why You Need A Mentor, Part Two

I began writing yesterday about the influence and life lessons of a mentor who invested in me twenty years ago.  Here are a few more lessons learned:

Be willing to initiate uncomfortable conversations.  Most of us are not fans of uncomfortable conversations.  So we tend not to initiate discussions about items that lurk beneath the surface that really need to be addressed.  I think it was Tim Ferriss who said something like “your satisfaction in life is directly related to the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.”  Through this past mentoring relationship, while I was usually on the receiving end of uncomfortable conversations, I learned how to initiate these and the benefit of doing so.

Be straightforward.  We can all live with the truth, or at least we should be able to.  Tell it like it is.  I don’t mean to be ignorant of the art of tact, diplomacy, or the other person’s point of view.  Don’t just assume that people “get it” and then “write them off” if they don’t.  If you have a point to make, make your point briefly, clearly, and directly.

Be willing to challenge people.  We tend to be afraid of challenging people.  We’re more interested in protecting our psyche from rejection.  But many people really want to be challenged, especially when it comes to living for a cause larger than themselves.  Don’t be afraid of this.  Give people opportunities to develop their skills, to invest in a cause, and to become part of a community.

How have people invested in your development?  What have you learned from them?



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Why You Need A Mentor, Part One

This past weekend, I ran into a man who had mentored me in my first ministry position twenty years ago. He’s about twenty-five years older than I am. We have never been close. Since we have parted ways, we have mostly traveled separate paths.  When our paths have converged, we have often disagreed.     At the time, I thought I needed a friend, a sympathetic ear, an encourager.  He provided encouragement, but in a different way than I thought I needed.  He was a taskmaster.  He challenged me, and I hate to say it, but I wilted under the challenge.

My first ministry position was something called a “church plant.”  There was a small group of people in Palm Coast, Florida, who were part of a church in our denomination about thirty minutes away.  They wanted to start a church in their community, and they hired me to help them.  We started with ten people, six of whom were over 65, not very much money, and a pastor who was extremely inexperienced, both in life and ministry.  For me, it was pretty much a disaster.  As far as the church goes, they survived me.  Although they had me as their pastor, they persevered and there is now an established church in that community.

After running into my previous mentor, I began to think about the time I spent with him.  As I’ve indicated, this was not an ideal relationship, mostly due to my recalcitrance to be challenged.  Yet, I began to think of all the things that I learned from him and carried into future endeavors that have helped me, and realized that without the influence of this man, my life would be extremely impoverished.  Here are some of the lessons learned:

1.  The value of hard work.   Most of my life up to that point had been spent in school.  I thought going to class, studying, and having a part time job was “stressful.”  I was quickly challenged about the the appropriateness about this idea by the example and encouragement of my mentor, who was putting in 60-70 hour weeks to accomplish his dream.  While I have read The Four Hour Work Week twice since then, I still maintain that hard, productive, focused work is the main element in developing competence and accomplishing your dream.

2.  Building relationships with people who are different than you.  We are naturally inclined to seek out and spend time with people who are like us — same interests, stage in life, socioeconomic status, values . . .  While this man was a former corporate executive who was most like other business types, he pushed me to seek out people who were of different backgrounds, ages, interests, stages in life, seek to understand them, and build relationships with them.  In the beginning, this is difficult to initiate, but it is a habit that will richly reward you.  These days, most of my time is spent with people who are different than I am — middle school and high school students.  Little did I know that far from being an intimidating experience, this would become a labor of love.

3.  Become competent in every area of your craft.  While I generally agree with the idea that the greatest gains may come with we build in areas of strength, it can be greatly limiting not to become competent in every area of our craft.  My mentor could have been extremely successful by coasting on his administrative and people skills.  Yet, he worked hard to become a competent teacher.  It took me another fifteen years to learn this lesson and become competent as an administrator and manager.  While the bulk of my work continues to be with ideas and people, becoming a competent administrator has been the skill that has enabled me to pursue other interests.

What have you learned from your mentors?  If you could use the help and encouragement of someone who is ahead of you on your journey, what steps could you take to initiate that relationship and secure that help?

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Update on Half Baked Manor

It’s been quiet here at Half Baked Manor.  There’s not much human activity here except for mine.  Mr. Mouse has not yet made his appearance.  Yesterday, we had our first casualty in this low-intensity war.  Our son stepped out into the garage and tripped one of the traps.  Our son is fine, but his pride may have taken a little hit.  So far, Mr. Mouse 1, Stuart 0.

However, we are now hearing noises up in the attic and perhaps under the eaves of our home.  I don’t know if he has migrated, or if we have some new guests.  I’ll keep you posted.

Annual Review

Below is my annual review for 2012.  I publish this, not because I think I did a great job or had an enormously successful year, but so that if you are looking to do something like this, this is a way to do it.  I’m sure there are better ways to do this, but I thought I start with what I have.  I would enjoy any comments or feedback that you would like to send my way.

2012:  What went well?

Determined to preserve current life situation — place, income, lifestyle

Completed a marathon with Hannah (Charleston, January)

Entered Chattanooga Stage Race and completed first stage under cutoff time

Completed 2 50 K races

Signed up for a 50 mile race

Personal best in Half-Marathon

Read 27 books

Preached 23 times

Organized church missions conference

Taught Getting Things Done seminar at Providence Extension Program  (the organization I teach for) annual meeting

Taught six classes at Providence Extension Program with perfect attendance

Support role in new Providence Extension Program campus start

Augmented GTD with life, long-term goals, annual review, and planning

Started 10 chapters per day Bible reading plan

Started journaling consistently

Organized and executed church missions conference

Stayed Healthy

Got Hannah off to college

Stuart had excellent SAT score

Started blog

Contentment level = highest ever

Did a better job identifying the onset of anger and preserving mental health

Stayed out of debt

Started contributing to retirement again


What didn’t go well?

Both Amy and Hannah were hospitalized this summer

One of my classes needs a redesign

My income went down so Amy has had to work more

Got cable?


Early To Rise

I am participating in a challenge by Andy Traub called Early To Rise.  Below is the link to Amazon if you want to check it out.  The basic idea is by creating a habit of getting up early, you have a greater opportunity to do what matters.  You can take control of your day and seize the opportunities that come with it.  You can fill yourself with goodness and make a plan for achieving what is important for the day.

So far, it’s been fantastic!  While I would consider myself a “morning person,” I don’t think this is so much a matter of inborn temperament as much as it recognizing that for me, not much productive activity takes place after about 9:30 pm.  I have enough on my plate right now that I really can’t afford to invest two hours in vegging on the couch watching television.

The benefit of rising early (5:00-5:30) is that that it gives me ample time to pray, to plan the day, to decide what’s important, and to formulate a strategy.  I don’t necessarily get everything accomplished in the daily plan that I hope to.  But it does set the stage for living intentionally and being deliberate in my decisions rather than taking the path of least resistance.

It would have been of great benefit to me to take this challenge and approach to life much sooner, like in my twenties.  For too long, I’ve made excuses, such as, “I can’t get up early! I have kids!” Or “church meetings last too long to get up early.”  What about the people that go to those church meetings and have a job that requires them to be there early?  Or what about all the nights that I didn’t have meetings?

However, I’m glad that I made the commitment in the last year to live more deliberately, to be more intentional in my choices, to act instead of reacting.  I don’t know what will come of it, but I’m having the time of my life!!!

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Annual Plan

I’m doing something for the first time ever — an annual plan.  I first got the idea from Chris Guillebeau at the Art of Non Conformity.  It seems like a no-brainer.  I mean, I’m an adult, I’m in charge of my life, and it’s up to me to make happen!  Plus, for the most part, I’m self-employed.

However, my past experience with goals and planning has given me a strong message that goal setting is something to be avoided at all costs.  After so many times of setting goals and not reaching them, goals = failure became part of my hard wiring.  It’s taking some new thinking and some hard work on my part to overcome this defeatist mindset.  So, here’s what I’m doing to conquer these fears.

1.  Have multiple possible successful outcomes.  If I set a goal to read thirty books this year and only read twenty-five, does that mean that I failed?  At one point in my life, I would have said “yes.”  It seems like a more mature response would be that twenty-five is many more than I may have read without the goal.

2.  Set goals that will require discipline and consistent activity, but not “miracles.”  I know that there are people who will tell you to “aim high” but as a realist, it doesn’t seem wise to me to set goals to work toward all year that are unachievable.

3.  Plan to do small actions consistently to build momentum.  So many activities are all about “momentum.”  Work on keeping up momentum rather than trying to block out time to complete each project.

4.  Remember that a general trend is to vastly overestimate what can be done in a day or a week and to vastly underestimate what can be done in a year or a decade.  In other words, the plan or the goal is not the ultimate end.  It’s a tool to unleash creativity and productivity over a longer period of time.

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