Dec 24, 2010

Is it a Puzzle or a Mystery?

Dave says that if you want to be rich, you have to do rich people stuff. If you want to be skinny, you have to do skinny people stuff. So I've been reading smart people stuff, hoping to become a smart person. (Side note... It doesn't appear to be working. I'm still pretty stupid...)

My current read is "What the Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a collection of 19 essays he had previously released. So it's smart stuff broken up into little bite size stories. The only way it could be better is if he threw in some Archie comics.

So, onto the point of this whole thing. When looking at questions, problems, or hashing out life's issues; you have to be able to discern between puzzles & mysteries. If it's a puzzle, then it means you are still missing pieces of information that you must track down before you can make a decision. If it's a mystery, then you have all the information you need; you just need to do a correct analysis of it.

When investigating the Watergate Scandal, journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were looking for missing pieces of information in their investigation. They found that information in the details provided by "Deep Throat." They were dealing with a puzzle.

When it came to the Enron Scandal, all the information was there in Enron's financial statements. Nothing was hidden. It just took someone to correctly analyze the data to realize the energy giant was in serious trouble. They were dealing with a mystery.

It's important to know what you are dealing with. If you treat a puzzle like it's a mystery, then you'll make a decision based on incomplete information. If you treat a mystery like it's a puzzle, then you'll fail to make a decision because you are still looking for answers that are not there. Misreading the situation will either lead to a bad decision, or being frozen.

So the first step will always be to decide if you are dealing with a puzzle and you need more data OR if you are dealing with a mystery and you need to analyze the data you've collected.

Dec 2, 2010

Parenting: Should a license of some sort be required?

Think about it... If you want to drive a car, you are required to get a license. Fly a plane. License. Get paid to give someone a bad haircut. Yep, you need a license.

But... want to make new human beings? All you need is the basic equipment God gave ya and you're good to go. Procreate away! Churn out new humans like a Xerox machine on crack.

Now, I'm as "Anti-Big Government" as the next guy. I'm down with "Don't Tread On Me." So I'm not saying we need DBM (Division of Baby Makin') offices with long lines and grumpy employees. Still, it seems like there should be some sort of screening process...

Full Disclosure: I don't have kids. Which means I can freely judge your parenting skills without fear of it coming back to bite me on the rump...

Nov 27, 2010

DON'T Act Your Wage...

Earlier I had a post entitled "Act Your Wage." The basic premise is to live according to your means.

In discussing this post with Pastor Scott, he threw a twist in for me. His thought was "don't act your wage." But he wasn't referring to spending habits; he was referring to your work ethic.

What do I mean? If you are flipping burgers at minimum wage and you work like you are getting paid to flip burgers at minimum wage, then you may be flipping burgers at minimum wage for quite a while. And typically you'll do so while whining and complaining about how your are underpaid and unappreciated.

But if you'll flip burgers like they are paying you $15, $20 dollars an hour, training you for a management position, you'll work differently. You'll work harder with a better attitude.

Maybe you are already a mid level person making $15 or $20 an hour. Work like you are making double that. Have an attitude that reflects that you are making double that.

Now some people would push back from that and say: "Well, I'm not going to be a 'Company Man'. If my boss wants more out of me, he needs to pay me better." Alright there, Bubba. You keep going with that attitude and see how far it gets you.

John Miller in his great book "QBQ!" says that we ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking "why aren't I getting paid more?" how about you ask "what can I do to show that I'm worth more?" (And if you are going to order the QBQ! you also need to get "Flipping the Switch"")

This isn't a new concept. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:41 to do double what is expected or required of us. I know, it's probably not fair for me to Jesus Juke you like that... But hey, it's in red letters, so it must be right. You could probably throw the whole concept of sowing & reaping in there too... The old saying is plant what you want to harvest.

So, in your spending, act your wage. In your earning, don't act your wage. See how far this takes you. You'll like where you wind up.

Nov 26, 2010

Keep the Driveway Shoveled...

Having the heart of a teacher, I look for lessons in everyday experiences.

And today I saw a teachable moment as I was shoveling our driveway after a fresh snow.




I try to shovel the snow off before anyone drives or walks on it. If not, the snow gets compacted into a dense ice. Now, for most parts of the country, that's not a big deal. In a few weeks the weather warms up and it all melts.

But, here in Alaska we still have a whole lot of winter ahead of us. If I don't stay on top of keeping the driveway clear, by spring we'll have a mess of thick ice.

In life, whether we like it or not, sometimes we get dumped on. Instead of snow though, it's things like anger, hurt, disappointment's, unforgiveness, and bitterness. When it happens, we have two choices. We can either deal with it quickly and shovel it out of the driveways of our life; or we can let it build up and build up. And if we don't deal with it quickly, it will build up into a thick, hard mess.

That's why the bible says to deal with anger quickly (Ephesians 4.26) and to make things right with others (Matthew 5.23-24).

Life happens. Deal with things as they happen. Ignoring them will not make it go away.

Nov 20, 2010

Act Your Wage!

Thomas Stanley in his epic codex "Stop Acting Rich" shows that far too many Americans are striving to live far above their means. We think that in having all the "stuff" we obtain a measure of wealth. In reality, those who are truly wealthy are so because they live far below their means. They live on less than they make and the excess is saved.

Multiple studies show us that in America today 7 in 10 homes in any given neighborhood struggle to live paycheck to paycheck. If you live in a "nice" neighborhood that number is more like 8 in 10.

It seems that when I was a kid, if you were poor it meant your family didn't have a nice car, a nice home, a TV and all the toys because money had to spent on food and heat and keeping the lights on. Today, poor seems to mean we don't have food, heat or lights because we have a nice car, a nice home, a couple of TVs and all the toys.

We think that in having all the "stuff" we will find happiness. But, the simple truth is this: Quality of life is not wrapped up in what you have, but in what you do with what you have.

If you want to get a handle on your finances, there's still time to get the best deal ever on Financial Peace University. But you have to hurry... The details are here...

Nov 19, 2010

Best. Video. Ever!!

I may have posted this video before... But it's a timeless classic that illustrates America's attitude towards money like no other.

The video quality is sketchy and the audio track is a little off, but it's the best version of it I've been able to find.

AND- Don't forget! There is just a few days left to get the best deal ever on the Financial Peace University class! Get the details here...

video

Nov 1, 2010

This Will Be Your Best (and maybe last...) Chance To Take FPU!

I have conducted back-to-back Financial Peace University classes for the last 2 and 1/2 years and I'm ready to take a bit of a break. But, before I do I want to offer the best price I've ever been able to offer.

Normally the cost to attend Financial Peace University is $100 per couple (or single person or family unit). This covers the cost of the Membership Kit and its shipping to Alaska. In the Membership Kit is the Financial Peace Revisited text book, the Financial Peace University Workbook, audio CDs of all the lessons, budgeting software and some other goodies.

Also included is 13 weeks of access to the online Membership Resource Center which is overflowing with the tools you need to find financial freedom. And if you ever want to go through Financial Peace University again, you have a lifetime membership and access to future classes.

At $100 this is a great deal. But I want to make it even better. If I can get at least 10 people to sign up and pay during the month of November I can offer the class for 10% off, costing only $90 dollars! And because I'm a nice guy I'll throw in a free copy of Dave's bestselling book, The Total Money Make Over!! That's $120 worth of stuff for only $90.

The classes will be on Tuesday nights from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. They'll start on January 18th, 2011 and through to April 12th, 2011. That's 13 weeks of life changing information.

Imagine not stressing over bills. Imagine being confident about your spending. Imagine having not debt and saving for the future. This is where you learn how to make it happen.

For more information on Financial Peace University, you can visit www.DaveRamsey.com/FPU

If you want to sign up, you need to contact me by November 28th. And I need at least ten people signed up to get the deal. So, maybe talk to friend, co-worker or family member about the class. I have brochures available if you'd like one.

And, I've already have one three couples signed up, so I only need 9 7 more!! To sweeten the deal, I'm doing a drawing for the first ten to sign up to win $20 cash. So if you are among the first ten to sign up you could get a deal worth $50 ($10 off, free $20 book and $20 cash)!!

Don't miss this opportunity. It won't happen again!


Oct 20, 2010

10 Ways to Save Money, Part 1

Before we can explore these ways to save some money on a day to day basis, we have to make sure we have the right foundation to start from. If you do not these key things in place, you are toast anyway. It would be like teaching you different type of swimming strokes while you have a cement block strapped to you ankles.

Key #1: Have a job. This may seem obvious, but I've met people who can't understand why they are broke when they do not have a job. You need an income. And if one job isn't enough, you might need two.

Key #2: Have a written budget. This is just a written game plan of what is coming in and what is going out, with every dollar accounted for. Imagine an NFL team hitting the field on game day without any plays planned. Imagine building a home without blueprints. Imagine getting on a jet piloted by a pilot who had no clue where he was going.

Key #3: Avoid new debt at all cost. Stop buying stuff on credit. Stop living on credit. Burn the credit cards. If you don't have the money, don't buy it. If you are not sure how that works, perhaps this video will help:
video
Key #4: Pay off your existing debt as fast as you can. Get aggressive about. You are losing so much money each month on interest.

Key #5: Save money. You need to save money for three things:
  1. Purchases (remember, no new debt...)
  2. Emergencies (stuff happens... sometimes bad stuff)
  3. Retirement (don't count on Social Security to take care of you...)

In the next post I'll throw out 10 simple, practical things I do to save money. But they are useless if you don't have this other stuff in place.

If you want to learn more about this stuff, you need to be a part of my next Financial Peace University class. It'll start January 18th and be on Tuesday nights for 13 weeks and the cost is $100.

Oh, and if you've bother to read this far, I must mention that Pastor Scott is pretty cool...

Oct 15, 2010

Feeding the Five Thousand

Mark chapter six has the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand.
Every time I've heard this preached, the preacher always emphasizes that it was five thousand men PLUS the women and children. It is always pointed that with the women and children the crowd could have been fifteen, twenty or twenty five thousand.
I don't get why we always take time to point that out...
Jesus was only working with a few fish and some bread. It was probably only enough to feed a dozen or so people anyway. So when the first twenty people got served it was unusual. After about thirty people it was amazing. Anything past forty or fifty was a miracle.
So is feeding five thousand men not a big enough miracle for us? Do we have to dress it up anymore than that? Are we thinking five thousand isn't flashy enough?
Now, full disclosure: I've done this before and I'll probably do it again in the future. I'm not saying it's wrong to do it. This just more of a random pondering.

Oct 11, 2010

Scott Phillips...

It was recently brought to my attention that I have never mentioned Pastor Scott in any of my blog posts. This is an unforgivable oversight.

Scott is the most sincere, honest, and genuine person I know. He deeply cares for others. And his concern drives him to action. If someone needs a hug, he is there to hug. Need some prayer? P. Scott keeps his hands folded and ready to go at all times. He'll weep with you, he'll laugh with you.

He is a lover of God first and foremost. He strives to be the best husband he can be. He is an excellent father and has raised some pretty incredible kids.

These last few years he has laid his life down to serve an army of world changers as the director of Master's Commission Wasilla Alaska. He doesn't use his position of authority to lord over the students and his heart's desire is to see them experience their full destiny as a beloved child of God.

Pastor Scott has been a true friend for almost 15 years. I've been privileged to walk along side him in many different adventures. He has maintained his integrity and determination through all kinds of troubles and trials.

Scott, I love you man... And now I've done a blog post about you. So get off my back...

Oct 1, 2010

30 Minutes of Television That Will Make You Hate Your Life

That's what famed blogger Jon Acuff calls the TV show "International House Hunters."

If you are not familiar with Jon, he's the author... nay, GENIUS who writes the "Stuff Christians Like" blog. He recently became a part of financial guru Dave Ramsey's team. And if you are not familiar with Dave Ramsey then you need to be. Now. (I was pretty thrilled about this... It's like the Easter Bunny & Santa Claus teamed up...)

Jon recently wrote an article on Dave's site talking about something you commonly see on the show. (I've seen the same thing on their sister show "House Hunters.") If you've not seen the it, the basic premise is a house hunting couple is shown three homes base on their shopping criteria (budget, size, neighborhood, etc). Typically, one of the three houses is price beyond the budget and the couple struggle to say no to the stunning home with the big price tag. I mean, who wouldn't bigger, better, nicer; regardless of the price.

Christy and I went through this in our 10 year long house hunt. We looked at some incredible homes, but they were out of our price range. Some were way out of our price range. Those were easy to say no to. But some were *just* out of our range. Just a bit. Just a teeny little bit. Those were the hard ones to say no to... We'd start looking at the budget to see if we could make it work. Three square meals a day? We could shift that to three square meals a week. If fig leaf clothing was good enough for Adam & Eve, shouldn't it be good enough for us? Fred Flinstone came up with a 100% fuel efficient car that would cut our gasoline budget.

But, the truth was they were out of the budget. We had run the numbers. We knew what we could and couldn't afford for monthly payments. The hard part was the bank had approved us for more than what we could've realistically afforded. But we had to ignore that and stick to the plan.

And this concept applies to more than just buying a home. It really applies to all areas of spending. Studies have soon you spend less when you hit the grocery store with a shopping list and a specific amount of cash to spend.

Have you ever had a weekend with nothing planned? A friend calls and you head out to the movies. Despite the jumbo popcorn and bladder-buster soda, you're still hungry so you grab some Applebee's afterward. Then on Sunday, after church you grab some Chili's. Before you know it, you've spent $100 of unplanned money. In my world, that's a big chunk of change.

Is going to the movies and eating out wrong? Of course not. But it can be the death blow to your budget if you don't plan for it. Put it in the budget. If it doesn't fit in the budget, then you'll have to give up something somewhere to make it fit.



The biggest push back I get from people is "no one is going to tell ME what to do with MY money." And that is exactly right... It's your money. You can spend it however you want. That's the beauty of a budget. You write it. (You and your spouse if you are married...) You make the choices. You choose what you are going to spend on what. You are in COMPLETE control.


But, if you are wanting to spend more than you make, then you've got to make some hard choices. Either make more money or starting cutting stuff based on what is important to you. Your values are reflected in the budget you have set up.

A budget is the game plan where you tell your money where it'll go. It'll keep you from wondering where it went... Money is like a new puppy. You either train it where it'll go, or it's just going to go where ever it feels like and you've got little puddles all over the house. Yuck.

Have a plan. Stick to it. It's as simple as that.

Really, you should read Jon's article here... It's way better than what I write.

Sep 28, 2010

Curse You, Tom Botts!

Why am I so angry with Tom? He's actually a great guy. Tom is the author of the always entertaining and often inspiring Wilderness Blues blog. He is also the author of a book by the same title.

And that is where the problem lies... You see, yesterday I received an autographed copy of said book. It's published by the great people at Good Catch Publishing. I was giddy at the prospect of enjoying the book over the next few weeks as time would allow.

Tom is the father of one of my best friends when I lived in Hoonah as a teen. He and his family had been a part of a Christian commune of sorts not far from the logging camp where I grew up. It was near one of the best fishing streams and remember checking it out one time. Everyone called it "the farm". In the interest of being self sufficient they grew their own food and raised livestock. The farm was made up of buildings built from rough cut lumber connected by a network of boardwalks over the damp ground. Tom's book chronicles his time living at the farm and the struggle of dealing with the strict rules and ultra-conservative atmosphere.

It was Monday when the book arrived in the mail. The night before I had been up way later than normal. The boilers at the church were having issues and with temperatures dropping I helped Pastor Josh in his attempt to get them running. (And by helping I mean I stood around while Josh did all the work...) So I was operating on about 5 1/2 hours of sleep instead of my normal 7 or 8. The plan for Monday night then was to definitely be in bed by my bedtime of 10pm.

Amazingly enough, it was 9:43pm when I crawled into bed. The plan was to read a chapter or two if I could keep my tired eyes open that long. So I start reading. And reading. And reading.

A few times I had the thought that I should put the book down and go to sleep. But it would need to be after this page. Or after the next. Or the next. Or after a few more...

The conclusion of this long and pointless account: I finished the book at 12:34am. Stupid Tom. If you had wrote a book that sucked I could've gotten some sleep. Instead, I got less sleep last night then the night before.

So, curse you Tom. Curse you to heck. You are the reason I'm so tired today! The next book you write had better be a lot less engaging and entertaining. Oh, and it better be soon. Darn soon.

Sep 16, 2010

Wilderness Blues

I want to make a recommendation for a great blog. It's Wilderness Blues, by Tom Botts.

Tom is the father of a friend of mine when I was growing up in Hoonah. He's a great guy, and turns out he's a pretty good writer too.

I've enjoyed his blog. Not only does it give a window into life in Hoonah, he's funny.

Tom is a published author. I hear great things about his book, but have not read it yet. A certain person keeps promising to loan it to me so I can read it, but they've yet to deliver on the promise. You know who you are...

His latest post proposes a new diet that could be the newest weight loss fad. And his idea of the Taco Bell apron is genius... pure genius.

Thanks Tom for the fun. Keep it up!

Sep 10, 2010




Despite my claims to become more consistent in my blogging, this is the first post in a while, and I'm really only posting so I can get this image on a website so I can link to it in a forum post.
There's quite a bit of stuff I could be blogging about... My parents came up this summer and we spent some time exploring Alaska with a trip to Valdez. My nephew & niece are both here locally now, so we spent a weekend with them and took them to the fair.
I've started another round of the Financial Peace class and this weekend I get to share on personal finance at a young adult retreat.
So, there's plenty I could talk about. Lack of content is not the issue. Lack of time has a lot to do with it. And lack of an audience. I'm pretty sure my mom (hi mom...) is the only one that actually reads this. And let's face it, she's my mom. She pretty much has to read it.

Aug 3, 2010

What is it going to take?

The sad truth is out there. Christianity in American culture is in decline. We are no longer a Christian society in this country. Yes, the Christian faith may have been the foundation, but today it is viewed at best as old fashion and irrelevant and at worst extremist and dangerous.
So, what is it going to take to see a change?
Will more good preaching help? My iPod is FULL of great sermons from great preachers. In decades past to hear a particular preacher you either had to wait for them to come to your area or you had to travel to them. But not today. You can watch them on TV, hear them on the radio, podcast them, listen to them over the internet or order their CD's & DVD's. We have unprecedented access to as much preaching as we want to hear. But, is that making a change in our nation?
What about more Christian books? Growing up in remote logging camps meant I had no access to Christian bookstores. When we would go into town, I would always make a stop at the local bookstore to load up. Today, through the convenience of the internet almost every Christian title is available. And there are more Christian books out there than ever before. Everyone has written their book. Every subject is covered in depth. And look at your own collection. How many books do you have? But, is that making a change in our nation?
What about good worship music? I remember in the '90's when a new Vineyard album would come ou, we would kill ourselves getting to the Christian bookstore trying to get it. Now iTunes is overflowing with great, inspired, anointed worship music. And there's more songs being added all the time. And it's great stuff. But, is that making a change in our nation?
What about more church services? Church calendars are packed with activities for all ages and interests. Or more conferences? Or more Christian magazines. Or more Christian T-Shirts. Or more bumper stickers that inform the heathens that in case of rapture this car will empty. Will all this make the change we need to see in our nation?
What is it going to take?

Jul 29, 2010

10 Ways to Achieve Your Goals With Financial Peace University

Before you know it, the kids will be back in school, the trees will be changing colors and summer will be over. But don't let that get you down! Fall is the second New Year's, meaning it's time to readdress all those resolutions you made for yourself at the beginning of the year.
Remember all those financial, physical, spiritual and mental goals you made? Fall is the perfect time to create a schedule that allows you to meet those resolutions! And with back-to-school shopping out of the way, why not get started meeting some of these goals with the help of Financial Peace University?
The life-changing information you will learn in Financial Peace University (FPU) will help you take control of your money, but have you ever realized that money is tied to all areas of your life? Once you work toward getting your financial house in order, your other goals will follow suit and build upon each other. Here are 10 ways FPU will help you improve your money ... and your life!
  1. Helps couples get on the same page with money. No more money fights! Couples learn how to make decisions about their money together.
  2. Forces you to do a budget and actually use it. Guessing games are a thing of the past! Learn how to make a written plan for your money.
  3. Explains the importance of an accountability partner for singles. Gain a sense of empowerment over your money by acquiring an accountability partner help you make smart decisions.
  4. Shows you how to teach your kids about money. Tell your children how to save, spend and invest their money and help them make a great future for themselves!
  5. Teaches you how to get out of debt—for good this time. Time to kick out Sallie Mae and get rid of the car loan! Using the debt snowball, you'll learn how to pay off your debt.
  6. Lets you know what insurance you need and don't need. Learn how to cover yourself with the right type of insurance for you, your family and your assets.
  7. Tells people how to bargain and get great deals. Learning how to negotiate deals will save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars!
  8. Prepares you for a happy and stress-free retirement. Planning now saves you heartache and money in the long run. Figure out how you can retire with no money worries.
  9. Helps parents plan ahead for their kids' college funding. If you have kids, preparing now for their college funding will save them from student loans later in life.
  10. Demonstrates the importance of working in a job you love. Instead of dreading Mondays and loving Fridays, you will learn how to do work you love.
This article was taken from Dave's Newsletter. If you would like more information on my upcoming FPU class, click here...

Jul 24, 2010

Stop Looking For The Dramatic!

One of my favorite blogs, Stuff Christians Like, is written Jon Acuff. He had a Tweet today that is not only profound, but has a great amount of application in every day life. Here is his brilliant insight:  David didn't show up to fight Goliath. He brought lunch. Stop looking for the dramatic and be great at the little things.

 If you don't believe it, check the story out in 1 Samuel 17. Jesse sent David to his brothers. He was to bring them roasted grain and bread. And cheese for their commanding officer. (Hmmm... Another example of honoring leadership... I'll talk about that some other time...)

The problem for most of us is that we grew up in Sunday School with flannel-graphs. Right now you can picture in your mind the cut out flannel-graph of David and the five smooth stones and Goliath. You'll noticed that they never had a flannel-graph of Goliath getting his head whacked off. That would've been AWESOME. But it would've required a PG-13 rating for violence on the class. That wouldn't have gone over well. But, I digress...

So, in our minds we jump ahead in the story assume that David set out kill Goliath. He had faced the bear, he had faced the lion. He was ready for his moment of glory. He had enough of tending these smelly sheep. It's time for some fame!!

But that's not how it happened... He was doing a simple, lowly task. He was the pizza delivery boy. They probably didn't even tip him. But he was being faithful in the little things. And his faithfulness in the little things opened the door for big things. That almost sounds like something Jesus said one time...

The lesson to be learned here is this: The more time we spend dreaming about the big things while ignoring the little things the further we get from our goal. Get your head out of the clouds, get your feet on the ground and move up that mountain one step at a time.

So, what are the little things in front of you? Are you ignoring them because you are waiting for your big moment of glory?

There is more to be learned here, but I'll save that for another post...

Jul 21, 2010

Is it how we start, or how we end?

After a long, inexcusable absence I was working on a post last night. For whatever reason, Blogspot managed to lose about half of it. I will get that missing part retyped and get the post up soon. It'll be a good one, commenting on a recent Seth Godin post (read it here...).

In the meantime I have a thought for your reading pleasure:

This morning I slowly came awake. My alarm clock display has the option to dim it completely, so I wasn't sure of the time. I normally wake up once or twice between 4am and when my alarm goes off at 5:51am, so I assumed that it was around 5am.

Still groggy, I activated the display. It was 6.31am. I was waking up a full 40 minutes late. Which means I would be 40 minutes late for work. I hate being late for work.

My mind immediately began to try and determined what had gone wrong? Did I sleep through my alarm? Not likely. No matter how hard I'm asleep I always wake up for my alarm. Did I forget to click the switch to on? Nope, It was on. Then I looked a little closer... The alarm was set for 5.51pm, not 5.51am!! Arrghhh!

Fortunately, my boss is pretty understanding about this sort of thing, so there was no significant consequences.

But, it did get me thinking. The most common response to this sort of mistake is "what a horrible way to start the day." But this had nothing to do with how I started my day. It was all about how I ended the previous day.

And then I realized how much that concept applied to life. We have to ask ourselves: How did I finish my last assignment/mission/task? Even if I successfully completed it, did I leave a wake of destruction in my path? Did I burn bridges and ruin relationships?  Did I hurt people? Did I compromise my principles or sacrificed my integrity?

If so, then any perceived victory is empty and meaningless. I may of got the job done, the price paid is too high.

Yes, we should start strong. But we must finish even stronger.

Mar 23, 2010

So, Saturday we went Geocaching

And it was an AWESOME day. The weather was incredible. Some of these spring days in Alaska are unbelievable. There's still plenty of snow on the ground, so you have the winter wonderland thing going on. But, the sun is out more and more, and the temperatures are getting up into the high 30's, low 40's.

After a long winter, it's like the down payment on the promise of a beautiful summer. So, these days must be enjoyed to the fullest. No sitting on the couch. So, that's why after doing my Financial Peace class Saturday morning, and then a quick appointment with the tax lady, we headed out.

Our first two caches were in the Meadow Lakes area, off of Beverly Lakes Road. The first cache was located just 40 feet into the woods. After finding nothing in the first few minutes of searching, we decided to come back to it after the second cache. This one was about a half of a mile in on a small strip of land between two lakes. The best was to get to it was to got out on the frozen lake and walk down to were it was at, and then go up and grab it. Coming back to the first cache, we walked right up to it with no problems.

We then headed into Big Lake for a couple more. The first one was hidden inside of a culvert. It's a good thing the creek was frozen over. It made it way easier to get to. The next one was at Rocky Lake State Recreation area, a great swimming spot in the summer. Of course, this time of year, there was an oval track out on the ice for snow machine racing.

At this point we had just one more cache we were going to attempt. It was on the shore of Big Lake. But, when we got there, I realized the lake was still solidly frozen over. On the other side of Big Lake there's a cache I've been wanting to do forever. But, without a boat, you can't get to it. Well, when the water is frozen, you don't need no stinkin' boat. So, we got to hit it and come back and hit the other one.

Seriously, good day in the sun with my awesome wife!

Mar 20, 2010

Book Review: 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell has long been recognized as the book on leadership.

If I have one complaint about the book it is this: the principles found in the 21 Laws can be used by everyone, not just leaders. When we think about a "leadership book" we think about something that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company would read. Most people wouldn't bother to read the book and study the principles, because they do not see themselves as leaders. And, sadly, if that is their attitude, they never will be leaders.

Picture if you will a gas station attendant named Skippy. His is a position most in our society would view as a lowly one. Skippy is probably making minimum wage, manning the pumps and cleaning dead bugs off of people's windows. After pumping the gas, he swipes the customer's credit card at the pump and hands them their receipt. But, if they want to pay with cash or check (as you should be doing...), there's a problem. In order to process the cash, Skippy has to run inside to the cash register, ring up the sale and run back out to the waiting customer.

This only takes a moment for each transaction, but if you multiply that moment times hundreds of customers a day, significant time is lost. At peak periods, the line can stretch back out to the street and potential customers are forced to go down the road to the competitor. Skippy realizes there needs to be a change. The gas station is losing customers and sales, and his feet really hurt at the end of the day!

The solution seems simple to Skippy. If there was a work station located out by the pumps with a cash register in it, he could ring up the sale there. Simple. Easy. Quick. Everyone wins. So Skippy goes to his boss and asks him to put in the work station and register. The boss thinks for moment and says no.

The boss knows it will cost to get an electrical outlet wired in out by the pumps, and figures that Skippy is just being lazy, not wanting to come in to ring up the sale.

So, Skippy continues to do things as he always has. Sales are lost, his moral is low and his feet still really hurt.

Now Skippy would never feel the need to read a leadership book. He's just an attendant at a gas station. He's not a leader. The one time he's had a good idea, he got shot down by his boss. But, if Skippy would take the time to invest in himself, he would see that by employing some the of the 21 Laws, he could help his boss see the advantage of having the register.

Skippy could've started at Law 6, The Law of Solid Ground. Leadership is about trust. Did Skippy give his boss any reason to not trust him? Had his boss caught him avoiding hard work in the past? If there's no reason for the boss not to trust Skippy, it wouldn't hurt for Skippy to remind the boss that he's a hard worker who is willing to do whatever it takes. When people know they can trust you to do the right thing, they are more likely to hear what you have to say and follow.

Then there's Law 4, the Law of Navigation. Instead of just asking for the work station, Skippy could have helped his boss understand the problem and it's negative consequences. Then he could have explained the answer he had come up with and its benefits. The shortest distances between two points may be a straight line, but if you can't convince someone to follow you then you are going nowhere. When presenting an idea, we have to help our audience by navigating them down the path we took ourselves in the process of coming up with the idea. Be a good guide and don't leave your party stranded in the wilderness.

Just these two of the 21 Laws could have helped Skippy take his first step towards being more than just a gas station attendant. Just think what they could do for you...

Not a reader? John Maxwell has a series of podcasts in which he quickly summarizes each law. He's got such a great voice...

(Full disclosure: any awesomeness related to this post is due to the fact I was eating bacon during it's typing.)

Mar 18, 2010

Book Review: Books from the Heath Brothers

I've become a big fan of Chip and Dan Heath's books. I first discovered them when I saw their book "Made to Stick" on another blogger's website. They had duct tape on the cover, so that pretty much sealed the deal for me.
Have you ever heard the Urban Legend of the guy that was in the big city on business? He goes to get a drink that evening and wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, with surgical tubing hanging out of him and a note saying that he needs to call 911 because they've taken his kidneys.
Why do we remember stuff like that, but we can't remember simply bible stories or verses. How many sermons have you heard in your lifetime? How many do you actually remember?
Just because an idea is being presented to us doesn't mean it's going to stick. And as good as the idea is, and as much as we want to remember it, ideas don't automatically stick.
All of us present ideas on a regular basis. A parent teaching their child about manners is presenting an idea they hope will stick. A salesman explaining a product to a potential customer is presenting an idea they hope will stick. Applying for an new job is presenting an idea that you hope will stick. Advertising is presenting an idea that you hope will stick.
They suggest the "SUCCES(s) format for presenting ideas. I'll briefly outline the main points here:
  • Simplicity: Keep the ideas simple. Don't dumb it down, but strip it down to it's most important element. What’s the core of your message? If they only remember one thing, what should that be? Make that the priority.
  • Unexpected: Do something unexpected to provide an interruption in people's thought process. If they think you know what you are going to say before you say it, they stop listening. Shock their system a little bit.
  • Concrete: Your message has to solid. Abstract ideas are rarely remembered. Saying that movie popcorn is unhealthy is kinda a vague statement. Saying that a bucket of movie popcorn has the same fat as a complete bacon/egg breakfast plus a Big Mac & fries, plus a full steak dinner gives you a concrete idea of just how unhealthy it is for you. (...but still so very delicious!)
  • Credibility: People have to trust you, or trust your sources. If I tell you smoking is bad, you may or may not believe me. If a doctor tells you smoking is bad, you are more likely to believe them. If a lung cancer survivor tells you smoking is bad, you are really likely to believe them.
  • Emotional: People don't do much until you get their emotions moving. That's why the "Feed the Children" commercials put hungry children in their ads. It moves your emotions. Just statistics on how many kids lack proper nutrition won't cause people to open up their wallets.
  • Stories: Simply said people remember stories. That's why movies are so popular. They tell a story. Look at the more popular video games that are out there. They have a role playing element to them. More than playing a game, you are a character in a story.

The best selling point of Dan & Chip's material is the simplicity in which they present it. Chip is a professor at Stanford University and Dan has been a researcher at Harvard University. But, they don't write in a scholarly tone. They put everything into a form that an idiot like me can easily get and apply. And on their website, they provide additional resources that further explains their material.
Dan & Heath's newest book was just released: Switch, How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I haven't read the whole book yet, but the first chapter is available for free with registration. Just what is presented in the first chapter has already changed how I look at things and how I think. And, like with Made to Stick, they provide a bunch of free resources to go along with the book.
So, are you looking to be more memorable? Read "Made to Stick." Looking to make a change in your life. Read "Switch." While you are picking up your copy of "Switch" be sure and grab one for me. Thanks!

Mar 14, 2010

The First of Many...

This will be the first of many book reviews I plan on doing from my recommended reading list. I felt it was appropriate to start with the bible. I'm not going to take time here to debate the value of reading the bible or its authenticity. That's a subject for a whole other discussion...
The bible that I use 90% of the time is an NIV Thinline Bible. My current one has a black faux leather cover. I'm pretty sure Christy got me this one when we were in Phoenix a few years back. The first one I had completely wore out. They are not exactly high quality, but the price is right. It's not too big for carrying around; in fact it'll fit into the back pocket of a pair of Levi's. It has some cross references down a center column that are convenient. It also has a limited concordance in the back. For underlining in it, I use a ruler, just to keep things neat.
My choice for a study bible is the Life In the Spirit Study Bible. The study notes are written from a pentecostal perspective and pretty helpful. It was originally published as the Full Life Study Bible.
I also like the notation in the Dake Study Bible. Finish Dake was very thorough in his work, and it has 35,000 commentary notes, and 500,000 cross references.
Another favorite is the Key Word Study Bible. It has the key words numbered, which links to a Greek/Hebrew dictionary in the back. It's a very handy reference guide for seeing some of the original language.
The final bible on my list is the Wuest translation of the New Testament. Kenneth Wuest was a noted Greek scholar and his work is a literal translation of the Greek language. It's a little hard to just sit and read, because he follows the original sentence structure. It almost seems like you are reading the verse backwards at times. But, it's a great resource!
Okay... So there's the list. But, the key is not which bible, but do we actually read it? The average American Christian home has 8 to 12 bibles in it. Most of those are covered in dust and just there for show. And more than just reading it, do we apply it's principles to our lives?

Mar 10, 2010

A Crazy Night Update

It took us most the night to warm up after our hour outside in ten degree weather. This morning I headed to Pioneer Door to see about getting our door fixed. Darrell was very helpful and soon someone was headed to the house. An hour and $715 later our door is fixed. And, for an extra $50 bucks, I had them install a remote keypad outside that allows us to open the garage door. Now we can only get locked out if the power is out.
That is why having an emergency fund is vital to your financial health. Most Americans would be forced to put something like this on the credit card. The last thing this country needs right now is more debt!
Get on a written budget, live on less than you make and get some money in the bank for an emergency. Once you have a $1000 saved up, get crazy about paying off all debt and not getting anymore debt. Then save up three to six months of expenses.
Imagine how it would feel to know that if an emergency happen, you'd be ready for it. You can be, but it's not going to happen by accident.

Mar 9, 2010

Craziest Evening of My Life

Today was fairly normal... Got some snow, spent some time at the church, took Christy to work, (we weren't sure about her car in the snow) went to work, and did some grocery shopping on the way home. Normal. Nothing weird.
So we are sitting at home, watching Biggest Loser, trying to decide what would be good for a late dinner. We hear a bang and it sounds like it came from the garage. We look at each other quizzically and then get up to see what's wrong. A glance in the garage didn't seem to reveal the source of the noise, so we checked out a few more rooms. Coming back to the garage, Christy realizes our garage door is caved in. Not completely caved in, but the bottom two panels have a good 6 inch dent/crease in them.
I run out and the tracks in the snow tell the obvious story. Someone on a four wheeler came down our driveway and hit our garage door. Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!!
So I come in and grab my cell phone and call the police. Not 911, because it's not an emergency. Everyone should have the non-emergency dispatch number of their local police in their cell phones. While it's ringing, I shut the stove off; a move that will later be shown to be a wise one. I tell the dispatcher what happened, and she say's she'll have an officer contact me.
I go out and realize the four wheeler had a very distinct tire tread that can be tracked in the fresh snow. I holler back at Christy that I'm going to see if I can find them. I'm just in shorts and a T-shirt, but I don't plan on being out long. The air temperature is 12 degrees.
I follow the tracks down Stoneridge and onto Mack Road and follow them up as far as Sakai before I lose them. While I'm out there, a Wasilla PD officer calls me to get the details and says he'll come over. I head back to the house.
As I get close, I see that Christy is standing outside. She asks if I found anything, and then asks if I have house keys on me. The knob on our door can be locked, but still open from the inside and closed behind you, still locked. Christy had come out right behind me, not realizing I hadn't unlocked the door knob. And she closed the door behind her. Locking us out. In the cold.
Right then the officer shows up, takes a look at everything and decides to take a drive around the neighborhood. He offers to have dispatch call a locksmith for us. It's going to cost $117, but what choice do we have?
The officer swung back by a few minutes later and said it looks like the four wheeler had come down KGB and turned onto Mack and could be anywhere by now. He offered to let us wait in his patrol vehicle to stay warm, but my pride required me to say no thanks. I'm still in shorts and a T-shirt, Christy at least has a sweater on. And it's still 12 degrees. And snowing.
Total time outside: one hour. Cost to fix the garage door? We aren't sure yet. I'll have to call the garage door people tomorrow.
Why? I wish I knew. The officer asked if we'd had any problems with anyone in the neighborhood. We've only lived here a few months and only met one neighbor. It's a quiet, nice neighborhood. It looks like someone was out riding around and was going to use our driveway to turn around. Either they were going to fast, or couldn't get stopped on the ice underneath the snow. Regardless of why, it still stinks.
This is why it's vital to have an emergency fund...

Mar 7, 2010

A New Feature to the Blog

I've added a new feature to the blog. It's something I've wanted to do for awhile, and just hadn't taken the time to yet. It's a "Recommended Reading List." The list is by no means complete yet, and will be added to as I encounter more great books.
I have always felt reading is a huge part of a person's growth and success in life. Dave has a quote he uses (he got it from someone else, but I don't remember who right now...): In five years you will be the same person you are now except for the books you read and the people you meet. It's been said that leaders are readers. Andrew Carnegie felt that life should be divided into 3 phases: To spend the first third of one's life getting all the education one can. To spend the next third making all the money one can. To spend the last third giving it all away for worthwhile causes.
So, to me, reading is huge. I've always been a reader. The summer before 1st Grade, we moved to a logging camp on Zarembo Island in Southeast Alaska. There was about 30 kids, grades K-12, that did school in a one room building. In the back was a bookshelf that made up the Library. In no time at all I had read almost every book up through the 3rd grade level. I lived in logging camps up until my junior year in high school, and we never had more than one TV channel (thanks, Rural Alaskan Television Network). In two of the camps we had no TV reception at all. So, reading was about the only option.
As I'm typing this, I'm watching Dumb and Dumber (greatest.movie.EVER.) on TV, and realizing I probably do not read as much as I have in the past. I plan on changing that...
The books on my list are all books I have read at least part of. Some are for spiritual growth, some for personal growth, some for professional growth. Ministers are expected to have a huge library, proudly displayed on shelves behind their desks. Truth is, most of us haven't read any of those books. I actually heard it recommended one time to watch for when older ministers retire, and then buy their libraries to fill up your shelves.
At this time in history, we have more books available to us than ever! Public libraries have been around for awhile, but now there is so much available online too. Publishing a book is easier than ever. While it's great that we have so much available to us, some books probably aren't worth the paper they are written on. And, even if it's a great book; it's fruitless to read it and then not apply it. Proof in point: in 2008 there was over 8000 books written on being successful in business. And yet 2008 saw the biggest failures in the business world in at least 70 years.
We don't need more books, and the books we do have we need to put into practical use. The books I have on this list are all ones that will bring a benefit to your life. In future blog posts, I'll highlight some of these books, to give you an idea of what they are all about. The link for most of them will take you to Amazon. I typically find that they offer the best price and customer service. But, I know I've found a number of these in my local library. Why buy when you can borrow?
Do you have a book you would recommend? Then sign up for your own blog and put it on there...

Feb 26, 2010

Here We Go Again...

Tomorrow morning (Saturday, February 27th) at 9am I embark on another 13 week journey with Financial Peace University. The crazy thing is that I'm only eight weeks into a class that is meeting on Monday nights. And these last two weeks I've been meeting with the Master's twice a week and teaching them the Financial Peace concepts. So I've been doing 8 hours of week of this stuff.
You'd think that I would be all Dave'd out, but I'm not. His teaching style is fun to watch. The stuff he is teaching is simple enough that anyone can get it; but deep enough that every time I see it I get something new out of it.
I believe in these concepts that he teaches. And it's not something that Dave alone came up with. Most of it is common sense, based on God's word. The math is simple... Every dime you pay in interest on a debt is money that is not earning you interest on an investment. If you spend more than you make, you WILL be broke.
Let me say that again: If you spend more than you earn, you WILL be broke! I am amazed at the people who complain about not having money, and are jealous of those who do, but then the moment they get $100, they go out and spend $125. It's insane that people could be that stupid.
Okay... Rant over. But the point is valid.
So, here's the deal. If you are local (Mat-Su Valley) you need to be a part of the class. If you live anywhere else, go to Dave's website, put in your zip code, and find a class in your area. Sign up and do it.
Yeah, I know it's $100. But, average that over the 91 days of the course, and you are looking at a little more than a dollar a day. Cut out your coffee, or soda or stop super sizing your value meal.
If I told you that I had a '69 Camaro SS for sell for $100, you'd find a way to get the money. Well, if you'll get these concepts and apply them, it'll bring you to the point where you can buy any car you want.
But, it's NOT get rich quick. It's get rich slowly. And it's not even about getting rich. It's about winning with money. How would it feel to not worry about making your bills? To not worry about money fights?
57% of all divorces in America list money issues as the number one reason for the break up. 57%! Want a better marriage? Want an awesome marriage? Do the class!
Do something that will change your life... Only you can decide for you...

Feb 11, 2010

Survivor is on...

and the current wife is stamping with her mom, so I thought this would be a good time to do a blog post. And of course as soon as I got comfortable the load of laundry I put in earlier got done. Up until a few months ago a load of laundry being done wouldn't be a big deal. But, that was before we moved into the new house. And got a new washer & dryer. The ones at the apartment belonged to the church. The new ones are fancy front loaders. When a load gets done, the machine starts beeping. Loud and continuously It's highly annoying. So, when the load is done, you have no choice but to get up and deal with it. Oh well, it's not like getting up is going to kill me.

During Christmas, I got a Visa Gift Card from someone. Money tends to burn a hole in my pocket, so I set about spending it as quickly as I could. The next weekend we were in Anchorage and swung by Bed, Bath & Beyond. I've been thinking about a pressure cooker every since I saw some cooking shows use them.

So, while we were there, I took a look. The had a eight quart Fagor Rapida model that was the exact price of what I had on the card. It was like a match made in heaven. Or at least in the cookware aisle. Bye bye prepaid Visa Gift Card. Our time together was short, but worthwile.

So, I am the proud owner of a pressure cooker. It's a beautiful thing. Pressure cookers of old could be dangerous things and were prone to explode if not carefully regulated. But modern progress has eliminated that nasty habit.

It's pretty simple to use. Just put the stuff in, put on the lid and crank up the heat. Once the pressure is up to 15 psi and the regulator is spitting steam, you just back off the heat and let it do it's thing.

And that's the great part. It cooks FAST. I did 5 pounds of potatoes in 10 minutes. I did pork ribs to pull apart tender in 45 minutes. A roast is done in 30 minutes. It's crazy. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit it does take a few minutes to come to pressure and several more minutes to release the pressure when you are done. But still, it's a lot quicker than any other method, and the food is awesome!

Feb 5, 2010

Cooking...

It's definitely become a hobby of mine. I guess it comes with being fat. You may as well enjoy the journey to obesity.
I remember cooking some growing up. I remember I used to make chocolate chip cookies a lot. By the time I was in Jr. High, I had the recipe memorized.
I remember when I was in the fifth grade and we were living in Haines, Alaska in a tiny trailer. Dad was working for Whitestone Logging at the time and they went there for a job that went bust. We finished the school year while Dad worked down at Hoonah.
For Christmas that year, my grandparents got Mom a Oster Kitchen Center. It was pretty fancy, with all kinds of attachments. Up to that point when I was making cookies, I'd use a hand mixer in regular bowl.
When make cookies you mix your wet ingredients first, and then slowly mix in your dry. I say slowly because if you just dump in your flour and start mixing, it's going to blow flour all over the kitchen. Even at this tender age, I knew that and would be very careful to not make a mess.
Somehow Mom seemed to think this new fancy tool was a magic tool... Right after we got, I wanted to make cookies. So, since I was unfamiliar with kitchen center, Mom was helping me out. We mixed the wet ingredients, and the added the dry. I began to slow dial up the speed. Mom mocked me for being so cautious. She said you didn't have to do it the old fashion way, and cranked the dial up. Flour exploded everywhere and coated the entire kitchen and us. She stood there with a shocked look on her flour dusted face...
Now, she'll probably deny this ever happened. As the years have gone by, her memory isn't quite what is used to be. But I remember it clearly. I remember realizing for the first time that just because someone is an adult, doesn't mean they know everything. That was a huge revelation for a 10 year old. Of course, now that I am an adult, I know that we don't have a clue about most things, and just fake it really well.
 

  

 

Feb 4, 2010

I'm a lousy blogger...

I have good intentions... I do. In a perfect world, I'd do 4 to 5 posts a week of witty and entertaining thoughts that are thought provoking. Maybe even life changing for some.

I don't think it's because I'm lazy, even though I kinda am. I do get some great thoughts. Some of them I Twitter, and some I put into Facebook posts. Others linger in my brain for a few moments, and then are lost forever.

And the reality is, I don't think anyone even reads this thing. I think I got it figured out so that my posts here show up on Twitter & Facebook, but that doesn't mean anyone is going to read it.

Let's face it: there are millions of blogs out there. It's like with worship CD's. A decade ago, a decent worship CD would set the world on fire, and everyone rushed out to buy it. Now, the worship "market" is so saturated. And with iTunes, does anyone actually buy CD's anymore? I haven't bought one in years. Seriously, years.

And, I follow some great blogs. There's no way I could ever write like those guys. My favorites? Stuff Christians Like has great satire. Love that. Thomas Stanley is teaching what America needs to hear when it comes to what we do with money. Seth Godin is just a genius.

When we were building the house, I was updating the pictures on here as well as Facebook. By the way, we are LOVIN' the house. I thank God for the time in the church apartment, but those days are over, and I'm loving the house. We aren't completely unpacked and probably won't be for months. We got unpacked enough to be living here, so we kinda lost the motivation to finish it off. Oh well, it'll give us something to do for a while.

I suppose my introspection tonight is brought on by the Percocet I'm taking for the pain following a pulled tooth. I went too many years with out dealing with a captivity and it went past the point of no return. A root canal was $2000 and pulling it was $200. Bye bye tooth. Dr. McLean gave a prescription for Percocet, and there's a lot of them in there. I should sell the extra and come out money ahead...

Okay... Enough rambling. Not that I really said anything worthwhile anyway. I should do a post about the Financial Peace University classes I'm coordinating right now. I'm pretty excited about what's happening there. I could also do a post on some of my new cookware toys. Well, we'll see if I keep with it or not.

Have a good night.