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 ( 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...