Morning Routine

Every workday morning here’s what happens for me:

  • 90 minutes before I need to leave, I get up
  • I go downstairs for that most important first cup of coffee (warning: this step is critical!)
  • I make my smoothie and toss it in the fridge
  • I head upstairs to my office, close the door and sit in my “reading” chair
  • I grab my book or books and begin reading – usually about 30-40 minutes
  • I turn off the lights, check email – primarily for any schedule changes
  • I then shut down for about 10 minutes’ meditation – relax, be silent, and be still
  • Shower, grab my smoothie and out the door.
  • In the car, first thing – prayer
  • Second thing, I start my Bible app/sermon
  • From this point on, everything begins to vary depending on the day’s schedule

That’s it! Exciting!

I share this not to impress; it’s likely not overly impressive anyway. I share it to demonstrate why and how this is important and helpful to me.

First, it’s a victory, in two key ways. One – in completing it.  And, two – in what I’ve completed.

Second, I’ve honored two “big rocks” (top life priorities – see Covey’s 7 Habits book) before I’ve technically started my workday. Which ones?

  • Personal/professional development (reading)
  • Faith (prayer and Bible app)

This might all come across as a bit “legalistic”, especially the faith part. But to me, it’s not. It might have started that way, to a degree, but it’s evolved in a remarkable way. While there are many other ways throughout the day and week I might honor these areas of priority, this routine guarantees my daily attention and focus. Everything else is additional. I might read another hour later on, or go to church that evening and prayer can be anytime, but if not…

This routine also helps me to honor the other “big rocks” in my life. By being sure I’ve done the above so early, it makes my evening much more free to be fully present and engaged with my wife and kids. No work, no reading unless it’s with Amy, and church includes all of us.

Where’s the exercise you might ask? That’s a bit of an anomaly for me – I just really like it, kind of can’t go without it, so it’s pretty easy to execute. So long as I’ve scheduled it into my day in advance.  And I do.

How about you? Would any of you share a key morning routine that’s proved highly valuable in your life?

Win/Win

My daughter Brittany loves life – full of fun, humor, and enthusiasm. In fact, at 25 she still loves to build forts. You remember…when you were maybe 8 or 9 years old, building forts in any room in the house that had enough blankets, makeshift weights, and furniture to anchor things was a complete thrill! Some of you are wanting to get crackin’ right now.

Well, even at 25, Britt still loves to build that occasional fort. On this particular day, she had just spent a bunch of time building quite the castle downstairs in our rec room. She was planning to surprise her boyfriend with her creation right about the time I came home. As I walked in the door, my wife told me that Brittany was both happy and sad for me to be home.  Happy because she loves me and sad because she knows me. What she knew is that the first thing I’d do upon coming home is workout, downstairs, likely with Tony Horton yelling at me through the TV, which is the very real estate upon which this fort was built. A classic win/lose or lose/win situation. Right? Not this time.

I went downstairs to inspect the creation, and it was awesome! Kind of wanted to skip the workout and hang out there with them both. Maybe not. I came upstairs and said – I’m working out AND the fort stays! Simple solution:  I modified my workout with similar results, but without Horton yelling at me. Heck, I can do that myself on occasion.  You might say I compromised, which isn’t really a win on my part, but I didn’t. I still accomplished my workout goal – same focus, different method, and got it done first thing – as planned.  Classic Win/Win - Stephen Covey’s 4th Habit in his classic 7 Habits book.

I know it’s a silly example, but a real one. And it goes to show that there is often a third option when we are willing to explore. Not every winner has a loser and not every loser has a winner.  That’s a false paradigm.  We can both win and do it without compromise.

Now go get your kids and built a fabulous fort. Doesn’t matter how old they are!

The Epitaph

Listening to Dr. David Jeremiah on a recent Turning Point Podcast, he shared his admittedly morbid fascination with epitaphs. It’s interesting to see the story that lies behind the dash on that stone – kind of speaks a lot about a person, in terms of how people are really remembered. On a light note, Dr. Jeremiah spoke of one in particular – Les Moore.  His epitaph read, “Here lies Les Moore: No Les, No Moore.” No way!

I hope that comes out at least half as funny on paper as it did on audio! I kept repeating it out loud…No Les, No Moore…still funny. But sad.

It begs the point: What would we want our dash to mean? 

Because, after all, we’re living it out now, only to have it fleshed out in how people remember us. Kind of impresses how much the present really matters in terms of the difference we make, which is generally how we’re remembered.

In Covey’s famous 7 Habits, Habit 2 is “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s all about mission thinking – How do we live now to establish clearly how we want to be remembered? Here are a few questions that might get you into mission thinking mode:
  1. Think of a person who has made a positive influence in your life.  What qualities does that person have that you would like to develop?
  2. What are your natural talents and gifts?
  3. Imagine it is 20 years from now and you are surrounded by the most important people in your life.  Who are they and what are you doing?
  4. What are the things in your personal life that make life worth living?
  5. What are the things in your work life that make life worth living?
  6. What are the five things that you value most?
Mission thinking is a present day approach to our future epitaph.

For Les, I sure hope there is more!

The Hot Coals Principle

Nothing like a steaming, hot and juicy burger grilling above those hot coals! I’m writing this during a dreary January day, high 30s and rainy. Nice.

So let’s get back to the grilling!

Can you picture the hibachi? The coals are piled high, building intense heat, starting white, then getting red hot.  The burgers are placed on the rack and the sizzlin’ begins! Burgers done just right! Wow! I’m getting hungry.

Did you ever see one of those red hot coals roll away from the pile? If you leave it there, you know what happens? Without its highly influential team, it starts to cool off, adapting to its new environment. And quickly.

That’s you and me!   We’re constantly adapting to the environment around us, or if we’re particularly stubborn and steadfast, we may be trying to influence our environment to be more like us. Either way – whether you’re the thermometer or thermostat, it’s challenging staying on fire.

The best plan is to choose the environment you want, find where it is, get there fast and stay there!

Do you want to be motivated? Get around motivating people.

Do you want to be strong? Get around strong people.

Do you want to be smiling, laughing and having fun? Get around smiling, laughing, fun people.

You’ll find these hot coals people everywhere. Some are around you or close by. Some you’ll have to find and befriend. Some are in books. Some are in music and movies and Podcasts. You get the idea – they’re there if you look around.

It’s simple: if you’re cold, time to get around the heat – time to live and enjoy the hot coals principle.

Steadfast

Have you seen that famous photograph of Jean Guichard’s where a giant wave looks like it’s about to engulf a lighthouse? 

In the photo, Jean catches a uniquely timed image of the lighthouse keeper, Théodore Malgorne, seemingly stepping out for some fresh air. Actually he was not. He was awaiting a rescue from the life-threatening storm in 1989.  He and his colleagues had to take refuge in the lighthouse tower after waves the night before had smashed through the lower windows of the tower, causing the structure to flood and washing away everything in its path, including the television, table, chairs, coffeemaker and even the refrigerator.  When Théodore heard the helicopter, he stepped out, anticipating rescue. But it was Jean Guichard there to snap the timely shot just before another massive wave hit. The keeper made it inside just in time, the lighthouse held, and Jean Guichard got his award winning photograph.

Thankfully the rescuers did arrive and everyone was brought to safety.  I don’t know what eventually happened to the lighthouse, though my guess is that it is still there, like many others, holding true to their place against nature’s fury.  Some give, but most don’t. And that might make a good metaphor for our time management philosophy moving forward.

Imagine that level of steadfastness applied to our plans, strategies and priorities– plans for our business or career, our health, our relationships, our finances.  You’ve heard it before, “plan your work and work your plan”.  It’s the “working your plan” that gets most of us. We plan to; we intend to; we sometimes even want to – but the waves get in the way.  Some are self-inflicted waves and others are not.  Either way, they’re waves and they’ll destroy our plans, unless we hold firm like that lighthouse did.  

What do you have planned this year? What priorities need your undivided attention? What strategic elements of your life and work are being neglected?

Let’s make our plans, with purpose and vision in mind; then protect those plans much like the lighthouse did for the Keepers amidst the nasty storm.  Imagine what we’ll get done. Imagine our progress. Imagine our sense of confidence and fulfillment – actually doing exactly what we said we’d do.

Be the lighthouse. Be steadfast in your plans. That’s personal integrity. And that’s worth it.