Advice to Graduates . . .

It’s graduation time, and students all over the United States will be walking the final leg of one of their greatest accomplishments.  But, it’s really only the end of the beginning.  School, whether it is high school or college is really a time of incubation.  During that time, material, much like breakfast, lunch and dinner is fed to students.  They can choose to consume it, or they can skip a meal here and there, but regardless, the meals are on the table.  The amount of nutrition derived from those meals will be determined by the nutritional content of the offerings.

Not all food is worthy to be consumed.  Our national obesity challenge is evidence that there is a lot of low quality nutrition out there.  Those who recognize that and choose to seek out more nutritious food groups feel better, tend to be more healthy and may even live longer.  It’s all about the quality of the food consumed.

The same is true of academics.  Not all academics are nutritious.  Some teachers and professors wow their students with their great knowledge and insight.  They have an inner drive to see the students succeed and to become productive citizens of the world.  Others, have a personal agenda that is played out in the classroom day after day.  In their immaturity, some students may not be able to see the difference, but their next steps in life will reveal what type of academic meals they’ve consumed.

My advice to this graduating class is this:

  • Realize that your parents may be the only ones in life that think you’re really special.  You will have to earn your own way with the rest of us.  There are no trophies for showing up in the game of life.
  • Don’t assume the world owes you anything.  It doesn’t, but that’s OK.  That’s how it is for all of us.
  • No matter how you grew up, the only limits on you will be the ones you impose.  Once you cross that threshold into adulthood, it’s time to start taking responsibility for what your life will be.  A lot of us grew up in less than ideal situations.  It happens.  Some of us had horrific childhoods.  They were psychological nightmares.  Some of us had amazing childhoods.  Regardless of which childhood you had, you have a choice to walk away from the pains of the past or to let them dictate your future.  Your ability to have an amazing life really is within the choices you will make.
  • Your ability to succeed has nothing to do with your race, sex, religion, fiscal condition or nationality.  You can choose to blame those things for your struggles, or you can face your struggles head on and overcome them.
  • Wisdom is the effective use of knowledge.  You will gain it over time, but wisdom is something that only comes with time. You may not start out at the top of your profession.  That’s to protect the rest of us because you’re not ready to be at the top.  You need experience.  With your daily experience will come greater knowledge and seasoned wisdom.  Everyone pays his dues.  Pay them gladly, and over time, you will be at the top of your profession.
  • If you are willing to settle for anything, settle for 100% effort from yourself.  Some employers will see it and reward you for it.  Other employers will ignore it.  Regardless, a life of 100% effort gets rewarded in high self-esteem, a sense of a healthy pride and eventually the role that you want to play. If you have an employer that doesn’t appreciate you, learn everything you can while you’re there and then take that experience and knowledge on to the next job with a great employer.  You may have to go through two or three before you find that perfect job, but it’s out there.  Practice giving 100% even when it’s hard.
  • There will always be people along the way who will be willing to help you.  Pay attention so you don’t miss them.  They may come from some unfamiliar sources, but they’re out there.  Appreciate them, glean their wisdom and experience and then pass it on to another in their time of need.
  • Limit your exposure to people who only take from you.  There are two types of people in the world: takers and givers.  Takers seldom give, and givers seldom take.  You need to keep the ratio of takers and givers way out of balance on the givers side.  Then, you’ll have the strength to potentially help a few takers, but don’t be afraid to cut them loose either.
  • If you have a dream, hold on to it.  Let it be the motivating force behind every step you take.  Don’t let your dreams go just because it doesn’t happen overnight.  Remember wisdom comes with knowledge.  Those weeks, months or years leading up to the fulfillment of your dreams are your training time.  Appreciate them for what they bring to your life experience.
  • Have fun along the way.  Being motivated to accomplish something can be all consuming.  Don’t miss out on the fun in life.  Have fun.  Be a faithful friend.  Honor your parents.  Lift up the weary.  Find an outlet for your energies that are not work related.  Fill your mind with healthy thoughts and ideas.  Learn to relax and play.  Take a day off.  Eat nutritious food and sleep a good night’s sleep.  Take care of your body.  You’re no good to yourself, your employer/employees or your dreams if you adopt an unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Listen to your conscience.  Your conscience is the voice of your soul.  Some may call it your gut, but no matter, listen to it.  It will try to direct you into right decisions and productive paths.  Every opportunity may not be right for you.  Always allow time before making major decisions.  It may only be minutes, but allow time for your conscience to speak to you.
  • Do something that benefits others.  One of the greatest joys you will have in life is doing things that benefit others who have no way of repaying you.  Humble yourself and reach out to those who need you.

It’s time to launch out into the real world.  The academic environment really isn’t the real world.  It’s just the incubator you are hatched from.  Look back on it realistically and take the good, leave the bad and do something that inspires the world.

 

My Ten Tips for a Balanced Healthy Life in 2014

My Ten Tips for a Balanced Healthy Life in 2014

1. Focus – Determine what your distractions are and eliminate as many as possible. Some things are just that, distractions, and they cheat you out of moving forward.

2. Get Healthy – Eat foods that don’t rob you of energy and good health.  Sleep what your body needs.  Exercise consistently, effectively and efficiently.  Avoid fad diets, avoid fad foods and avoid fad exercise.

3. Educate Yourself – Learn more about those things that propel you forward.  Don’t seek advice from failures.  Look for people who have succeeded at the place you want to go to and seek their advice, experience and wisdom.  Read good books, listen to successful leaders and learn the mechanics of your field of choice.  And remember, everyone pays their dues.  Make every day a learning day.

4. Invest in Healthy Relationships – Reduce the takers in your life, and increase the givers.  Some people only cause you heartache and misery.  And then again, some people bring you great joy.  Ask yourself,  “How do I feel after I’ve spent time with this person?” or,”How do I feel after I’ve talked to this person on the phone or through a text message?”  If you’re excited and inspired, you’ve found a fountain.  If you’re exhausted, you’ve found a drain.

5. Make Money Your Servant – Pay yourself first (at least 10% of everything).  Try to give more to your favorite charity or your church, and do it out of a generous heart.  There is a law of giving and receiving that profits you above and beyond your generosity.  Pay off debts.  The borrower is servant to the lender.  Break the shackles of debt so that it doesn’t become a course distraction.

6. Do Something Out of Your Comfort Zone – Go on a canopy glide, go sailing or take a trip to a country where you don’t speak the language, etc.  It’s intense and it makes you feel very alive.

7. Bury Your Past – Don’t let the past direct the future.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Allow yourself the freedom to get past it.  Others may not want to let you leave your mistakes behind, but it’s your choice.  Don’t look back.  Images in the mirror are bigger than they appear.  Don’t look in the rear view mirror.  Your goals are ahead.

8. Renew Your Spiritual Life – A core relationship with God is an anchor in the storms of life.  Some days you need an anchor.  Other days, you need a sail.   A healthy relationship with God will provide both.  Know the difference between a true spiritual relationship with God and one that is only on the surface.   Pray, study God’s Word and give Him your time.  I promise, you can’t out give God.  If you give Him your life.  He will give you His.

9. Extend Forgiveness – It’s hard to walk up a hill with someone on your back.  Holding anger and resentment toward other people really only holds you back.  It rarely hurts the offenders.  There are people who you may not feel are worthy of forgiveness, but as long as you hold on to their offenses they are still controlling your life.  Extend forgiveness, and throw off the shackles of bitterness, resentment and anger.  If this seems too difficult, refer to #8.

10. Love More & Love Sincerely – Tell those you love that you really love them, and then go a step further.  Show it.  Don’t wait for the next funeral to remember all the people you haven’t told how important they are in your life. Tell them now while it counts.  You might be the only encouragement some people ever get, and you might be that one lifeline someone needs in an undisclosed time of distress.

My Ten Tips for a Balanced Healthy Life in 2014

So, you’re adrift in the ocean. What do you do?

Imagine, you’re alone on a boat and it suddenly sinks. You’re in the middle of the ocean with a life vest and no sign of land. What do you do? Before we go down the “to do list”, let’s think about what you probably won’t be doing.

  • You probably won’t be blaming your cubicle partner for your circumstance.
  • You probably won’t be reflecting on the third grade bully who ate your lunch everyday.
  • You probably won’t be cursing your parents for not showing you enough love as a teenager.
  • You more than likely will not be blaming your race, national origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation for your situation.
  • You won’t be reflecting on all the trophies you received for showing up for sports teams as a kid.
  • You probably won’t be thinking about those hateful words your partner shared before you went out the door.
  • You won’t be blaming your dilemma on your neighbors making more money than you do.

No, most of the things above, and a hundred others, may have influenced your life in one way or the other, but they really aren’t who you were designed to be. They have been thoughts, experiences and detours that created the way you see the world. But, actually, what you’re most likely to do is reason out how to survive. It’s just you and the elements. So, what do you do?

  • Settle your mind, let go of your fears and think. Don’t panic. Panic consumes valuable energy. Think. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You could die. What’s the best thing that could happen? You could live. OK, choose the best thing. That was simple, now, what’s the best use of the limited resources you have? Arms, legs, life vest, etc.
  • How can you get the maximum benefit out of those limited resources?
  • Accept the fact that your survival is completely up to you at this point. There is no one to help you, so you’ve got to learn to use your resources, conserve your strength and stay focused.
  • How long are you willing to stay in this mode? Until you’re rescued. Good, you’re making progress.
  • What if it takes longer than you think? You keep going.
  • What if it takes a lot longer than you think? You still keep going. You made the decision that you’re going to live, and living takes work.
  • Now it’s time to work your plan while you wait to be rescued.

And, when that ship picks you up, all of life’s past traumas, all of the bullies, the bad bosses, the poor childhood experiences, the loneliness, past anger, failures, injuries and disappointments did not make you the person that was rescued.

What you did when your life depended on it was completely up to you. You conquered the biggest challenge you will likely ever face, and you did it because of you.

The same is true in all areas of life if you’re willing to suit up in your life vest and lose sight of the shore. All of the challenges of the past become just that, past. All of the successes of the future will born out of a new you, a competent, confident and capable you.

 

Saving on your electric bills, part 2.

It would be difficult to exist without electricity. We’ve come to depend on it to light our homes, cook our food and even to charge our electronic devices. It’s essential, but it can be expensive. In a previous blog, I talked about a couple ways to reduce your electricity consumption. Today, I want to take that another step forward.

The one item in most homes that constantly consumes a lot of electricity is the water heater. I’m sure you’ve probably heard that a water heater timer can save you money, but how much money? If you realize that your electric water heater is 15% of your total electric bill, you can soon calculate the savings by cutting back on the power consumption of that one device.

A typical electric timer from Intermatic or Tork will cost you about $50.00. If you install it yourself, you can start saving right away and you will likely recoup your expense in a couple months. There are two times in most homes that water consumption reaches its peak. That is in the morning and in the late afternoon to mid-evening.

In my house, I decided there was no reason to heat water at 2:00 am. So, I set my water heater to turn off at 8:00 pm and to come back on at 5:30 am. It goes off again at 10:00 am and comes back on at 3:00 pm.

If the water isn’t being used throughout the day, it will stay hot most of the day. If you find that you need more hot water, you can manually turn the heater back on, or you can change your timer settings.

My heater is off 14.5 hours a day. I only pay to heat my water for 9.5 hours a day. Newer water heaters have great insulation jackets built in, but if you have an older model, an insulation jacket may be picked up at most hardware stores. It also pays to insulate the pipes for at least the first 15 feet from the unit. If you can go further, it’s better even better.

You can also change your water heater to a tank-less water heater. There are positive and negative sides to a tank-less system. Make sure you do your research related to the costs of equipment, installation expenses and estimated savings per year. How long will it take you to recover your investment and then begin monthly saving? A water heater timer will return your investment in a few months or less. For most of us, this is the fastest and least expensive way to save on hot water.