Keeping the Water Out - (From Episode 16)

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Batten down the hatches

{It’s not the storm that sinks the boat, but the water that gets inside}

     A ship is designed with what is called watertight integrity. Simply put, any openings, doors, hatch covers, or port holes (windows) are designed to be waterproof in some places and weatherproof in others when they are shut and water is not meant to get in. Remember the Caribbean storm I told you about earlier? A pipe (call over the PA system) was made telling the crew, “now, set foul weather conditions,” which means shut designated external doors or hatches so that water wouldn’t get in the boat.  

     Our external hatches and doors are our ears, eyes, and mouths, and our goal is to only allow positive influencers into our minds and bodies. If negative influencers find their way in, we must quickly bail them out. If a substantial amount is allowed to collect, it can sink us. If even a little is allowed to sit, it can rust away our hull from the inside; it will wear down our protective hull until it cannot support us anymore.  

     When the environment is positive, that is, good people are speaking life into you and you are putting good things into your eyes and ears, leave the hatches open. However, when negativity starts flowing and time and energy wasting junk starts floating around, it’s time to get watertight. Shut your ears and your eyes to it and rise above it. When your day is going wrong, batten down the hatches. When the winds of circumstance change, batten down the hatches. When you are tired and vulnerable, batten down the hatches. You will rise above the environment and will not be damaged by it. When the storm passes, by all means open all the windows and doors and let the sun shine in! Feel the cool sea breeze and hear the sound of the distant sea gull calling.

     Initially, you will have to concentrate on shutting your eyes and ears to ship-sinking waves, but after some practice it will begin to be automatic. Someone will start talking about how bad the economy is; BANG. Your hatches slam shut. Your friend is diagnosed with cancer; BANG. Your hatches slam shut. Someone begins to make fun of your dreams; BANG. Your hatches slam shut. This is not being rude nor does it mean you act hostile or unfriendly. After all, a ship is never without a mission (which will be covered later) and those people will need your assistance or precious cargo to help their sinking ships.

Pump it out

     No matter how hard you try, water will get inside of a ship from time to time, so one of the required machines inside a large ship is a bilge pump. Its job is to suck out any water that may have found its way into the vessel and pump it over the side, keeping the vessel dry on the inside and ensuring maximum buoyancy and a strong hull. In a smaller boat, many times you will find a bailer, or a small bucket. As you have seen in the movies, the purpose of the bailer to also remove water in the same manner as the bilge pump, just on a smaller scale.

      We cannot help if some negativity or stress gets inside of us from time to time, which is normal. Successful people simply ensure that it gets pumped out quickly. Think of it as a “detoxification of the body, mind, and spirit.” 

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The External Environment - (From Episode 15)

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Drowning

      We have all heard the phrase, “I’m just trying to keep my head above water,” or, “We are just trying to stay afloat.” These phrases, both the singular and the plural, have often been used to describe personal finances or business endeavors, but they can equally apply to the concepts of marriages, relationships, health, etc. Both use the same analogy to describe the feeling of being ultimately overcome by ones’ circumstantial environment: Drowning. Merciless and unforgiving, drowning has been the impartial killer of the sea since the dawn of seamanship. For ages men have fought the cruel, unpredictable ocean environment in order to sustain a living, and even the marvels of modern technology cannot seem to vanquish her thirst entirely.

   I remember, though vaguely through distant memories and repeated storytelling, a time when I was four or five years old and nearly drowned in a lake. Another young girl and I were playing in the shallows by a dock, and before I knew it we were out too deep and could no longer touch the bottom. What I do remember is the sense of utter desperation and panic as we frantically clawed and climbed one another to gasp the only thing we cared about; air. It seems hard to imagine now as an adult, but it seems that even as such a young child I felt such primal disregard for the other little girl’s life; I simply wanted to live. The good news is, my older sister witnessed the event taking place and came our swift rescue, pulling me out of the water by my hair. I will pause for a moment to thank my sister for saving my life, for which I am forever grateful. It was never really talked about, but I am here today because of her rescue nonetheless.

      Mankind has always feared drowning, or at least I have, as it represents the moment when the raw power of the aquatic environment combines with your inability to remain afloat on your own, ultimately overcoming you against your will. We have built boats over the centuries to prevent this horrific experience, and our modern survival equipment is truly spectacular. However, even the most prudent mariner equipped with the best equipment and the availability of search-and-rescue assets can fall victim to the simplest of deaths if he is not careful. For our purposes, the primary defense against drowning and the icy jaws of the sea is a strong hull.

Resilience is skin deep 

     The hull is the “skin” of the ship, made up of steel plates or wooden planks that are fastened into place over a skeleton frame of beams, girders, and support members. The goal of the hull, as I’m sure you can guess, is to keep water out of the ship. Through the magic powers of physics, displacement, and buoyancy (which I will not be discussing) the ship floats on top of water. In regards to today’s modern ships, thousands of tons of metal and equipment actually float on the water! How is this possible? Resilience.

      The goal of a hull’s design is to have both strength and flexibility. A ship that is too rigid can break as the vessel bends and twists through the waves, and a vessel can just as easily break if it is too flexible. Ships are perfect comparisons to our personal resilience in the need for both strength and flexibility, because the unpredictable, ever-changing ocean environment is more like real life. Buildings would not make good examples, because they just sit there (unless you live in a earthquake-prone location.) Resilience is the ability to remain flexible, yet remain strong enough to take the punishment and continue sailing. The ship rises and falls, floating on top of its external environment, harnessing power of it without being overcome by it.

    Other funny phrases I hear people say in reference to trouble is that, “it comes in waves,” or, “when it rains, it pours.” It is because, I believe, that the ocean represents such a perfect parallel in describing our own lives and the external environment that we live in. One moment everything is as calm and peaceful as a summer day at the beach, and the next is as perilous as a monstrous hurricane. The environment changes in a blink of an eye and without much warning.

      I remember a time earlier in my Coast Guard career sailing in the western Caribbean Ocean on a counter-narcotic patrol. I was on the bridge learning to stand watch and to my left, miles away, was an incoming storm front. To my right, miles away, was another. The sky ahead of us was clear and sunny for the time being, but the two storms converged on our position like two slices of bread. It was an incredible sensation that I will never forget. The temperature and barometric pressure dropped in a matter of minutes, as the wind and sea state also increased. Then came the rain, rushing like a curtain of water towards us. Nobody panicked, because we knew that our strong Cutter (Coast Guard ship) was built to handle the environment and she was well maintained.

Life and death are in the environment

     The same ocean that can sustain us with food and provide a medium for intercontinental travel can also destroy our homes, our businesses, and our loved ones. Think of Hurricane Katrina, or the tsunamis that have plagued Southeast Asia. The same body of water can bring life and death so impartially; and so does our own external environment.

      Everything that we are a part of forms our environment: the economy, the culture, the political climate, our relationships, etc. It has a tendency to move up and down on its own without much consideration of what we think about it. If we are not careful, our environment has the power to hurt us; but if we learn to harness it, to master it, then it can also bring us life and fortune. But how do we go from a floundering fish in the surf to a master of the sea? We know that we need a boat, so we start with a strong hull.

     In our life, the hull of the ship represents our resilience to the external environment, make up of our perception of the world and our perception of ourselves; in other words, our philosophy. Your thoughts, your words, your ability to think, act, and react collectively form your hull. Your philosophy forms part of your resilience, which allows you to float on top of circumstance and not be overcome by it. The views, opinions, and words of others will not impact you. What people are projecting in negativity and reactive living will not influence you. Your mindset will allow the external environment to splash over you and around you, but it will not get inside of you.

     In general, when it comes to remaining afloat water inside the boat is bad. Once water starts getting inside the hull, it begins to counteract buoyancy and make the vessel unstable. I will say it multiple times throughout this book: it’s not the storm that sinks the boat, but the water that gets inside. It is the exact same way when it comes to your life. Once you have decided to build your ship, you have decided to take control of your life and your destiny. One of those decisions is to refuse to allow the external environment to influence your philosophy and your resilience.

     This is why so many successful people have gone from rags to riches two or three times over and still come out on top. Their circumstances changed, yet their perception of themselves, their ability to succeed, and their understanding of the laws of the environment didn’t change. The waves of negativity, fear, and doubt will come from the newspaper, social media, or your best friend. If these thoughts start to get inside of you and influence your philosophy and your resilience, they will sink your hull and sink your future.

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The Island and the Shipyard - (From Episode 14)

Continuing our series from last week, we dive further into the concepts of "islands," "shipyards," and how they relate to our realities and opportunities. 

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THE ISLAND

     Welcome to the island. A small dot of green in the vast expanse of the ocean blue, outlined by beautiful white beaches and filled with luscious tropical jungles and rainforest mountains. There is a small town on the eastern shore of the island, filled with residential areas, shopping centers, and restaurants. While the inhabitants of the island live throughout the area, the majority of the population dwell in this town center. This is where we begin our story.

     Most of the inhabitants of the island spend their time working various jobs, socializing within their community of friends and family, and relaxing on the beach. Well that doesn’t sound bad at all! On the southern end of the beach lies two long piers sticking out into the ocean. These are affectionately called the “Docks of Dreams”.

     For those residents who wish to get off the island to sail to a new one, or to another part of the world altogether, they wait near the Docks of Dreams for a passing ship to pull in and take them away. The tricky thing about it, however, is that no one ever knows the schedule of passing ships, so they have to continually be in a position of readiness. Only when one is seen on the horizon will they have an idea on the timing and potential mooring of the vessel. However, those waiting also never know if the vessel is going to stop at all, let alone come close to the island. If a passing ship pulls in, those ready on the docks board and set sail for a new life. If a passing ship comes close enough, yet does not pull in, some residents swim out to the passing vessel and climb aboard.

     Those residents near the docks of dreams have lived this life for a long time. They either accept where they are and settle in, wait by the docks for a ship to come in, or swim out to a ship that is passing by. This is how things are done. This is how their grandparents and parents have lived their lives. Some of those wanting to leave the island make it off, yet a considerable amount of those longing for distant shores die waiting if they missed previous chances.   

     The island in analogous to the life that you and I currently live, or where we currently are right now. I want you to clearly imagine your current job, income, family, health, friends, social status, and so forth being represented on this island. Can you see it? Take a moment to establish that mental image in your mind, for we will continue to reference it for the remainder of our time together. Where do you think your house would be in the town center? See yourself doing the same job that you are currently doing, with your same family, same friends, etc.

     All of us have been placed on this island. Ignoring everything that has happened in our lives up to this point, here we are. You didn’t choose the exact island that you’re currently on, as surely as you didn’t choose where you were born, when you were born, and to whom you were born. The fact of the matter is, here you are. Your upbringing, education level, job experience, relationships, and countless other choices and factors have led you and I to being located currently on this particular island. So here’s the million-dollar question: Do you like it here?  Look around. Look at your house on this island. Look at your relationships. Look in your bank account, at your educational level, your current opportunities, and so on. Do you like what you see? If you are currently happy with where you are, then I heartily applaud you. You are on the right island.

     However, if you find yourself longing for more, dreaming for better, and praying for opportunity, you’re probably one of the residents with their bags packed on the pier. The question is, however, when’s the last time a ship came by? Did it pull in? Did it sail close to shore? If you’re still on the dock then I’m assuming you either haven’t seen a boat yet, you missed the boat, or you were too afraid to get onboard or swim out to it. Do any of those scenarios sound familiar? If so, I can sense your desperation. You’ve watched others you know get off the island, and you’re starting to believe that you’re never going to get off. You’re starting to feel as if your ship will never come.

     Continuing to wait for your ship is an option, but it is purely based on chance. Before we resolve to placing our fate in the hands of random passing ships, I want to take you a little-known spot on the backside of the island. Between the town center on the eastern shore of the island and the western shore lies a range of mountain ridges and jungles that the inhabitants typically steer clear of. Not many of their friends go to the other side of the island, so they don’t really know what over that way, nor care to find out. Just getting to the other side requires a significant amount of effort, so it remains somewhat of an uninteresting mystery. Additionally, a handful of residents each year venture over to the western side of the island, only to never return. This has added another layer of mystery that keeps the majority of the residents content with staying near the familiar town center and docks. “So where are we going, exactly?” you’re probably wondering, “and where have the others gone to?” That, my friend, is the beginning of our journey.

The Shipyard

     On the western shore of the island is a complex maze of docks, boat slips, and industrial areas. There is a large rail system for pulling boats onto the shore, a dry dock for lifting ships out of the water, and various support facilities for the designing, construction, and repair of boats and larger vessels. You see, on the western shore of the island lies the Shipyard of Promise. Look around. See the bustle of activity as naval architects, engineers, and laborers work around the clock to construct vessels of all shapes and sizes. Hear the sounds of cranes, hammers, and drills. Smell the acrid smoke of the welding torch mixed with the sweeter smell of diesel exhaust. But notice most of all the different types of boats and ships that you see cluttered around the shipyard. Small skiffs, sweeping sloops, magnificent clippers, sleek speedboats, gargantuan freighters, and the list goes on. However, what grabs your attention immediately are the faces of the builders. You know some of them!

     Remember the residents from the eastern shore that vanished to the west? They didn’t disappear altogether, they came here! Friends, family members, and acquaintances that you had given up for dead, they were alive and well all along, building “Vessels of Opportunity”. Herein lies the secret of the Shipbuilders, and the overall secret of this book. The Shipbuilders were once residents of the eastern shore just like you. They swam in the lagoon, lived a quiet life in the Town Center, and even spent some time waiting of the Docks of Dreams. However, at one point or another they grew tired of waiting. The rumors and legends of the western shore whispered in their ears and teased their imaginations. What lay beyond the mountain ridge and the tropical rainforests? At last, either through sheer curiosity or desperation, they set out for answers.

     Off to your left, wielding a large cutting tool, you notice an old acquaintance named John. Come to think of it you haven’t seen him for quite some time, and now you know why. You vaguely remember his house near the Town Center, his wife, and their small children. He had a fairly decent paying job, and he seemed well-liked by his peers. So what was he doing here? Sensing the question in your facial expression, he offers an explanation. “What do you think of her?” he asks, waving his hand towards a large, symmetrical skeleton of steel and aluminum. He was just beginning to mold several pliable sheets of aluminum around the frame to form the hull, or “skin” of the vessel. “I’ve been working on her for a few months now, and I think she’ll be ready in no time at all!” “Why is John building a boat?” you wonder. “I thought he seemed quite content on the island and within the City Center.” Again, John offers an unsolicited response. “I know there’s more for me than this island,” he said, “more for my family, more to discover, and more to offer.” Though not quite sure what he meant, John excuses himself as one the the shipyard’s naval architects approaches to go over updated plans. However, he calls over his shoulder with one last wave of his hand, “you should talk to a few of the others; there’s more here than you think.”  

     After walking around the slightly-dangerous industrial facility a bit longer, you notice a young woman in her late 20’s. You recognize her immediately; she usually waits on you at the local diner on Saturday mornings, bringing your coffee and scrambled eggs. But what was she doing here? “Hey Jennie!” you call out, a little louder than you wanted to. She looks up from her work, which is currently tightening some bolts on an outboard motor, and smiles. Again, your facial expressions and curiosity cannot be hidden, and Jennie offers a brief explanation. “I’ve been coming over here a few evenings a week, and sometimes on my days off.” She says. “My sister watches my son so I don’t have to pay a babysitter.” She pauses just for a moment, tightening the last bolt before wiping her brow. “I want better for him. I want more for us. I want him to know what it means to choose a life, not to have one placed upon him.” The boat she is working on, a 25-foot center console with a small cabin down below, is nearly complete. “It isn’t much,” she said, “but it will take us away from here, and to somewhere better.” With that, she smiled one last time, turned, and walked away towards the paint locker. A nice blue stripe down the side would be the perfect touch.   

     As you continue to tour the shipyard, you meet several other people, hearing story after story about hopes, dreams, and a restless desire for more. No one story is alike. The retired schoolteacher looking for a new life. The young couple attempting to be the first in their families to leave the island. The father and son attempting to leave a joint legacy. Each builder also comes with varying levels of skill and resources, and are readily assisted by a team of engineers and architects, happily providing the know-how for those willing to learn and put in the sweat equity.

     So where does that leave you? Are you ready to go back to the Town Center, back to the beach, and back to the Docks of Dreams? Maybe your ship will come; maybe it won’t. Or are you ready to build your own boat, to learn from the shipbuilders, to sweat in the shipyard, and to finally escape this island? If so, it’s time to begin. 

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(This blog post is an original written work by William Fediw, and no part of it shall be copied or reproduced without permission)

Project Introduction

     This week I start a series on the podcast highlighting a written project that will (hopefully) become a book that I've been working on for some time. In short, it will be familiar self-help/motivational/personal development ideas seen through a new lens. Enjoy!

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     I’m sure you’ve heard the following adage before, “I’m waiting for my ship to come in.” It is an expression used to analogize waiting for your big moment in life to come and carry you to success, fortune, and fame. This post is not about that. You may have also heard the more recently adapted version of that same saying, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in; swim out to it.” This time the premise is that if your big moment is just beyond your reach, take the initiative and grab it.  This post is not about that, either.

     For the duration of my professional life I have been around ships. I studied shipping management in college, interned at one of the local ports, and joined the U.S. Coast Guard after graduation. In the Coast Guard I served as a Marine Inspector, and my job was to ensure that every cargo and passenger ship, big or small, that sailed in U.S. waters was in compliance with our laws and regulations. This ensured that the safety and security of our ports, mariners, and community was not compromised environmentally, economically, or physically. It was not the glamorous, heroic life seen on TV of daring search-and-rescue cases or high-stakes drug busts (plenty of my friends did those), but it was the type of mission that kept and continues to keep the global economic engines running. You could say that there is some salt water in my family heritage; my father was a deep-sea diver working on the oil rigs of the Gulf of Mexico, and my Uncles all earned a living fishing the icy waters of the North Atlantic. The ships themselves seem to call to me. There is something magnificent about their sheer size; massive puzzles of steel and machinery, engaged in a trade as old as time yet still facing the timeless challenges of surviving the sea in support of global commerce.

     I spent many days in monstrous shipyards where ships, boats, and barges of all sizes, shapes, and purposes were built or repaired. It was in those days where, through the glistening heat of the summer sun or the icy slap of the cold, winter months, I witnessed gargantuan ships come alive, or reawaken, like the wooden 3-D dinosaur puzzles we used to put together as kids. First the skeleton is constructed, then the skin stretched over and around, then all the parts that make a ship useful are put in place. In less than a year, metric tons of steel, electrical wiring, and machinery bring the ancient sea-faring beasts to life. And it was during one of those days a revelation hit me.

     Ships don’t just “happen.” They are not built by slapping together planks of wood or sheets of steel, or by an explosion of different parts and equipment. They are intentionally designed, painstakingly planned out, and meticulously constructed with a specific mission in mind and need to fulfill. They are not built laissez-faire; each step is painstakingly planned out in order to successfully achieve the end goal. If these ships, then, which are merely hunks of metal that will eventually rust away are so meticulously planned, prepared, and built, why do we not apply the same strategy to our priceless lives?

     So many people focus on waiting for their big opportunity to come to them, and it never does. Others wait for their big opportunity to come close enough to them so they can jump in and swim to it, yet it never does. Ultimately these people, of whom I was one of for many years, live their lives waiting on the “Docks of Dreams” with their bags packed and their swim trunks on. Waiting. The seaside meadows nearby become graveyards over time, filled with those who spent their final sunset scanning the horizon with regret and bitterness, their ship never coming into view. Instead of individual epitaphs, a common sign hangs over the tombstones bearing the inscription, “Their ships never came.”

     Pondering this analogy, I decided then and there that I would refuse to die on the “Docks of Dreams.” I would refuse to put destiny in the hands of chance. A ship of opportunity may never come to me and I will not wait for one. I will go to the other side of the island, to the “Shipyards of Promise,” and I will build my own opportunity. Everything we need to succeed is there in the shipyards; useful tools of all kinds, plans and designs for every vessel type imaginable, experienced engineers and tradesman to assist me in my project, and the raw materials needed to put it all together.

     I need to tell you something right now before we even get started. You may have never heard it before in your entire life, but I want you to know something: You can do it. I don’t know your background, family history, educational level or financial status, but it doesn’t really matter. You are a unique, valuable person that was designed to do something special and amazing. There is a mission that only you can do. There is a life out there that only you can touch. Stop reading right now and look in the mirror. I don’t even need to be there to see what you see; yet I know what is there: Passion. Potential. Purpose. There might be traces of scars and pain, but I also see promise.

     As you read this post, my hope is that you will awaken to the passion that burns through you, the potential that lies before you, and the purpose that lives within you. You were created with a mission to accomplish, and your very special mission requires a very special boat. With it you will be able to sail through any environment, in any direction, and in the right direction. You will also be able to weather any storm, ensure your survival, and overcome any emergencies that would otherwise sink your ship. Finally, you will be able to sail far beyond the point where your eyesight failed you on the shore, bringing your very special cargo to a world that needs it desperately. Through this book, I invite you to join me in the shipyards; amongst fire, steel, and smoke, where we don’t wait for our ships to sail in; we build them.

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(This blog post is an original written work by William Fediw, and no part of it shall be copied or reproduced without permission) 

THE CURRENCY OF TIME: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR (2014)

Have you ever heard the expression, “time is money?” Chances are you have, and that you have an interpretation on what it means. Businessmen and women have used the term in relation to their time being valuable, as to not waste it.

What if I gave you $1,440 dollars a day for the rest of your life to spend or invest however you chose? Would that make a significant impact on your life? How would you spend it? We know that the U.S. Dollar is simply one form of currency in the world today, of which there are many. Currency is not real money as in gold or silver, but a legal representation of it; its value tied to the worth bestowed upon it by the financial system. In other words, it is a only a measured unit of worth.

Now what if I told you that you are given 1,440 units of currency daily to spend on whatever you wish? You are given the currency of time. There are 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in every day, so by my math you have 1,440 minutes every day.

The question is, how are you spending and investing your time? Each person on this planet is given the same 1,440 time-units to spend a day. They cannot be saved, only invested or wasted. Now each of us has to spend some of our time-units everyday on things like sleep, eating, commuting, work, etc. just like paying routine bills. Yet we all know that there are plenty of time-units left over that are used indiscriminately.

Again, at the end of every day the units expire, so they must be exchanged for a usable benefit or spent on a harmful liability. I will use the example of one hour:

·      60 time-units = an hour at the gym to improve your health.

·      60 time-units = an hour with the family to improve your relationships.

·      60 time-units = an hour studying a new course or developing a business plan to improve your future.

OR

·      60 time-units = an hour watching TV.

·      60 time-units = an hour doing nothing (beyond times for rest).

·      60 time-units = an hour arguing with your spouse.

What are you spending your time on? It’s really up to you. You’ve also heard the ancient proverb, “you reap what you sow.” The soil is impartial: plant value, reap value; plant junk, reap junk. Your time-units are no different; what you spend them on they will impartially give you without question. Just like the clerk at the convenience store who doesn’t care if you spend your five dollars on candy, gas, or coffee; he simply takes your money and gives you what you ask for. What are you asking for in trade for your time? Spend it today and everyday on something that matters; something that you will look at years later with investor’s delight, not buyers remorse.

Remember, you can always go out in the market place and get more money, but you can never get more time.

 

EATING THREE ELEPHANTS AT A TIME: THE ONE-HOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE (2014)

There are times when we have one big project at a time, and we attack it singularly with fervor and then move on to the next one. This works great when there aren’t major competing demands, but what about when there are three or five big projects due at the same time? You cannot attack each one at a time, for you will inevitably run out of time prior to their completion. Additionally, if the stress of managing multiple projects at once is not managed, you will do poorly on all of them. As the first tool, I highly suggest the teambuilding principle from last week, yet if you do not have subordinates or work alone, the tool I hand you is one of time management.

The approach is simple: at a minimum, work one hour a day on each project. Depending on the size of the projects and the proximity to the deadlines, you may need to adjust as you see fit, but the principle remains the same; how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you eat three elephants? One bite at a time from each elephant.

This principle can be effectively utilized by event planners, project managers, students studying, or even stay-at-home parents. Obviously it works best when you start the project(s) early, but you can adjust your time increments of focused energy to suit your needs; just as long as you are doing some of each project every day. Let’s look at an example:

Mike is a young office manager who has been asked to complete a major industry study by the end of month, finish the quarterly report by the end of next week, and finish his project management professional (PMP) certification by the end of the quarter. He is married, a father of two, and manages 11 employees. He is 30% complete on his PMP certification, has three employees who are well versed with accounting and finance data, and just took on two interns for the summer.

Since Mike is only 30% complete on his PMP certification, it will be his biggest project regardless of the further deadline so he should potentially devote two hours daily to study. The three employees who can crunch financial numbers well can be assembled in a team to assist with the quarterly budget, and Mike can easily monitor and assist for one hour a day. Finally, the two interns can be tasked with research and data collection for the industry study under the supervision of a more senior employee, leaving Mike to simply ensure the team is prepared (see the teambuilding principle lesson) and proofread the final draft.

Who wins in this example? Everyone. Mike is home after normal work hours to enjoy his family, experiences less stress and fatigue, looks like a rock star to his boss, and grows in his leadership experience. The three “numbers” employees seem to enjoy the opportunity to help with something they are good at and feel valued. The interns get a real project to work on besides shredding paper and getting coffee. Finally, the boss is happy because the workforce is engaged and quality products are turned in, at worst, on time.

Ready to give it a shot? Here are some tips to get started:

·      Evaluate the deadlines and initially rank them accordingly

·      Evaluate the size of the conflicting projects

·      Evaluate the complexity of the projects and the resources needed

Finally, consider the following tips:

·      The more complex the project, the more time needed, or, the more people needed to assist.

·      The shorter the deadline, the greater the amount of focus required.

·      If you have less help, allot more time for focused energy.

·      More is not always better; look to build the appropriate team size for efficiency and span of control.

·      Don’t let simultaneous projects get away from you; regularly monitor your progress.

Now you are ready to be the project master. You will be fully capable of accomplishing single projects without neglecting other duties. You will be able to manage simultaneous projects without feeling overwhelmed. Your boss will love you and your subordinates will want to model you! Now get out there and don’t forget your fork; it takes a lot of small bites to eat three elephants at a time.

GETTING MORE DONE WITH LESS ON YOUR PLATE: THE TEAMBUILDING PRINCIPLE (2014)

Have you ever felt the crushing weight of over tasking from your boss, or experienced the problem of disengaged employees? So have I. The overwhelming feeling of pressure from above, paired with a perceived lack of support from below can cause the lower to mid-level manager to focus mainly on survival and not on thriving.

However, one of the greatest tools I was taught from my superior officers was the mastery of team creation. In short, get the right mix of your employees working almost autonomously with clear direction on a given project, and it will be done before you know it.

Imagine the possibility of effectively handling MORE responsibility (making your boss happy) while actually doing LESS busywork (making you happy) all while providing INCREASED fulfillment and professional development for your people (making them happy).

“How is this possible? You may think, “Won’t this make me look like a task-master overlord or a slacker supervisor?” Not if you follow the prescribed steps below. Teambuilding isn’t about passing the buck or over tasking your employees. By following these 3 steps to effective teambuilding, you will get more done with less on your plate. Are you ready to begin?

·      Assemble the right players

·      Give them a clear task, the required resources, and a deadline

·      Check in periodically, but don’t micromanage

I know you may be initially tempted not to relinquish projects to your people. After all, the task was given to you; it is yours to manage and complete. To strategically give it to your people is risky. What if they mess it up? What will your boss think? Well, the alternative is just as scary: You do everything yourself, get burned out, your people are bored, they never grow, and the whole thing goes down in flames. Remember, any perceived risk involved can be effectively mitigated down to an acceptable level using the expounded strategies below:

1.) When you assemble the team, ensure you have the following:

o   A diverse group of competencies required to complete the mission

o   A diverse group of personalities to ensure fresh perspectives

o   A healthy mix of experienced and inexperienced players to promote future personnel growth while ensuring delivery of a quality product

2.) Ensure the task for the team to accomplish is crystal clear:

o   Clear on what the desired outcome is

o   Clear on when the deadline is and when certain phases are due

o   Clear on what the required resources are and where they can be found

o   Clear on who on the team is responsible for which portion

o   Clear on their ability to check in with you as needed for help

3.) Check in as needed, but allow for some autonomy

o   Don’t micromanage; this conveys lack of confidence in them

o   As you start to gauge their abilities, check in less to build their confidence in themselves

o   Once you have created a reliable team, it can function almost autonomously from project to project

You may be asking yourself, “Does this really work?” And I answer wholeheartedly, “Yes!” I have used this principle numerous times and the results are fantastic. Most of the time, after getting the team moving, I check in on predetermined dates to assess the progress, modify or clarify as needed, and review the final product. What would have taken me days or weeks to complete (if I fell into the pressure of having to do it all myself) I was able to only spend hours on in total. Let’s look at an example of how this works, just in case you are not entirely convinced:

Kristen is the supervisor of the environmental compliance division of a marine engineering firm. The COO has tasked her with completing a multi-phase environmental impact report and presentation for a major client. Being relatively new to the firm, she instinctively knows the value of her senior engineering staff and quickly looks to them for help. Knowing that they will probably not want to do much legwork, she secures their knowledge and supplements the team with two recent college graduates who were hired onto her staff.

After assembling the team at the initial meeting, she informs them of the details, sets the deadline for one week prior to the actual deadline (giving her a chance to review the final product), gives them the required resources, and assigns roles. She pairs each new employee with a senior engineer to combine seasoned technical expertise with raw processing power. Kristen then checks in once a week until the project is complete. The COO is impressed with the final product, the senior engineers respect her management finesse, and the new hires are grateful for the experience opportunity.

Finally, what’s the reward for your teambuilding efforts? You get more done with less on your plate. Your team gets more chances to shine, a greater sense of empowerment, and valuable project management experience. Your boss gets an increased number or quality products being completed by a more capable, engaged workforce; and you made it happen! You really do get more done as a team.

 

TRANSITION TO LEADERSHIP (2013)

Little did I know that a conversation with my Executive Officer would shatter the plateau of leadership I felt that I had been floundering on for so long.

Yesterday I received a request from a local civic organization to give a presentation on the role that the Coast Guard plays in our national defense structure. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and I do not say that arrogantly, for I receive frequent requests to speak in and outside of our organization on a variety of topics. “Not a problem,” I replied, and I jotted the date down in my calendar. I would use the same canned presentation that I had utilized in the past, and I would not give it another thought until the day prior to the event.

As I pondered the situation throughout the next day, however, a thought surfaced that this engagement might be a great opportunity to let one of the junior members in our unit speak; allowing them to grow in their presentation and professional presence qualities. When I had a chance to see our Executive Officer later that day, I informed her of the appointment and my thoughts on grooming someone else to present to the group. “You are starting to think like a leader now,” she said, agreeably supporting the idea and leaving it to my implementation.

That is when the illumination of understanding, the proverbial “light bulb,” went off. I speak well and often; I know this, my Command knows this, and those around me know this. They know that I am a proven performer in that aspect, so you would think there isn’t the same pressing need to keep proving it as there once was. Now is the time that I should begin utilizing those skills and experiences to mold and develop those starting out or needing refinement, right?

I have proven my mettle on many hills, yet the accolades once received with genuine humility have become one-dimensional and unfulfilling in the heart now saturated with self-importance. The re-run crowd seems to clap softer now, and with less enthusiasm, as to say, “we know you have conquered, now move along and bring us the next act!” The Disciple had become a Master, yet the Master became a Performer instead of a Teacher. 

Fortunately, and thankfully, the Performer saw the cue in time to graciously step aside in order to cultivate the next generation of Disciples. For in this prospect of potential growth in the lives of others came a new sense of satisfaction, as well as a humbling feeling of maturity, realizing that those who grade the test of my life will not see it as a diminishment of performance, but at an increase in potential.

Therefore, I will not say that this personal lesson “is” leadership in its entirety, but merely another of the countless facets of it: A true Leader is simultaneously a Disciple, a Master, and a Teacher. He or she is continually a Disciple, following the paths of growth they incessantly aspire to, as “every man is my superior in some way, and I can learn from him” (unknown). He or she is also continually a Teacher, guiding Disciples who fumble in the polished footprints of skill-sets they have mastered. Yet the true Leader knows that mastery is not for showmanship and not for performance, for the inner confidence they feel and the silent, approving twinkle in the eye of the Grader is enough to satisfy any hunger pangs for validation that may linger.

I can honestly say that I am refreshed and excited to begin this new phase in my own personal development, where the Performer yields to become the Teacher, and in doing so becomes the Leader. There are several positions in my personal and professional life where I can readily implement this newfound revelation, and it can be credited to that singular sentence of observation shared by my superior officer.

 

DISCIPLINING DISAPPOINTMENT (2013)

Many things have been written regarding disciplining disappointment, and I will not attempt to regurgitate the same material. What I will do, however, is share how I am learning to handle an early disappointment that I have experienced thus far in 2013.

Only nineteen days into the new year and I have earned my first sucker-punch from life. I have taken many before, so I am not reeling. However, this one I did not see coming and it took the wind from me nonetheless. Those who know me will say that I am an entrepreneurial spitfire who is rarely satisfied with one thing for too long. That being said, I feel that my current season in life is coming to an end and a new chapter is ready to be written. I have begun to seek out new opportunities and knock on several potential doors.

I was driving back home after a wonderful holiday back in Virginia when I had a brilliant idea for an energy drink geared towards a particular audience. I vetted the idea online, and I could not find where it had been done before. On top of that, I found a company that provided an FDA-approved, pre-manufactured energy drink that you simply placed your label on. I had done it. I had found a genius way to take an existing product with all the work already done and market to an entirely untapped market by slapping my own label on it.

I ran the idea by a friend of mine who belonged to this particular target audience to see whether or not the idea would float. Further boosting my confidence in the project, he loved it. He even offered to help market the product for me to several business owners he knew and to promote the drink at an upcoming convention. All I had to do was create the brand.

As I began to design the label, I started generic image searches online to help create the profile. Then, like a right hook to my chiseled jaw line, I saw it: The exact product I was designing, created by someone else five years earlier. I couldn’t believe it. I went to their website and discovered my brainchild already belonged to another family and was making them rich. There was no possible way that I could continue with the project; it had to be aborted.

There it was, the emotion of disappointment. For some reason this one really hurt. Maybe it was because I thought I had completely vetted the project, only to find that I had not searched all the possible parameters. As a stumbled from the blow, I went through a period of about twenty minutes where my confidence and esteem went down the drain, and I started believing that no good was ever going to come my way. However, I was smart enough to know that sulking wasn’t going to make it better, so I decided to write about it. I simply needed to get up, wipe the blood from my swollen lip, and chase down the bandit who tried to steal my dream of a better life. I would have my cake and eat it, too; I would have both financial abundance and the excess time to make it meaningful. It was only a matter of time before the right combination of talent, passion, and opportunity came together.

As I come to the end of this journaling session, I feel the weight lifting off my chest, and the surprise that I have actually motivated myself! It happens fairly often so I can vouch that I must know what I am talking about. Here is my advice regarding disappointment: It happens. You will not escape life unscathed, so prepare for as many of the blows as you can.  Know that a few will find their mark from time to time, and it will hurt. Some will make you angry, and others will knock you down outright. It is okay to sit for a minute and cry. It is okay to admit that it really hurt and that you are experiencing pain. But when you have allowed a long moment to fully explore your emotions and let them ebb and tide, it is time to get back up and continue the quest.

I am still hungry for greatness, and I have hit many bumps on my journey. However, I know from personal experience that the pain and suffering from quitting too soon can be far worse than whatever discomfort is experienced along the way. There are good times on the road to your dreams, and there will be some bad ones as well. The more you understand that and are prepared for it the better you will fend off the blows. This will allow you to spend less time lying in the mud and more time preparing for the knockout punch you intend to give life when you meet again.

A YEAR TO REMEMBER (2012)

“What happened then is neither as exciting nor important as what happens next”

                                                                                                            -Will Fediw

            At the end of every year I relish a tradition of taking the last few weeks in December to reflect on the past year. Being that I kept a detailed planner, I review literally every day of the year and read over all the pencil scribbles and pen jots. Naturally, many of the events I had been through I had forgotten, and some I clearly remembered as if they were yesterday. Some of these moments brought smiles of joy, and other dull reminders of pain and brokenness.

            Every year is a mixed bag of ups and downs, and 2012 was no exception. As I wrote out the success I had experienced, I was reminded of such moments as starting this website, beginning my fledgling speaking career, winning a 3-state speaking competition, moving yet again to a new city, promoting once again in my career, spending time with my beautiful family, and meeting so many new and wonderful people. As I wrote out my lessons learned, bumps, and bruises, I was reminded of changing career paths, new roads taken, and opportunities that fear had robbed of me. It is a beautiful tradition that I love, as it allows me the opportunity to see how much I have grown, and how far I have come. I don’t mind reliving the tears, because I also relive the laughter.

            As the final minutes wound down in 2012, for some reason I found myself outside in the darkness under a cold, starry night amongst the trees in Virginia. For some reason or another, I didn’t feel like spending my last and first minutes of two years watching television for yet another ball drop. Instead, I wanted to spend it verbally recalling my blessings, thanking God for His goodness to me in the past year, and verbally declaring all of the things that the New Year would bring.

            When the clock struck midnight, fireworks erupted in the distance, as sounds of cheers and whiz-poppers formed a soundtrack to reflect the feelings erupting inside of me. As if a light-switch came on, I felt that for one reason or another, this was my year. Surely I will never forget the journey of 2012, and this New Year would also be one to remember. Wet coals re-ignited, tired legs refreshed, ambition and resolve to be everything I could be flooded my veins like an endorphin rush.

            Therefore, I declare that this year I will no longer chase what I am not, no longer try to fit the mold that I didn’t come from, nor attempt to please those who neither give me true worth or pay my bills. I declare that I will be the best “me” that I can be, for I am best at being “me.” I was born for greatness and I will no longer act as if I was born to be ordinary. I am not sure of the depth of the valleys I will face nor the height of the mountains I will climb, but this is my year. What happened then is neither as exciting nor important as what happens next.

THE FEAST (2012)

Imagine a great Thanksgiving feast with many wonderfully different and unique dishes made from special recipes and a collection of individual ingredients. There is a crisp, golden turkey with succulent gravy, heaps of steaming mashed potatoes with golden butter running down the sides, bowls of glistening cranberry sauce, golden brown marshmallows encrusting cinnamon-sweet potatoes, and a trio of pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies fresh from the oven. Are you hungry yet?

Each feast is made up of multiple, unique dishes, which in turn are created using individual recipes consisting of a culinary plethora of ingredients. Each dish alone would be a filling yet unsatisfying meal, but the gastronomic symphony that is created when they are all brought together is a timeless masterpiece.

RECOGNIZE YOUR PERSONAL INGREDIENTS

There are a finite number of ingredients in the world, some of them very common. Take milk, sugar, and chocolate for example, yet these ingredients are used in millions of different combinations. 

Each of us has been given certain gifts, talents, and skills; things unique to us that make us special and different. These ingredients that can make the world sweeter and more flavorful; They come together in a unique recipe to create a magnificent dish called “Jessica,” “Michael,” “you,” or “me.” Some of us put our ingredients in the back of the pantry to be forgotten. Some of us use them for ourselves and we eat alone. Some of us share them freely with others and discover a fantastic and fulfilling life.

I have been a musician most of my life and I used to write music. When I was young, I could write literally a song a day. However, for one reason or another I stopped writing. I put that ingredient on the shelf, and now I couldn’t write a song if I wanted to. I was also told my whole life I talked too much; that all I wanted to do was to hear myself talk. Now I see what I once thought was a weakness was a gift.

I love people and I love to help people. I love working with kids because I feel like a big kid myself; They are so funny in the way they interpret the world around them. Finally, I care deeply about the poor, the homeless, and children in need of love. There are other ingredients that I am discovering, but I just wanted to give a few examples. I don’t know why my list of ingredients is the way it is, but that is my recipe; The Master Chef created me that way.

What are your ingredients? What is your collection of gifts and traits that make you unique? What do you enjoy doing the most and that you are the most good at? These are all parts of your special recipe. Is it art? Music? Speaking? Making friends? Working with numbers? Maybe you are a natural entrepreneur or athlete. Thank goodness we are all different! The world would not be as enjoyable if all we had to eat was meat, or only cake, or if all foods were colored green or orange.

Variety is what makes the world so special.

Don’t underestimate your ingredients. The ability to make someone laugh can brighten a day and heal the sick, for laughter is medicine. The ability to lead a club and overcome adversity can translate into leading a large corporation that transforms the economy. The ability to master simple card games can lead to fortunes in investing and analytical breakthroughs. The ability to stand in the gap for children in need could impact the next Billy Graham or President of the United States.

What about the experiences you have gone through? There are “sweet” ingredients: your talents, successes, and good memories. Everyone likes these. Then there are “bitter” ingredients: your weaknesses, failures, and hurts. Don’t discount these. They are all part of the recipe. Alone they my taste horrible, but they are necessary in your dish. As an example, I despise the smell and taste of Thai fish sauce, yet I love Thai food. I cannot enjoy my favorite Thai dish, Pad Thai, unless the malodorous sauce is present in the recipe.

LET THE RECIPE WORK THE MAGIC

Your recipe is that collection of ingredients: gifts, traits, skills, passions, beliefs, and desires that are prepared by life in a special way. There is no one on earth who has the same recipe as you.

Every recipe is different, so there is no need to compare yours to others. Some recipes call for marinating, rising, or aging; basically a period of waiting. Some recipes are ready to enjoy immediately. Wine takes longer to make than beer. Is one better than the other? They are simply different products.

Some recipes call for chilling, pounding, tenderizing, grinding, sifting, and searing heat! All recipes go through a different process in order to produce the final dish. That is life. Do not let that frustrate you. If your recipe seems like nothing more than a big bowl of soupy mess, be patient! The ingredients are there and the process is taking place.

SHARE YOUR MAGIFICENT DISH WITH THE WORLD

Remember the wisdom, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?” Let’s apply this to our current analogy. Is a beautiful cake meant to be hidden or eaten alone? You always eat better when you eat together. Think of eating a bowl of green beans by itself and alone. Maybe eating only mashed potatoes. Your meal would be one-dimensional and lonely.

Now imagine bringing your bowl of green beans or mashed potatoes to a table full of friends and family who have each collectively brought a different dish to share. Yes, you have given of your dish but you have eaten more because of the collective sharing of the people and you are satisfied. This is what we would call “the good life”.

You must share your special recipe with the world and make it a better place, for that is the highest achievement in life. No one can be the special dish you were created to be. No one can bring it to the table of feasting except you. Realize your ingredients are a special blend in a unique recipe meant to create an amazing dish. Without using your ingredients, the recipe cannot be prepared as designed. It simply won’t turn out the way it should.

The world around us is full of food yet starving. It is overweight yet famished. What is being consumed as filler cannot satisfy the craving of the soul. The world is hungry for the unique and satisfying dish that you are and that you are bringing. Use all of your ingredients, trust the recipe, and share your delicious dish with the hungry world!

THREE BOXES OF OPPORTUNITY (2012)

Three men were sitting in the countryside when each was handed a box with an opportunity inside.

The first man was wise, so he opened his box, looked inside, liked the opportunity he saw and took it.

The second man was also wise, and he opened his box, looked inside, did not like the opportunity he saw and did not take it. The third man was a simpleton. He looked at the box with suspicion. “What could be in it?” he thought. The other two stared at him, and asked, “Aren’t you going to open it?” “No,” he replied, “I’m not sure if I will like what is in it. It might be great, but it also might be something I don’t want. I don’t know much about this box, so I’d rather pass.”

Friends, the two wise men were considered wise not because of what they DID with the opportunity, but because they took the time to actually see it. Remember, one seized the opportunity while the other did not. They both, however, took the time to evaluate it.

The next time someone offers you the opportunity to listen to a new idea, or to experience something unfamiliar, be like the wise men in the story who took the time to find out what it is before you make your decision.

Only simpletons judge the contents of a gift by the external packaging.

Take the time to look “inside a box” today.

COLUMBUS DAY FISHING LESSONS (2012)

I spent the early morning of Columbus Day fishing with a good friend, and I can tell you that I am “hooked”. I learned a few lessons that day that I believe will impact my life in a profound way. I didn’t think that 3 hours or so in a small boat with good company would teach me that much, but in the end I received much more than a great time. I have specific areas of my life where I see these lessons taking root, yet they may speak to you in a different way. That is why I will leave my points pretty generic.

The first lesson I learned was STRESS IS BAD FOR YOU. Now I know that your mind is reeling from the mystical profoundness of that statement, but it is true. I woke up early for the trip with many things on my mind for that day, and my stress level was rising even before 7AM. The more I thought about those things, the more stressed I became. It even made me think about cancelling the trip. However, since I am working on developing sound decision-making skills, I resolved to go.

About 2 hours into the trip I had a sudden realization. I had not thought about anything I had been thinking about previously in the past 2 hours. My mind was clear and I was at peace. My blood pressure seemed non-existent. I shared this with my friend who affirmed the realization that all I had been thinking about was the fish beneath the surface. I had not created an outlet in my life to relieve the pressures that naturally build between work, family, and so forth. The fishing trip, however, became that outlet and the rest of my day was filled with a surprising calm. Is there a stress-relieving activity in place in your life?

The second lesson I learned was that TO LEARN HOW TO FISH, HAVE SOMEONE SHOW YOU. The last time I had been fishing was when I was a teenager. Being that nearly a decade had gone by since then, my skills were lacking to say the least.  However, I’m pretty good at admitting weaknesses, so I asked my friend to walk me through the process, which he graciously accepted. We quickly went over tying on a hook, baiting a hook, casting a line, and de-hooking a fish. Soon both lines were in the water and we were having a great time. New skills can be intimidating, but the learning process is so much fun! Is there a new skill that you can ask someone to teach you?

The third lesson I learned was THERE ARE DIFFERENT HOOKS AND DIFFERENT BAIT FOR DIFFERENT FISH. That day we were specifically fishing for Red Drums, so I bought a specific box of hooks to accomplish the job. We also used specific bait in order to attract the fish. Different species of fish swim and feed at different depths in the water column, eat different things, and have different habits. We used this information to our advantage in order to successfully catch several Red Drums and several other species of fish that day. Are you using the right hooks and bait to catch the fish you are after?

The fourth lesson I learned was IN ORDER TO CATCH MORE FISH, YOU HAVE TO KEEP CASTING THE LINE IN. No one bats a thousand, and there were times when the line broke, the fish stole the bait, or the fish just weren’t biting. This could have become a point of frustration, but we simply re-baited our hooks and cast the line again.  The success was in the persistence; it was simply a numbers game. If we had quit after the first few tries, we would have not had any fish at all. If we had quit after the first catch, we only would have had one fish. We continued to catch plenty of fish because we kept casting lines regardless of whether or not we got a bite or not. Are you still casting the line in or have you quit?

The fifth lesson I learned was IF THE FISH AREN’T BITING, MOVE TO A DIFFERENT SPOT.  Some of the fishing spots we trolled to were awesome; as soon as the lines were in the water we were reeling them in. Other spots, however, seemed to have no fish at all. This could have spoiled the trip for us had we stayed where we were, but we didn’t. We moved on and found more fish! Is your fishing hole empty?

I could not have imagined that a simple fishing trip on a chilly October morning in the waters of Louisiana could have been so inspiring, but I guess life has a way of educating us when we least expect it. I am looking forward to applying these newfound truths to my personal life, and I hope that they may have some impact on you as well. Just in case you forget, wash your hands when you are finished fishing, or your fingers will smell like shrimp!

 

THE POWER OF FOCUS (2012)

     What differentiates a light bulb from a laser? After all, it's the same photons that bounce around to power both, correct? What then could be the distinguishing factor between soft, ambient lighting and the incredible piercing power of a laser? The answer is focus.

     Remember as a kid when you would play outside with a magnifying glass on a sunny day? The beautiful warmth of the afternoon sun would wash over us and simply make us feel better; It was harmless. Yes, the sunlight alone could burn our skin after prolonged exposure, but it was nothing compared to the power we wielded with our magnifying glass. Every twig, leaf, and scrap of paper was a potential target to our incendiary device. We could focus the same warm rays of sunshine into a powerful beam to generate intense heat.

     A laser operates the same way. Although I am definitely not a physicist, a laser simply concentrates those seemingly insignificant photons into a powerful beam. The substance of the beam is not as important as the concentration and the focus of the photons.

Now think of the “energies” in our own life. If they are scattered or distracted, they may produce soft, pleasant results, but they will lack power and be contained by the thinnest of walls.

     Small children, and often many adults, suffer from the “butterfly effect”: This is where all focus on a particular task is lost whenever the proverbial fluttering butterfly dances across our gaze. However if we discipline ourselves to focus our energies (our thoughts, talents, efforts, etc.) onto a specific task, when then begin to harness the same power of the laser. Under the powerful, steady beam of the laser obstacles crumble, resistance fades, and barriers are broken. The obstructions to success will always exist, but they simply cannot withstand the power of focus.

     As you think of the areas in your life where you are attempting to see a break through, ask yourself if you are distracted and scattered or if you are focused. As you begin to focus your thoughts, efforts, and energies into succeeding in your particular venture, you will notice the powerful, searing heat of your activity burning through the walls that stand between you and your dreams.