The Title is Optional (10/16/2012)

The title is still optional because I still haven’t come up with anything. If you have any ideas, feel free to drop them in the comments. So here’s another collection of things that I thought were funny, thought-provoking, interesting or just plain awesome.

  • Jon Acuff points out that it’s always the drummer’s fault.  Based on conversations I’ve had this week and my personal experience as one of the drummers at my church, I may be forced to agree.  Feel free to blame all dips in offerings and giving on me.
  • Mom it’s going to be ok! That’s the encouragement from Stephen Altrogge as he encourages moms (stay-at-home ones particularly I think), that while they might feel like there’s way too much to get done in a day, there’s really only a few jobs that are necessarily important, and the rest can work itself out just fine.
  • Wanna know what loving like Christ loves looks like?  Take an example from the fine folks in Grapevine, Texas. There’s a game those kids will never forget.
  • Love a good cup of French Press coffee?  The guys over at Primer came up with a way to make it more automated. As someone who gets up pretty early, I may just have to try this sometime.

The Title is Optional (10/08/2012)

Here’s a recap of a few things I found either humorous, interesting, or just worth reading today. Hopefully you’ll find some enjoyment from them as well. I have no idea what to call this collection of stuff, so I just stole the suggestion WordPress gave me.

 

Are All Astronauts Lonely?

Image courtesy of RabbitRoom.com

Can you be lonely, even when you’re with someone else every day?  Do we often find our marriages as those places where we may not appreciate what we have until it’s gone?

The latest album from Andrew Osenga, “Leonard the Lonely Astronaut” (out tomorrow at The Rabbit Room) is a concept album that tackles those questions and more.  The running storyline of the album follows Leonard as he blasts off from the earth on cargo spaceship.  Leonard’s wife, who he was in the middle of divorce proceedings with has just suddenly passed away.  And so, filled with a avalanche of emotions from sadness to anger to regret and back again, Leonard decides to leave it all behind.

Due to the science fictional nature of his travel, he’ll be travelling through hyperspeed, experiencing days, while his friends and everyone back home ages years and passes away. He is quite literally leaving it all behind, perhaps in an attempt to run away from it all.

Now if the concept worries you, (“I don’t like sci-fi,” you might say) stick with this album.  At the end of the day, like all great science fiction, it’s not really about the spaceship, it’s about how we tackle the pain, emptiness, and loneliness in our lives.

In tracks like “Only Man in the World” and “Out of Time” Leonard tackles the anger all of us experience at loss, shifting blame to others.  In “Tower of Babel” he moves on to ask the question, “Why do lovers grow apart, when they want so badly to be one heart?”.  As the story progress, Leonard digs into his past, discovers that his wounds from growing up may have some contribution to his situation, and then eventually comes to the point where he can experience his grief.

His anger melts away into regret through the song “We Never Said Goodbye” as he realizes what he lost and how much he misses it, wrapping up in Shooting Star as he contemplates what he’s learned and looks forward to finding out if he can change as he returns to Earth.

Image courtesty of AndrewOsenga.com

My description of the story and a few of the songs doesn’t do this album justice.  There are few albums on which I can honestly say I enjoy every song, and this is one.  While the tracks are enjoyable on their own, if I start this album from the beginning, I have to finish it.  It’s truly a work of art from beginning to end, and I have no problem saying that so far, this is my album of the year.

Andrew Osenga has done something incredible with Leonard the Lonely Astronaut: he’s looked at life with its broken marriages, loss, grief, and anger, and still come out with hope.  For additional thoughts (and some song samples) check out Jason Gray’s review at The Rabbit Room, and then pick up a copy when it’s on sale. This is one album that should stick with you for a while.

Laziness: I’m Afraid

This is part two of two in a series on laziness.

Tuesday I talked about how sometimes laziness can stem from a feeling that we don’t really have to try. Today, I want to think about laziness that’s driven by fear. Fear can be useful when it acts as a proper motivator. For example: I don”t want to get sucked up by a tornado, so when the sirens go off, I take my family and move to the basement.

But other times, fear just gets in our way, especially when it comes to laziness. What fears might we need to overcome to get past our laziness?

  1. Fear of burnout – Laziness can easily create a place of comfort, and we don’t like to be uncomfortable. You know you could work harder and create something more.  But what if we put forward our true potential, and we’re asked for more than that?  No one wants to feel burned out or overworked, and as long as we can maintain a level of laziness we don’t have to risk reaching that point.Of course on the flip side, you’re left with work and life that feels unfulfilled.  One of the problems we’re facing here is that we’re not being honest with ourselves. We’ve been lying to ourselves about what we can accomplish, and in order to keep that lie up, we’ve been lying to ourselves about what we think we can handle.  The fact is, we can probably handle a lot. And even more, if we learned to be honest with ourselves, we could learn when the right time is to say “No!” which solves the burnout problem altogether.
  2. Fear of failure – Failing bites.  No one wants to be a failure to others or to themselves.  I mean, what if we work hard and pour our all into that next project and it blows up in our face? Or it’s ridiculed by others? Or we just plain aren’t satisfied with it?  We might throw our work down and never come back! We just can’t deal with the rejection. Right?

    Wrong.  People are pretty malleable: rejection won’t kill us.  Additionally, how many lessons have you learned from being awesome? But how many times has a mistake allowed you to be more awesome next time?  Making mistakes isn’t fun, but for most of my mistakes (at least the ones I consider major) I learned a lesson I won’t forget. And because I won’t make that mistake again, my work and passion increases as compared to next time.

So, do we continue in our laziness, paralyzed by fear, or do we take a risk.  Maybe it’s time to look at yourself and ask, “Am I just afraid? Am I not being all I can because I’m worried about failure or burnout?”  If the answers to those questions is yes, then great! Because knowing what’s holding you back allows you take the risk, break free, and move forward.

Laziness: I Don’t Have to Try

This week, I’m doing a two post series on laziness.  Laziness is something that you might struggle with, and for me that sense of laziness comes from two places I’ve been able to determine.  The first one I want to talk about today is the face that growing up, I didn’t have to try very hard.

When I was kid, learning wasn’t difficult for me.  I know that’s not true of everyone; some of my friends in school had a lot harder time picking up concepts than I did.  I don’t say that to show off or put myself on pedestal.  I only say it to point out that since learning came relatively easy for me, I also learned not to try very hard.  If I could get decent grades from taking notes and basically pay attention, why work harder?  Even in late high school and college when things could sometimes get difficult, I still didn’t try very hard. I learned to get by on being lazy.

There’s a lesson I wish I hadn’t learned.

If this is the stem of a struggle with laziness for you, what do you do to overcome it? Here are some steps I’m trying to get started.

  1. Set a specific challenging goal – Maybe you’ve got a skill you’d like to learn, or you just know you’re sitting on your hands at work.  Either way, create a goal for something you want to get done, make it specific, and then make it due just before you think you can get it done.  That’s right, set up the goal so you’re not quite sure you can get it done on time.  You’ll force yourself to work faster and harder; that might be stressful for a bit, but just like building muscle, if you’re training yourself consistently, you’ll eventually make that the new norm.
  2. Find a productivity system that works for you – I use a few different productivity programs and services, and follow my own brand of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.  But I also use a Pomodoro timer on my iPod at work: this allows me to track 25 minute bursts of work with 5 minute breaks between.  Yes, there’s still a temptation to be lazy, but working against the clock can be a great motivator.
  3. Get some accountability – The previous options are great, but there’s nothing keeping you from quitting but yourself.  Change that.  Find someone you can share you goals with and then give them permission to be merciless with you. (Well maybe not totally merciless, but you get the point.)  You’ll work harder knowing you have to report to a friend or loved one, and they’ll get to watch you grow. Plus, you can return the favor, holding them accountable to whatever goals they want to accomplish in their life.

Maybe life hasn’t been terribly difficult for you, and you could continue on that way.  I know that often I could just sit back and make it.  But I’m tired of being just good enough.  If you’re there too, let’s put our laziness behind us and push ourselves to something greater.  What goals are you going to set to help you accomplish that today?

Inspiration through Comparison

A few months ago, I got a new boss.  My former supervisor moved on to a new position, and interviews started to fill the position.  The new supervisor we eventually hired looked pretty young.  As I’ve gotten to know him, I realized that he’s only a year older than I am.

There’s a guy at my church who’s a few years younger than me, and yet he’s already an associate pastor who manages a good amount of our church and provides mature council to many around the church as well.When your boss is barely older than you and pastor is a few years younger than you, you start to ask questions, like “What am I doing with my life?”

It sounds really funny when I write it out (probably because I imagine it in the voice of Homestar Runner), but I was serious when I said it to myself.  It was part of my motivation to start this blog, along with some brainstorming help from my wife.  And it would be easy to look at those guys and give up: to say, “If I’m not there now, I’ll never make it.  This is as good as I will ever be; why even try to be better?”

Or I can look at their lives as motivation.  I can view their example and say, “I’m not going to take this anymore!”  I don’t have to be subpar or mediocre.  I don’t have create ok art.  I can throw my all into what I do; I can leave it all on the floor  with my family, in my faith, at my work, and in my hobbies.

You have the same choice before you today (or perhaps you’ve already made it): continue being the example of mediocre, or make today the point you look back on to say “That was the day I decided to be the best version of myself.”

A Worthwhile Nerd

Transport for nerdsThe term nerd is in flux right now.  Once, the word nerd conjured up images of that guy from Revenge of the Nerds, pocket protectors, and numerous other stereotypes.  Now actors like Zachary Levi have merged nerds together into a giant machine, and you can be nerdy about anything from the classics of video games and coding to sports and cooking.

But since the basis of being a nerd or a geek involves an obsession with something (in it’s modern definition), I’m running into a crossroads.  I’m nerdy about video games and technology (among other things). What happens when that nerdiness, that obsession, causes conflict in my life with what’s really important.  Is it possible that the things I like are exactly the things keeping me from being the best I could be?

Some nerds overcome this purely by the fact that they put their nerdery (I’m creating new words; hang with me) to work.  They’re nerdy about coding, so they build websites or design video games for a living.  They’re nerdy about tech, so they build programs or design and build smartphones and tablets.  These nerds are the ones to envy.  They’ve taken an obsession, and made it a living.

Then there are those of us who are nerdy about video games.  The more I go through life, the more I’m convinced that nerdiness about video games is the worst possible nerdiness I could have picked up.  If I’m honest, I can have a bit of an addictive personality.  When I’m into something, it’s all I can think about.  I can’t concentrate well at work because my latest obsession fills my mind.  The question is how to use that to my advantage.

I want to be nerdy about my job, and a hobby that’s productive, like this blog or learning to code websites.  I’d like to be nerdy about my family and what they love and love to do.  I’d love to be nerdy about my faith, pursuing a life full of serving others and continually searching for opportunities to do so.  Which means I’m left with two tough questions:

1. Can I be nerdy about those things and balance them well with other nerdery like playing video games?

And if not:

2. What am I willing to give up to become the person who’s obsessed with what’s important?

Honestly, I’m kind of scared about what the answers to those questions might be.

Photo courtesy of veganstraightedge