In truth, not much.

Sure, there are elaborate heroes who do things to change the world.  But you don’t have to change the whole world, all you have to do is find someone in need, and change their world.

If a child asks you to come play ball, or Barbies, or jump on the tramp, or swing them, or read them a book, or tell them a story, and you stop and do it… you’re their hero.

If you see someone at the checkout counter who didn’t bring enough money, and you step in and make up the difference… you’re their hero.

If you see someone on the side of the road and help them change their tire, or jump-start their car, or pull them out… you’re their hero.

If you see someone having a bad day, put your arm around them, give them a smile, and offer some encouragement… you’re their hero.

If you’re always the one to look on the bright side of things, to point out the positive, to provide energy and spirit to those around you… you quickly become their hero.

If you see someone new in your neighborhood, in your school, in your church, or in your office, and you take the time to get to know them, ask them questions, make them feel welcome, and be their friend… you’re their hero.

Being a hero doesn’t always require heroic effort, just the right effort at the right time.  And usually the amount of effort required is vastly disproportionate to the impact you have.  Sure, there are big things that you can do (and big things that need to be done), but more pervasive are those little opportunities that constantly surround us where we see someone in need, step in, and help.

Our environments are composed of hundreds of opportunities such as this.  The building blocks of heroism.

So look around you, and be a hero.

Rusty

I love New Years Day and the turn of the new year, largely because it’s a time where we all take the opportunity to reevaluate our lives, assess where we’ve been, and plan where we’re going.  It’s a phenomenal event, pivotal, and magnificent.  I hope you all take the time to do it.

As for my assessing ’08 I found that I’d been so greatly blessed.  I had a splendid year, nearly incomparable in fact.  Even in spite of such tough times.  The brief time I’ve taken to reflect has surely manifested the Lords hand in my life, for truly, I’m unworthy of such blessing, and certainly incapable of creating such a great year autonomously.

The realization of that reflection caused me to rededicate my life in many respects (illustration of my post “Gratitude, the key to righteous desire“).  One of those areas of rededication is with my blog.  I felt strongly (as I mention here), that this was an endeavor the Lord wanted me to undertake.  He’s blessed me with the talents to do it, and it’s my duty to use those talents appropriately, leaving room for the Spirit to magnify my efforts so that they’ll be of enduring value.

But the whole process of reflection upon the past with the perspective of today tends to call out the starkest instances of entropy experienced in our lives (which I explain here).  Those areas where we’ve let slip the most.  Those are the areas we need to proactively rededicate ourselves to.

Life is not casual.  Life is engaging, and requires us to be engaged with it.  Spend too much time as a bystander, and you find your life is filled with more regret, than accomplishment and opportunity.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

Rusty

mother_teresa1

Mother Teresa, a truly inspiring woman who dedicated over 45 years of her life to ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while proselytizing Christianity, once offered the following words of wisdom:

“In this life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.”

How very often we tend to look for the “grand plan”, the big things we can do to make a big difference, all while the small opportunities that are ever-present ever pass us by.  We look beyond the mark.

But big plans seldom work out, and big ideas seldom take off, whereas the little things, the more achievable things, the more straightforward things, the more immediate things, those things that are right in front of us, are those things that really matter and really move us forward.

It’s great to dream, it’s better to do.

After all, it’s usually the cumulative effect of so many little things, done persistently, and done well, that creates greatness.

“By small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.”  (Alma 37:6)

In our lives, whether in business or as parents, as we pay closer attention to making the most of the little opportunities that lie right in front of us, we will move naturally towards the dreams that matter most.

Rusty

I was in Orlando Florida last week, presenting some new software I’d been working on at a large tradeshow, when something I saw totally captivated me.

One morning, the group of us was following the masses toward the conference center entrance to get our badges scanned.  It was a gorgeous day, and I was looking around, enjoying the surrounding beauty when I spied the most amazing plants.

plant1

These plants lined the front of the conference center.  As I walked, I noticed that these plants would grow along the gound, sprouting above-ground roots that would slither out in all directions attempting to find nourishment from their surroundings.  Apparently, at some point, they’d  find a sufficient source of nutrients, and the plant would be strong enough to start growing upward.

And then I came to this one.

plant3

I was captivated.  But it wasn’t the novelty that captivated me as much as it was the apparent symbolism.

This was the only plant of its kind.  It grew straight up.  Rather than sulking along the ground, seeking nourishment, one of its tendrils had found a large, neighboring palm.  It had then wrapped its root around this tree multiple times, giving it direction, strength, and protection that the others lacked.

Before I was befuddled with the frantic nature of the tradeshow, I had a brief moment to reflect upon the message this plant had to offer me.

In life, some people choose to “go it alone”.  Sometimes that choice is forced upon you, and you find yourself scrambling for nourishment (spiritual, emotional, or otherwise).  In either case, it’s a constant struggle for the most meager upward gains, and you end up spending much time and effort moving on a more lateral course, constantly reaching out in every way to find support and strength.

But we have been provided pillars of strength, and we should wrap ourselves around them.  By so doing, they provide us direction, strength and protection that ensure our upward growth.

For each of us those pillars may differ.  Sometimes it’s a close friend who somehow seems so grounded, or whose testimony is so sound.  Sometimes it’s a religious leader.  Sometimes it’s a family member.  Someitmes it’s something inanimate, like the scriptures.  Often, it’s the Savior.

But whoever or whatever you find, keep them close.  Wrap yourself around them, and let them give you strength.

The physical principle of gravity, that objects of lesser mass are pulled toward objects of greater mass, has a spiritual shadow.  If you surround yourself by those people, places, and things that are of greater spiritual strength than you, you’ll be naturally pulled upward by them.  But be careful, for the opposite is also true.

May each of us find our pillars of strength, and wrap ourselves around them.

Rusty

(click image below for large view)

P.S.  For a greater explanation of this take on “gravity”, see my post here.  For more about how you are shaped by your spiritual ecosystem, click here.

No, this isn’t “they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”, although I think there is some substance to that, but rather about how to lead people by making them care.

The most effective, long lasting leadership is about getting people to care, not compelling people to obey.  Leadership by compulsion is only as enduring as your ability to make those who follow you fear you.  But once you’re not there, or your influence over them is diminished, the obedience you’d once created will likewise disappear.

But, if you can help people care about the principles you want them to obey, by appropriately communicating to them the context of those principles, and the natural ramifications to one’s obedience or disobedience to them, then they’ll obey by choice.  They’ll obey because they see the whole picture. 

Hence, the importance of communicating context.  When asked why (yes, even by your kids), “because I said so” is not an acceptable answer, at least at first.

The better, more enduring alternative is to get them to see the whole picture, and see it clearly enough that they care.

Rusty

“I don’t care”.

How often do you hear that phrase?

More importantly, how often do you say it and mean it?

Stop and think for a minute… how much DO you care?

Do you care about life?
Do you care about religion?
Do you care about your job?
Do you care about your family?
Do you care about politics?
Do you care about sports?
Do you care about the weather?
Do you care about a hobby?
Do you care about progression?
Do you care about understanding others?
Do you care about others at all?
Do you care about what those around you are trying to tell you?
Do you care about what you’re going to do tonight?
Tomorrow?
The rest of your life?
Do you care about music?
Do you care about the direction of your life?
Do you care about your spiritual state?
Do you care about eternity?
Do you care about your appearance?
Do you care about what others think of you?
Do you care about what your spouse is going through?
Do you care about helping, and making a difference?
Do you care about how you feel when you look in the mirror?
Do you care about what media you consume?
Do you care about what food you consume?
Do you care about a pet?
Do you care about nature?
Do you care about your education (regardless of age)?
Do you care about yourself?

Caring.

Caring is one of the simplest, yet most magnificent of motivating powers.  Caring gives you energy, purpose, hope, enthusiasm, passion, commitment, perseverance.   None of those can exist without caring.  In fact, no positive, healthy, or forward-moving emotion can exist without first caring.

What’s more, those who care more, experience more.  More life, more joy, more hope, more love, more fullness.  As a people, I am convinced that we have got to care more.

So I ask you, what do you care about?  Try caring a little bit more, see what happens.

Rusty

This past Monday, the pointer on our family night spinner rested on me for this week’s lesson.  We were having some neighborhood friends over, and I felt inspired to teach a lesson based on one of my favorite blog posts (“It is what you make of it“).

I think the lesson was received well (it’s tailored for little kids), and wanted to share it with you, in case you find yourself needing a quick lesson sometime.

First, after our (rather rambunctious) song and prayer, I asked if anybody knew how snow is created?  Fortunately for me, nobody did, and they were all interested (it had recently snowed).

I animatedly explained how moisture in the sky builds up in the clouds, around little dust particles, and this moisture continues to accumulate (gesturing now with my hands) until suddenly the droplet gets heavy enough that it falls “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh….kerrrsplat!” to the earth.

But, if conditions are just right, and its cold enough, that little water droplet freezes instantly, and as it does, it flattens and “crystallizes”.  These flat crystals then float gently down to the earth as snowflakes.

I tried to illustrate and describe just how miniscule one of these snowflakes are, and then asked them to try and visualize how many snowflakes it would take to cover the whole table.  And then how many to cover the whole yard, then the whole city, etc.  Then how many it would take to blanket that same area in 3-4 inches.  By now, they’re getting a sense of scope, appreciating for the first time just how many snowflakes there must be.

Then I make the point “Did you know, that out of all those gazillion snowflakes, no two snowflakes are the same?”  Every snowflake is entirely different, unique from one another in very special ways.

Then, I changed the subject entirely (keeping children on their toes is crucial to a well-orchestrated family night, LOL).

At this point, I took out our rather gargantuan box of jumbled legos.  These are legos from numerous long-gone lego sets.  I had everybody gather around the table, and then I scooped out a handful of random legos, and dumped them in a small pile in front of each person (adults included!).

“Okay”, I instructed, “Now what you have to do, is build something out of your legos”.  I explained that they must use every single lego (no lego left unused).  They could build anything they want, but every lego had to be used.

At this point, they all set to work, everybody absorbed in their own little unique challenges due to the mixed variety of legos they’d received.  As I had hoped, at least one of my kids got to a tough point in their building, and asked me for help.  I’d then say (for emphasis) in an over-loud voice “I’m so glad you asked me for help, I’d love to help you”.  (I’ll come back to this later).

After everyone had finished, we took turns showing off our creation, and for each person who successfully used all their legos, I gave them a treat.

After putting the legos up on a shelf for display, I then got to the meat of the lesson…

“How many of you ended up having lego parts that you just didn’t like?”  A bunch of raised hands.  “I know exactly what you mean.  Didn’t you find that there were some legos parts you’d been given that you just wanted to stash away, to hide, so that you didn’t have to use them?  I mean, think of how easy it would have been if you could have given away those unwanted parts, or even better, traded them in for parts you wanted even more!

“But, in the end, when you look at that shelf full of lego structures, isn’t it those specific parts that make each structure so unique?  So curious, so entertaining?

“Our lives are just like those lego structures.  Each of us are children of our Heavenly Father, and just like the snowflakes we talked about earlier, he has made each of us to be totally different, completely unique.  In doing so, we were each given our own bag of ‘parts’.

“These are the parts with which we must build our lives.  Sometimes we find we have parts that we just don’t want.  Parts that we’d rather hide, or even better exchange!  But these are the parts that Heavenly Father has given us, and he has done so because he loves us, and he understands exactly who we are, and what kinds of challenges can make us stronger.

“The ‘problem parts’ that we have help keep us humble.  The help us focus and pay attention on our lives.  And what’s more, they encourage us to turn to Him for help.  Just like Lacey got to a point where she didn’t know what to do, and asked me for help, and as a loving father, I was anxious to do so.”

I then shared my testimony to them, as I do to you, that we are indeed children of our Father in Heaven, that he indeed loves us, and that all the parts he has given us, both the wanted and the not-so-wanted, are ours, and were given to us for a wise purpose in Him.  We should accept and embrace those parts, work to build our lives to be strong, beautiful, and unique, and help others recognize the value of their less-wanted parts.  As we do this, we will find our relationship with our Father growing stronger, as we turn to Him for help, we will find that our lives don’t appear less-desirable, but rather MORE-desirable, and the time will come when he will embrace us for the lives we’ve built out of the parts we’ve been given, and then we too, shall earn a great reward.

I hope you can find value in this lesson, whether you share it with your family or not, for I firmly believe it is true.

Rusty

Last night, I was at the kitchen sink doing the dinner dishes, when my 2 year old came tromping in holding up two Polly Pockets and saying “RAAAAAWWWRRRRRRR” in his growliest voice.  I burst out laughing, and then said, “Alex, what does a Poly Pocket say?”, and seeing my apparent enjoyment, he heartily repeated “RAAAAWWWRRRRRR”.

I laughed, and went back to the dishes (this is life in a house with 5 little boys and only 1 girl, lots of dolls with tattoos, no heads, etc.).

I didn’t even bother correcting him, knowing full well that as soon as he left the room, it’d be back to “Polly Pocket vs. T-Rex”, or Buzz Lightyear, or whatever.

But as I stood there thinking about the incident, I couldn’t help but smile at the symbolism.

We all tend to simply go about our lives, looking at everything through whatever lens we’ve created for ourselves, and seeing it for not exactly what it is, but for how we can fit it within our own “world-view”.  Nobody likes to discover things that shake them out of their comfort zone, or calls into question life-long beliefs, and so we often try to make sense of things in a way that doesn’t disrupt our long-held beliefs.

I’m sure when Peter went fishing on that special day, he had no intention to simply “abandon his nets” and follow some stranger.  But that’s what he did.

Sometimes we ALL must truly try and peer beyond the surface of what confronts us, and attempt to see them as they are, and not what we want them to be.  Sometimes, as with Peter, we may even be required to abandon our own nets, in order to follow the Savior.

Rusty

We all face adversity within our lives.  Some, far more than others.  But it’s not the adversity that matters, but how we deal with it (life is what we make of it).

The following is an inspiring story of Horatio Spafford who did just that, who took adversity and decided to respond healthily, and not with anger, hate, or spite at the cards he’d been dealt.  Rather than being driven from God, he was driven to God.

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8_EfDqF7YI

 

May we all use the adversity in our lives to make us better, stronger, and closer to God.

Rusty

This morning I was at the gym, sweating, hurting, thinking I was an idiot, and wondering what in the world I was doing.  I’ve got a goal to bench-press 400 lbs, which is about 25 lbs over my prior max.  Now I know 25 lbs doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’ve already reached your limit, no matter what it is, expanding that limit even by as little as 5% (as in this case), is extraordinarily difficult.

As I was sitting there reflecting on the ridiculous amount of pain, effort, and perseverance you have to endure to increase by such a meager margin (only 5%), I realized that this is a nearly universal principle.

Any time you want to push yourself well-beyond what you have done before (particularly when you were pushing yourself then), the amount of effort required will be dramatically disproportionate to the increments in which you increase.

I learned a couple things then, as I pondered this principle while pounding out as many reps as my tired muscles could bear.

Character development

First, what matters most is not the end result from pushing yourself so far.  At least in this case, the ends do not justify the means.  Such proportionately unimpressive increases do not justify the disproportionately gargantuan effort they require.  But what does matter, is the character development inherent in the process of pushing yourself farther and harder than before.  It’s about the value of setting goals, the ethic of hard work, the principle of perseverance, and the inner-strength you get by simply sticking to it.

In my limited observation, those individuals that are the strongest, and who achieve the most, are those who have learned to push themselves, who have learned to be passionate, and do not quit when everyone else does.

The cost/value principle

Second, those things in life that are of the greatest value are not free.  And usually the level of value associated with the achievement is directly proportional to the amount of work required to achieve it.

I pondered how this applies across the broad panorama of life, from the physical, to the mental, to the spiritual.  “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works.”  Even the very level of our eternal exaltation shall be determined by how diligently we endeavored to work the works of righteousness.

Dealing with failure

Third, and finally, to be good at something, really good, you’re going to have to get used to failure.  The better you want to at something the more failure you’ll have to endure to get there.

A good sales person, for instance, will be rejected 9 times out of 10 (or more).  In baseball, a batting average (your ratio of “hits” to “at bats”) is considered excellent if it’s higher than a .300, and .400 is nearly impossible.  A “.300” batting average means that you’re going to miss seven out of ten times at bat.  The last time I ran a marathon, I had to run about 325 miles over the three months prior just so that I could run 26.2 miles the day of the race.

In short, “failure” (which is really a misnomer) needs to become a part of your life, you need to be able to look at failure for just what it is, the temporary inability to achieve what you meant to, and a guide on what to change so that in the end, you succeed.

If you’re not currently pushing yourself at something, and feeling the pain that happens when you do, then I’d encourage you to find a part of your life in which you’d like to improve, make sure it’s of value (see the worth of your pursuits), and work to achieve it.

If you ARE feeling pushed and pulled, if you are struggling towards some worthy goal and are feeling the whole-bodied drain that it is having on you, I encourage you to persevere, keep it up, and make it happen.  You’ll be happy that you did.

Rusty