My oldest son loved the movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.  We watched that show many times with him.  This movie invoked a lot of questions from him as well.  We even experimented, to his satisfaction, by escaping to my father-in-law’s back yard to see if we could reach the center.  With shovel in hand and and all the determination in the world we dug side by side until we reached a point where we “thought” we were close.  We only dug a few feet, but loved every minute of it.  The hole still resides in my in-laws back yard, much to their dismay, but it stands as a reminder of his curiosity and determination.

Late last night I was at the gym working on my shoulders, and pondering an interesting aspect of weight lifting.

In weight lifting, you work and work to overcome a plateau, a particular weight barrier, only to be immediately confronted with another one.  And no sooner have you overcome that, when you hit yet another.

In fact, in weight lifting that’s the whole point.  To slowly increase your strength by forcing yourself to overcome a never ending succession of barriers.  That’s how you build muscle.  That’s how you get stronger.  And you go into it with that understanding.

It’s no different with life.  You’re never going to reach a point where suddenly you stop encountering barriers.  It’s just not going to happen.  You’ll no sooner overcome one, than find that there’s another one just waiting for you.

But by overcoming a continuous succession of barriers in life we become stronger… emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, and often physically.  As I describe in my post “There must be opposition in all things”, without this pattern of barriers, we would be a completely incompetent people.

So we can stop being riveted on the barrier in front of us, stop complaining about how hard it might be, stop being intimidated and held back by the perspective that there’ll be more.  Whether in life, or in business, or in anything else, each barrier we face is an opportunity to perfect the talent of barrier-busting. Leaving us continually more capable and more prepared for what life may bring in the future.

One who avidly avoids obstacles, robs themselves of that growth, and ensures their inevitable failure when life deals a substantial blow.

Like a weight-lifter, if we approach life with that understanding, our obstacles gain perspective, it’s easier to persevere, to sustain hope through adversity, and you begin to see things differently, you realize that obstacles are opportunities.


Want to change your future, change your life, reach your goals, then change your thoughts.Your mind is extraordinarily powerful.

Without even thinking about it, you breathe, digest, circulate blood, release endorphins, feel, hear, taste, and see.  All these things are processed instantly and automatically within your brain, with no apparent effort.  Enough processing occurs within your brain, and without your attention, to keep your body – the most complex creation on the planet – running smoothly.

What’s even more powerful and amazing though, are the impact of our conscious thoughts.  The ones we actually devote time and energy to.

Every dream that was ever realized… every invention that was ever created… every innovation, every milestone, every leap of any significance once originated as a simple thought.  A thought that was nurtured, and refined.

It has been said that we tend to move towards our most dominant thought pattern.  If those are primarily negative, then the direction our life inevitably turns the same direction.  There’s a reason the most successful people you meet are predominantly upbeat, optimistic, can-do kind of people.

The more positive you think, the more positive you feel.  The more positive you think and feel, the more inclined and motivated you are to act, create, improve, and change.

Indeed, thoughts are the seeds of action.  And actions are the seeds of our future.

Want to change your future?  Then change your thoughts.

No, this is not a book about physics.  At least not entirely.

Escape velocity is a term that describes the speed and momentum necessary for any object to escape the gravitational pull of the earth (or whatever planetary system on which it sits).

But this principle applies to more than just the physical world around us.

You see the principle of gravity is everywhere.  We are pulled by everything around us.

Our past exerts a sustained gravitational pull on us.  It’s why so many people have such a hard time escaping from it.

Our friends exert a gravitational pull on us.  We know this as peer pressure.

Our work environment exerts a gravitational pull on us, both the physical environment and the people within it.  It’s why companies always tend to do what they’ve always done, and have such a hard time doing things that are truly unique (unique for them).

Public perception exerts a gravitational pull on us.  We call this self-fulfilling prophecy, why so many people wind up exactly how we label them.

The public domain exerts a gravitational pull on us.  That’s why it’s so difficult to find truly innovative thinkers; people who are able to escape the gravitational pull of what’s already been done, to come up with something new.

Our past mistakes exert a gravitational pull upon us.  Our habits, our beliefs, our failures, our parents, what we read, what we watch, all exert a gravitational pull on us.

Sometimes, this gravitational pull is positive, such as the influence of good friends, positive belief systems, or a creative work environment.

But sometimes this gravitational pull holds us back, it prevents us from realizing our true potential, from being remarkable.

These are the things from which we try to escape.   And the principles and practices which allow us to do just that is what gives us, what I call “Escape Velocity”.

“Escape Velocity”, the title of my new book, describes how a person can generate the momentum necessary to escape their limitations and realize their true potential.

I’ll be covering many of these principles in greater detail here, as I write the book.

If you’re interested in being notified when it’s available (around 4th quarter 2010), please email me (“rusty @ life – engineering . com”).

Otherwise, I hope you’ll enjoy the posts, and eventually the book.


Effren Penaflorida, CNN hero of the year, a story of motivation and inspiration.

In case you were not aware, every year, CNN hosts a special awards ceremony where they honor a special real-world hero.  Hero’s are nominated every year, and then the public can vote on the hero of their choice, who is awarded in a special celebration.  This years celebration happened just tonight, where we learned that Efren Peñaflorida had been chosen.

Efren Peñaflorida, now 28, was constantly bullied by gangs in high school.  A growing problem in the Phillippines, where teenage gang membership has now reached an estimated 130,000 in recent years.

But rather than follow in their footsteps and succumb to the pressures of his peers, he decided to not only get out, but work to solve the problem.  Now he offers Fillipino youth an alternate option – education.

Gangs start targeting kids as young as 9 years old, mostly victims of poverty, with little or no educational opportunities, who are then dragged into the lifestyle out of pressure and lack of strong options.

So for the last 12 years, Efren Peñaflorida, with a team of volunteers, has taught reading and writing to children living on the streets by use of a mobile classroom.  Literally a pushcart classroom stacked with books, tables, chairs, and other necessities.  He’ll set up classrooms wherever he can, in cemetaries, even the local dump.

Now children as young as two and as old as 14 come to his mobile classroom each saturday for their lessons.  Since their beginning in 1997, they’ve taught more than 1,500 children, their costs supported primarily by making and selling crafts, and recycling.

It’s a phenomenal thing, to watch someone not only overcome their past, or circumstances, but then devote so much of themselves to trying to fix the situation.  I firmly believe that we are not subject to our environments, but are able to rise above them, to rise above our past, and to create lives for ourselves.  You can see my story (here) to see why I believe this so strongly.

But even if you come from a background that is far less dramatic, we all find ourselves subjects of circumstances that would bring us down, and keep us from achieving individual greatness.  Occasionally stories like those of Efren Peñaflorida simply help us realize that if people can overcome such great odds, and choose to make such a difference, then so can we.

You can read more about Efren Peñaflorida’s story at CNN here:

You can also choose to nominate your own hero for 2010 here:

Please, share this URL with a friend through twitter, facebook, or email, or another social media site of your choice by clicking one of the links below, so that they too can be motivated by a real life hero today, Efren Peñaflorida.


Now that I’m officially unemployed, our family is having to make sacrifices. I’ve never not had a job, let alone been let go involuntarily. And for most the lives of my 6 terrific kids, I’ve had not just any job, but terrific, well-paying jobs.

Now all of a sudden, certain luxuries are going away, and it’s tough. Even though we’ve were blessed to have received a great severance, there’s still a finite amount of money in the bank, and I’ll likely need every penny in starting up my new company.

Everybody is effected in different ways. We’re canceling cable (an unnecessary $100/month), which means no more football for my eldest. One son just came home with a straight-A report card, which we usually reward by going out and buying them the book of their choice… that quickly adds up to nearly $100 by the time everybody gets their books (they’re all terrific students). We just had a family council where we decided to simply read the books we’ve already got, and instead choose other ways to celebrate their accomplishments without spending money.

These kinds of sacrifices are in no way independently substantial, but in accumulation begin to carry some weight, and there’s already been tears shed.

As a father, it’s terrifically difficult to bear. I could easily just go spend the money. I don’t have any doubt I’ll soon be earning good income, without ever fully exhausting our reserves, but the opportunity to teach lessons of sacrifice, budgeting, and wisdom during hard times is too important.

I remember times in my childhood where we had no money. Where we, at one point, had to live in a tent, or later a small RV trailer. When we ate raw pancake batter that we scrounged up from somewhere, or crackers on hotdog buns with water, or squirrels, or craw-dads from the creek. There were lots of times like this, and I know my character grew because of those times.

But now, being (only slightly) on the other end, as the provider, I realize how difficult sacrifice is. Deliberately holding back from my kids (who were never spoiled in the first place), so that they can learn the lessons of sacrifice. It’s incredibly painful.

Just now it’s caused me to reflect on the burden our Father in Heaven must feel, as He too, is forced to look on as we, His beloved children, must endure trials, heartache, and sacrifice.

I’m confident that even as I look on with love and understanding, choosing the right moments to intervene, so too does he look upon us, with even greater love and understanding, choosing the right moments to intervene, and meanwhile letting our characters grow from the struggles we’ve been given.

This experience has helped me to learn, that sacrifice is hard, but character is forever.

As I explained, last Friday I got laid off.  Committed to bouncing right back, first thing Monday morning I decided to take my garage and convert it into an office, where I can work to start up my own company.  I was determined to let the layoff be a catalytic moment in my life freeing me to pursue my dreams.  But I needed a good, dad’s-not-really-here place to work (I’ve got 6 kids under 12).

So, fortunately for me, we have a wonderful, separate and detached two-car garage.  That’s perfect, because it means I actually “leave for work” (small commute), and am out-of-sight out-of-mind, at least for our littlest ones.

But, that left me with quite the project.  I don’t have any TRUE “before” pictures, which is too bad, because that would have shown the true contrast of what I started with.  But even so, this shows what it looked like after I’d cleaned up all the clutter, stacked everything on some shelves, blew and swept out all the leaves and dirt, and even mopped the floor.

Making the most of what you have - the garage

Making the most of what you have – the garage

Making the most of what you have - garage continued

Making the most of what you have – garage continued

Fortunately, we had some old furniture, an old rug that I dusted all off, some card tables, and even an unused 48″ HD TV (it’s “broken” in that the picture is dramatically tinted green).  I’d long since retired my books to my garage, since they were less welcome inside, so I figured they’d make for a nice, natural backdrop to an office.

Looking to make it appear a bit more “homey”, I wanted to soften up the card table look, so I ran down to Wal-Mart and bought some cheap blankets to drape over the tables.  I also got a lamp shade for an old (but beautiful) lamp my grandfather once made for me.

Making the most of what you have - blankets to soften the look

Making the most of what you have – blankets to soften the look

I dug up some old, unused pictures and hung them on the wall, fixed up the old lamp, and viola… an office!

Making the most of what you have - my new office 4

Making the most of what you have – my new office 4

Making the most of what you have - my new office 5

Making the most of what you have – my new office 5

Making the most of what you have - my new office 3

Making the most of what you have – my new office 3

As you can see in the back, I’ve got a little coat rack, it does get awful cold (there’s snow on the ground outside today), with only a little space heater, I usually keep my jacket and ski cap on.  That’s kinda cool I think, I’m one of the elite few who can wear a ski-cap at work!  Plus, I’ve always liked it to be colder than most people.

The bottom line, is that you’ve got to work with the cards you have.  When you look around you with the right attitude, you’ll find all kinds of opportunities to create something extraordinary out of something very ordinary.  It’s all in your outlook.

From one of my favorite poems called Keep-a-goin’ (read here):

‘Taint no use to sit and whine, if the fish aint on your line
bait your hook and keep a-tryin

So no matter what life has dealt to you, look around, take stock of what you’ve got, and make something out of it.  Life is simply about making the most of what you have.  As you approach life with that attitude, suddenly you’ll find the world a little less gloomy, and a lot more rewarding.


p.s.  for a video tour, check this out, LOL

Related posts:  It is what you make of it | Life Sculptor | The Builders | Keep a-goin


As I mentioned yesterday (here), on Friday I lost my job.  It’s kind of a tough time for that to happen, I’ve heard the economy isn’t doing so well ;-) .  I also know that in terms of finding employment, the holiday season is one of the tougher times of year to be in the job market (especially a saturated one).

But, I’m not worried.  I’ve learned that there’s one single overarching secret to solving this dilemma.  Obedience.

Mosiah 2: 22

22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

2 Ne. 1: 20, 31

20 And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land…

31 Wherefore, because thou hast been faithful thy seed shall be blessed with his seed, that they dwell in prosperity long upon the face of this land; and nothing, save it shall be iniquity among them, shall harm or disturb their prosperity upon the face of this land forever.

Alma 48: 15, 25

15 And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land;

25 …for the promise of the Lord was, if they should keep his commandments they should prosper in the land.

Alma 36: 1, 30

1 My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.

30 But behold, my son, this is not all; for ye ought to know as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence. Now this is according to his word.

Alma 50: 20

20 Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

There are numerous other scriptures that reinforce this simple truth, that obedience brings blessings.

D&C 130: 20

20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated-

21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

So while I’m certainly anxious to start making money again, I’m by no means worried.  For either I believe the scriptures, or I don’t.  They’re either true or they aren’t.  Personally, I believe they are, and that belief isn’t conditional upon my immediate, changing circumstances.

So while it seems ambiguous and even disconnected, I firmly believe (to all those who may be in a similar predicament), that the single thing we can do to most positively impact your financial situation is to clean up your life, repent of past wrongs, change where necessary, look to God, and walk that blessed road of obedience.

Such is my plan, to proceed in faith, working (nothing good happens without work), and praying, and following the spirit.

It’s an exciting time, and all doors are open.


Friday I joined the ranks of the unemployed.  My prior company, a la mode, Inc. decided to downsize in the Salt Lake office and eliminated me and another product manager, moving those responsibilities back to Oklahoma City, where the company is located.

I’d been there 8 years.

Needless to say, it was a shock.  But that’s not even the full story.  Friday morning I woke up, and went to see the doctor about a couple painful lumps that had been lingering in my breast for over two years.  I’d just read a large article on MSN on breast cancer in men, and figured I’d better go get checked.  I went in to see my primary care physician, who after a brief inspection, confirmed that indeed it did appear suspiciously like breast cancer, and that I should go see a surgeon immediately to have a biopsy.

I’d just left that appointment, walked into the office and sat down, when I was called into the main conference room to meet with our director of HR who was video conferencing in on the big screen.

What a morning.

LOL, I drove home and walked into the house to the quizzical expression of my wife (who coincidentally knew nothing of my visit to the doctor).   I said something like “honey, I’ve got a couple things I need to tell you”…

And then I took the weekend off!

Tomorrow I’ll have the results from meeting with the surgeon.  In regards to my health, as I said in a txt to my bishop on Friday “I’m not concerned at all.  There is no room for fear when you have faith.  The two are entirely incompatible, they cannot coexist.  And I have absolute faith, which means inherently, I have no fear.”  Besides, there are lots of other things it could be.

In regards to my job, I’m also not afraid.  I’ve actually had several things I’ve been meaning to start up, but have simply lacked the time to do so.  Now all of a sudden I’ve got some time on my hands!  ;-)  And I’m motivated.  Thanks in part to my boss, the company owner, who was uncommonly generous with his severance (generosity is one of his hallmarks), I’ve now got a little bit of time to try kicking something off.  I look at this as one of those catalytic events in life, an opportunity to pursue my dreams.  At this point, every door is open, I just have to choose which one.

I’m convinced a year from now I’ll look back on this with profound gratitude.  I’ll be sharing more on this over the coming days.  But needless to say, one of the things I intend to invest far more time into is this blog!  So there’s already an upside to this weekend’s events.

I look forward to many more conversations together.


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.