What counts?

Apparently there used to be a sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office that said,

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Profound yet simple. Think about it for few minutes. I did and I still don’t have my mind wrapped around it completely but I suspect it has a lot of implications for becoming the man, husband, father, and friend that I want to be.

Thank You September 2010

Dear September 2010,

Thank you for bringing me my 29th birthday, the return of college football, the great state fair of Oklahoma, the first day of fall, shorter days, cooler weather, and a new daughter. November may get all the gratitude glory with it’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, turkey & dressing, and NFL football on Thursday, but you my friend will forever hold a special place in my heart. Keep up the good work… I appreciate your autumnal ways.

Thanks,

M&M

You Have Exactly Enough Time

The following post is from Mark Henson of the Spark New Thinking blog. Mark is the “chief imagination officer at sparkspace, the most exciting retreat center on the planet.” I had the pleasure of hearing Mark speak earlier this summer when he came and did a one day retreat at the university where I work. It was a great seminar and I already blogged about it here. As someone who tends to struggle with balance, over-committing, priorities, and contentment from time to time, the following post was exactly what I needed to hear when he published it this past Tuesday (which coincidentally is both my busiest day of the week and the day that has seemed quite cursed for the last several weeks).

You Have Exactly Enough Time
There is a piece of artwork from the very fun and amazing collection at Storypeople that says:

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

We’re crazy busy in both our professional and personal lives. We rush from place to place, project to project, checking our smart phones in between meetings (yes, even while driving) just to make sure we don’t miss anything. And God forbid we don’t respond to someone’s/everyone’s urgent request within milliseconds in our completely electronically-tethered world. So we type our thumbs to the bone, we make special trips to Staples to look for a bigger inbox, and we’re late for dinner because, well, we have WORK to do.

Then there’s little Timmy’s soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse, swimming, violin, trumpet, piano, karate, dance, gymnastics, art, and advanced nuclear physics classes. All between school and bedtime.

And, don’t forget: you’ve got to volunteer for the food pantry, the homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Church, the old folks home, the latest disaster relief, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the International Society For Crazy Busy People. Yes, I made that last one up, although I’m thinking of starting a local chapter anyway.

Finally, don’t forget to update your Facebook and twitter status at least 7.3 times per day or you’ll look like a total loser who simply doesn’t have much going on in his life. Because it’s not enough to be busy, it’s critical to let the world know just how busy we are.

Why do we do all of this????????

Because it’s all IMPORTANT, right?

After all, if it wasn’t all important, we wouldn’t do it, right? RIGHT???

Admit it, you smiled at those lists up there because your lists ‘aint all that different. And you do it all because it’s all important, right? (Another smile, perhaps?)

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

Confucius said it another way: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Excellence at work (or home) does not come from being busy, it is the direct result of spending our time on the truly important things. To be amazing at what we do, we have to break free of the unimportant things. That’s counter-culture, counter-intuitive, and just plain hard…at first.

Busy rarely equals productive or effective.

Can you be busy being productive? Absolutely, but only after you’ve stopped being busy with all the unimportant things. You’ve had days where you were just rockin’, haven’t you? On those days you produce more in that single day than you normally do in an entire week. On those days, you drop all that stuff you normally label “important” and you focus relentlessly on being excellent, producing quality, and getting things done. That leaves pretty much zero time to do anything else. What happened to all that other “important” stuff? Hmmmm, maybe not so important after all, huh?

To practice what I preach, in order to write this article I’ve eliminated several “important” things I was going to do today. Because writing this article is more helpful, productive, and important than pretty much everything else on my list. The funny thing is, when I get back to my list I’ll end up eliminating half of it because I won’t have time to do it all. And the world will keep spinning anyway.

If you haven’t done so already, start evaluating all the things that fill up your time and take up your energy. Interrogate each item as if it was a potential life-threatening enemy: “Are you truly important, or am I just pretending that you are? If you’re not, you’re gone, amigo!”

Try it at work today. The next time you catch yourself doing something that’s busy but really not important, drop it. Trash it. Completely black it out on your to-do list with a Sharpie.

Because you (only) have exactly enough time for the important things in your life.

Guilty, convicted, and inspired sir. Thank you for your insightful ways and your positive aura.

Real Men Mow Other Dudes’ Yards

Have the parallel lines in your yard left behind from your lawn mower ever made you cry?

Yeah… me either.

Until last night.

It’s been a crazy week for our family. On Tuesday, at the lovely and talented wife’s 39 week pregnancy appointment with the midwife, we were told that her blood pressure was too high, she might be preeclamptic, and that we needed to induce labor. After a lot of Googling, another appointment on Wednesday, a couple of really pleasant medical tests (one involving a large gallon jug that she had to fill with her urine over a 24 hour period), bed rest, a walk of shame with the aforementioned jug to the lab, several hours of deliberation, lots of prayer, and a second opinion, we finally decided the induction, though not how we wanted our daughter to enter the world, was what was best for both she and my wife.

At 6 a.m. on Thursday, we arrived at the hospital to start our journey. And while this could be a post about how studly my lovely, talented, and clearly bionic wife was throughout her 16 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing WITHOUT an epidural, I’m going to skip that and save it for another post.

Fast forward through all that to Saturday, and we were still in the hospital. The baby (taking after her mother) was already proving to be quite lovely and talented herself. She passed all her tests (APGAR, Jaundice, Heart Scan, etc.) with flying colors and all the doctors and nurses kept telling us how perfect she was. The lovely and talented wife was not so lucky. She was having pretty serious shortness of breath, a racing heart, and drops in her blood pressure every time she stood up and they were worried she might have had a pulmonary embolism, which is fancy shmancy medical language for a blood clot in her lungs. After two rounds of blood work, an IV with a saline drip to hydrate her, a CT scan, an EKG, a chest X-ray, an injection of blood thinner, and lots of sitting/standing blood ox readings, they finally ruled out the embolism and decided that she was probably just dehydrated and exhausted from 16 hours of labor and 2 hours of sleep in a 48 hour period (DUH!!!) which was slowing down her body’s process of replacing all the blood she lost during and after delivery which was causing the symptoms above.

This was about 8 p.m. last night.

Relieved that my wife was not, in fact, in mortal danger, my mind began to wander back to much less important things such as the fact that we were going to have to stay a third night in the hospital and I had only packed enough clean underwear for two nights.

My mother-in-law, who has been a God-send throughout the last few days, volunteered to stay with her lovely and talented daughter and granddaughter while I ran home to grab a pair of clean underwear and another change of clothes for today and I gladly took her up on her generous offer.

So I kissed my two favorite ladies in the whole wide world goodbye and headed to the parking garage with the keys to my mother-in-law’s minivan.

Twenty minutes later and I was pulling up in our driveway. It was after 9 p.m. and so it was dark outside, but from the illumination of the headlights I saw one of the most beautiful sights these two eyes had ever beheld. My grass, which was already starting to trend a bit to the long side when we left for the hospital on Thursday morning, had clearly just been mowed. Maybe it was the fact I had only had 4 hours of sleep since the previous Wednesday night, or maybe becoming a new father to the most precious little girl I’ve ever seen has made me just a bit overly sentimental these days, but either way, I literally started crying at the sight of the perfectly straight mower indentations that were now running across my lawn in every direction.

On Wednesday night, back before I became a dad and was still all footloose and fancy free, I had remarked to one of the visitors to our house the night before our induction that I wasn’t sure how or when I was going to mow my lawn between the birth of our daughter and the time when the legions of our friends and family started showing up over the course of the next few days with all kinds of support and food. The lawn perfectionist that I am, I told him how embarrassed I was going to be for people to see my yard like that. And though I realize how completely and utterly absurd that is… especially considering that 75% of my front yard is overgrown with crab-grass and will therefor not be winning any yard of the month awards anytime soon and not to mention the fact that real men probably don’t give a hoot about what other people think about their lawns anyway, I was frustrated by the situation nonetheless.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, this same friend had called and told me that he was at our house and was about to mow our yard. However, in the middle of our phone call, a woman in scrubs entered our hospital room and started trying to explain to us what was going on with my wife and so I abruptly had to get off the phone with him. Since there really was no time to reflect on how awesome this dude and his gesture of kindness was, I quickly moved on to more pressing matters… such as the health of my baby mama.

Until I pulled into my driveway later that night.

Where I just sat for a few moments and admired my freshly cut grass and the kindness of a man who simply heard me mention something in passing and turned it into an amazing act of generosity.

And that’s what real men do. They listen and look for little cues on ways to bless other people among the static and noise of every day life. And when a real man happens to stumble upon a cue that says, “Maybe this guy has enough stuff to worry about right now without having to worry about how his lawn looks when his friends and family show up to meet his daughter,” a real man takes action mows the other dude’s grass.

While you might not guess it from all the crab grass in my lawn this summer, I’ve always been pretty serious about the way my lawn looks. I think I got that from my dad. I love the way it looks right after it’s just been mowed as I sit on my front porch stewing in my own sweat and dirt as I sip on a lemonade and admire my handiwork. There’s just something about the smell of freshly cut grass and the way those indentations from the wheels look when they make perfectly straight parallel lines across my yard that warms my soul. But I have never, I repeat NEVER, cried over the beauty of that sight.

Until last night.

To the man who mowed my grass yesterday, you sir, are a rock star. I appreciate your kindly, generous, manly ways. I don’t know how or when, but I will make it up to you some day, I promise. Who knows, perhaps your yard will need to be mowed after the birth of your first child as well.

Until then, keep being awesome. You know who you are.

21.5″, 2 Days, 7 lbs 14 oz

Holding my daughter while she sleeps and contemplating how awesome it is to be a dad. The only thing that would make this moment any better would be if it were almost 7 PM instead of 7 AM because then we could be watching the OU football game together. Throw in a plate of bacon nachos and possibly a lemon chill and I might start flippantly tossing around words like “utopian” and “transcendent” — a man can dream, can’t he?

Falling apart? Tiger Woods and childish behavior…

Today’s post comes to us from a friend, colleague, and pretty awesome fellow blogger, Jeff. A father of three and husband of one, a gifted financial guru and a certified public accountant, a disciplined early riser, a dedicated treadmill runner, a budding “young” viral video creator, a social media genius, and an all around genuine, authentic, good guy, Jeff easily makes my top five list of favorite people at work. Without further ado, here’s his most excellent post.

Tiger was on the course the other day. I can’t really tell you when; it was that uninspiring. What I can tell you is how poorly he performed, and even more so, how poorly he behaved. Errant shot after errant shot, but more telling, uncharacteristic fit after uncharacteristic fit. He was out of control; definitely not in his zone, and definitely not intimidating anyone. In days past, watching young kids, my own and others, this behavior would be characterized as a “baby fit”. Definitely childish behavior. Throwing his toys. Cursing. Rolling his eyes. Storming off in a rage. Losing his composure, and his edge, all at the same time. And losing on the course; all for the world to see.

He could be so much better than this. This is not the legend we came to know and be fascinated by over the years. He’s fallen apart, in so many ways. His secret life revealed, his marriage ended, his legacy forever changed, the once invincible tiger on the prowl has been caged by his own actions.

Can he recover? He could put it back together. We had one quick glimpse of the great player he could be during the Masters, but it was very fleeting. Then followed the news of the finalized divorce, and the erratic play and the fits began. Will his confidence, his swagger, ever return to the course? Or will he forever be falling apart, barely a remnant of his former self? Barely breathing…

As I was pondering this post following the brief viewing of Tiger’s behavior on ESPN, I heard a song by Lifehouse in the car.

Maybe these lyrics reflect some of what Tiger is going through at this moment:

The broken clock is a comfort
It helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can start tomorrow
From stealing all my time

And I am here still waiting
Though I still have my doubts
I am damaged at best
Like you’ve already figured out

I’m falling apart
I’m barley breathing
With a broken heart
That’s still beating

In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning

So I’m holding on
I’m holding on
I’m holding on
I’m barely holding on to you

The broken locks were a warning
You got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded
I’m an open book instead

And I still see your reflection
Inside of my eyes
That are looking for purpose
They’re still looking for life

I’m hanging on another day

Just to see what you will throw my way
And I’m hanging on to the words you say
You said that I will be okay

Broken lights on the freeway
Left me here alone
I may have lost my way now
I haven’t forgotten my way home

I’m falling apart
I’m barely breathing
With a broken heart
That’s still beating

In the pain
(In the pain)
There is healing
In your name
(In your name)
I find meaning

So I’m holding on
(I’m still holding)
I’m holding on
(I’m still holding)
I’m holding on
(I’m still holding)
I’m barely holding on to you

How about you? How about me? Are we keeping it together, or are the heartaches, regrets, and stresses of the present day causing us to fall apart, literally or figuratively, in public view and for all the world to see?

In the pain, there is healing. In Your Name (LORD), there is meaning. Keep holding on, even if just barely. Don’t forget the way home. He’ll show you how.