The Blame Game

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“I take full responsibility. I’ll own this mess”

These aren’t words we hear a lot, are they?

Most of the times when things go wrong in a relationship, at work, on a school project our natural tendency is to say, “It was their fault.” At the most we might own a sliver of the blame, but only because it was prompted by the other person. “They made me so angry!” or “I couldn’t finish because she was late” or even “I didn’t reach my goal because I didn’t have the energy-the kids took it all from me.” And on an on we make excuses, pointing as far away from us as we possibly can.

Blame is a natural reaction. In fact, it is one of the first reactions in human history. The Bible records that when Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God confronted them, and what did Adam do? Did he own up to the fact that he gladly ate the fruit? Did he protect his wife in her time of need?

Nope.

He threw her under a bus, and he even threw God under the bus. ““It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).

Notice Adam’s words. “The woman.” Not “my lovely wife” or “Eve” but instead “The woman.” He distances himself from her. Just a few minutes earlier they were complicit in eating the fruit together now he tosses her to the side in order to make himself look good. Then he has the audacity to say to God “YOU gave her to me.” In other words, “Listen God, had you not given her to me none of this mess would have happened in the first place.”

How charming.

And yet we are all cut from the same cloth, all of us are from Adam’s gene pool whether you happen to believe the Genesis account of creation or not. You know how easy blame shifting can be, and how it is as natural as breathing itself.

Who or what are you blaming for the disappointments and missed opportunities in your life? Was it your spouse, best friend or boss who doesn’t see your full potential? Is it your circumstances or lack of resources or low energy? Is it the addiction you have that someone else led you into?

Quit blaming others and own your mistakes. You will never get ahead by blaming others when the one who needs to change the most is you.

So, if you have already blown a New Year’s resolution take a good look in the mirror and own the fact that it isn’t the cheesecake’s fault that you can’t eat well or your parent’s fault that they didn’t teach you enough about money. Own the responsibility. You need to make a change between your ears before there will be a change in your life this year.

Then dust off and start again. A new you should have nothing to do with a new year, and everything to do with a new way of thinking…every day.

When you own the responsibility, you will find you have just taken the first big leap towards a change for the better that is applicable to all areas of your life.

 

 

 

YOUR Action Plan to Write a Book in 2016

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Last year I made it my goal to write the story of losing my wife Sheri in a car accident. The book became known as Sideswiped, and I finished writing it in September and released it on November 21. What I set out to do in January 2015 was accomplished by the end of the year, but not without a LOT of struggle.

Let me assure you, it was worth the struggle.

That’s why I want to encourage everyone who has ever said, “I’d like to write a book someday” that NOW is the time. Don’t put it off any longer. Make 2016 YOUR year of the book!

One of the biggest lessons that I learned along the way is the need for accountability and a learning/supportive community in order to lend a helping hand or a well-timed kick in the pants when needed. Here are three “communities” who helped me.

1) The Burly Boys Book Club. This is a testosterone infused book club that meets each Wednesday morning to talk about issues that affect our lives under the guise of reading a book together. These guys knew I was writing and always asked me about my progress and about my marketing ideas. I made sure that I had some forward momentum built by every Wednesday or else fear the consequence of friendly harassment.

YOUR Action Plan: Build a team around you for weekly accountability. This can be as few as one person or as many as 5 or 6. The point is to make sure there is someone who will encourage you when you hit a wall and remind you why you need to keep going…long after you have forgotten your “why.”

2) The North Pointe Writers Group. This group started just over a year ago with a few people from our church who wanted to blog and eventually write a book. In this monthly meeting we read a 500-word excerpt or short story to be reviewed and constructively critiqued by the group. The first few pages of my book was written for and reviewed by my peers at the writers group. Their input was invaluable and gave me the confidence to move forward.

YOUR Action Plan: Start to share your work. One way is through a blog where you can share excerpts of your book or writing about random thoughts. The main point is to put yourself “out there” where people can read what you have written. This is an important first step in becoming a better and more confident writer. You can also look online for writers groups in your area through www.meetup.com.

3) Kary Oberbrunner and Author Academy Elite. The final push for me to write my book was through a webinar hosted by author and entrepreneur Kary Oberbrunner featuring Author Academy Elite, his writing, publishing and marketing guide for authors. There is so much information out there on how to write and publish, and I wanted to make sure that I had someone to guide me through the process, answering my questions, and helping me to avoid unnecessary cost and heartache. I can say with full confidence that being a part of a tribe of published and soon-to-be published authors has been inspiring and taught me more than I could ever have learned on my own about the writing and publishing process. Most importantly, Kary teaches each of his authors how to market their book. This is a MUST. I have come to realize that marketing is as difficult (if not more difficult) than writing a book. Now I am proud to say that I am an Author Academy Elite author, and I am about to start working on my second book.

YOUR Action Plan: Sign up for the next AAE webinar with Kary. He will talk about the features of AAE in a no pressure format. It made a difference for me and can for you. What are you waiting for? Click the link! AAE Webinar

 

How to Beat Writer’s Block (Pt 2)

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This is the second in a two part series on How to Beat Writer’s Block and Get Into the Zone in your writing.
Hear me out. YOU are reading this because you know you have something to say. You have a story in you that needs to get out. You can’t afford to get stuck…and there are MANY that need the message you have to share.
So let’s break you out of the rut, punch writer’s block in the gut, and ship some solid material in the next year!

Here are some things that I currently do to keep my writing going.

1) Unplug. I shut off all of my notifications/messages/emails on my computer and make sure to hide my phone. Go the next level and turn off wi-fi. I know I won’t die if I am disconnected for an hour or two from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (really, I tried and I’m still alive). You can do this by using Focus view in Word or going full screen in Scrivener (this is the program I am currently using). You can also use the app Anti-Social to block out distracting websites during times when productivity is key.

2) Coffee. Need I say more? Even the smell of a fresh brewed coffee wakes me up and the warmth provides comfort, but it goes to the next level when the caffeine hits my system. One cup helps me focus without the jitters. Perhaps you are a tea drinker or even Red Bull, whatever you have beside you, make sure it is something that you enjoy. While it’s true that Hemingway liked his alcohol, even he would never drink and write. This is probably good advice for everyone!

3) Music. It has been proven by smart people that the brain is stimulated by classical music and from white noise, such as the din created by a coffee shop. If I listen to anything with lyrics I’m drawn to the words and it slows down my creativity. However, while listening to my classical playlist on iTunes or from the sounds of Focus at Will (a paid site with several styles of music that supposedly boost your concentration) or Coffivity (Coffee shop sounds, totally free) I can blast through a writing session much better. I have used all three and they help me increase my writing productivity. Plus, earbuds shut out the distractions.

What do you do to push through Writer’s Block? Let me know. I’d love to incorporate some of your ideas into my writing process.

How To Beat Writer’s Block and Get Into the Zone (Part 1)

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When it comes to writing, the most feared and dreaded malady an author can come down with is “writer’s block.” This affliction will inevitably come up in conversation when writer’s gather to discuss, followed by knowing nods and head shaking cringes. If a writer happens to be on a roll they likely avoid any talk of the term for fear that they might catch it like a case of the mumps or the black plague.

I have experienced dry spells in my writing, but as one person once put it, “Writer’s block is not the problem, not writing is the problem.” To overcome the temptation to avoid writing and label it writer’s block, here are some practical things that I do to get my thoughts out there for the world to read.

 

  1. I remind myself that perspiration leads to inspiration. If I waited to write until I was inspired, I wouldn’t be writing this blog (nor almost anything else I write). So I write ugly and then I edit later. The most important thing is to write. That’s what writers do. Don’t worry if it is inspired or not. Often as I write I will stumble upon an idea that takes me in the right direction.

 

  1. I write on a schedule. Each day I set a time to write, and a place that is suitable and comfortable for writing. Right now it happens to be at my desk in my basement at 6:00am. It is quiet and there are few distractions. The key is consistency and comfort. You won’t write in a place you don’t like. It may be in your home, at a coffee shop or at the library. Wherever it is, just make it happen rather than making excuses.

 

  1. I begin with prayer. It is no secret that my relationship with God is core to who I am. I believe that “All wisdom comes from the Lord” (Proverbs 2:6), so naturally, in order to write my best I want God to illuminate my thoughts. This doesn’t guarantee a miracle writing session, but it does serve as a reminder of the One I am trying to honor with my writing. This has transformed my writing.

 

This is Part one of two. In Part two I will share some practical tools and tips that I use to send my writing into overdrive. Stay tuned!

 

Sideswiped Reading/Book Signing

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Thursday, December 10 from 7-9pm I will be doing a Reading/Signing at Jack’s Place Coffee Shop in Wainwright, Alberta (My childhood hometown!). Stop by and say hi!

Step Back and Launch Forward

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It didn’t kill me, but for a moment all the air escaped my lungs.

My son was playing T-ball, dressed in his oversized shirt that draped to his knees and sporting a ball cap that looked massive on his perfectly round head. I giggled under my breath, thankful for this special father-son moment. I was content. Life was good. The day prior I had sent in a chapter to my editor and I was proud of my progress. I was ahead of schedule and in the zone. I looked forward to positive feedback while I forged ahead with more writing. That day I had already written almost 1000 words, and hoped to add to that total once the kids went to sleep.

Then my phone buzzed.

Instinctively I took a glance to see if it was Melissa texting me for a photo of our all-star or a request for me to pick up milk on the way home. Instead I saw that I had an email waiting for me. I couldn’t help myself when I saw the name of my editor. I had to open the email and get an update on my progress. I felt good about my latest chapter and looked forward to his feedback.

I should have waited.

What I read was like the “unblockable kick” (for the young ones out there, this is a reference from the original Karate Kid movie). I saw it coming, but I couldn’t avoid it.

My editor expressed some deep concerns. He didn’t like the direction my book was taking. He felt I was writing two books and needed a re-write. I was devastated. I had already written 60,000 words. Its no wonder that so many people have tried to write a book but so few (comparatively) have succeeded. This was rough and kept me from sleep that night.

But I took his advice, swallowed my pride, and started over. I refused to skip a beat. I would not allow myself to wallow in doubt, disillusionment and self-pity. I had my mission to complete a book and I was going to do it even if I lost all my hair in the process (I have noticed increased hair loss lately…).

Writing my book Sideswiped: Three Keys to a Fresh Start For a Broken Heart was a six month process that took me to the limit of my talent and tenacity. But I’m thankful I never gave in to the voice in my head that tried to convince me to “take it easy” or “just take a day off.”

I made a commitment to my Kickstarter backers, told my friends and family that I would produce a book, and I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.

Maybe you have a book in you. Rather than thinking about it,

a) tell someone else

b) let them hold you accountable

c) then do it!

You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Int’l Sideswiped Day

 

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December 1st is the 14 year anniversary since my wife Sheri was tragically killed in a car accident. From this point forward, each December 1st will be “International Sideswipe Day.” It will be a time when I encourage you to share your story of loss, pain or disappointment in an effort to show the world that there is life after loss. There is HOPE!

Please feel free to share this post with your friends and join in by writing a few lines about your sideswipe and some of the unexpected blessings in your pain. Let’s all redeem our stories to encourage others in the throes of grief and desperation. Feel free to attach a picture or quote that might be of help. Thanks for taking part and sharing with others.

“Jim Cantelon Today” Show Interview

At the start of November I filmed two spots for upcoming episodes of the “Jim Cantelon Today” show on the Vision Network. It was a great experience to be with the man who hired me for my very first full-time pastoring position. The first of two spots will air on December 21 at 9:30am MST. The interview was about my book Sideswiped. Make sure to tune in!

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3 Steps to Accomplish MORE this Week

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On my desk sits a smooth, polished dark rock that has the word “Discipline” written on it. I didn’t happen upon this rock while strolling on a beach, it was one that each person from our church was given and then challenged to personalize by writing a word on it with a silver felt marker.

On my desk sits a smooth, polished dark rock that has the word “Discipline” written on it. I didn’t happen upon this rock while strolling on a beach, it was one that each person from our church was given and then challenged to personalize by writing a word on it with a silver felt marker.

The word had to have personal significance. It needed to be selected because it was a quality you wanted to improve in your life in the upcoming year. I chose the word discipline in that moment because I knew that almost anything can be accomplished over time with consistency and discipline. I have proven this in my life over and over again, whether it was finishing a degree, training for a race or hitting a deadline at work. Just keep on going, every step counts.

There is an old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Discipline is taking that bite each day when it would be easier to sleep in, watch Netflix or do almost anything other than the task at hand. Taking on a big project, i.e. eating an elephant gets tiring and it is easy to surrender when you get stuck.

Here’s how I maintain discipline in my life:

1)   Set up routines and stick to them. I am writing a book about my spiritual journey and the words are getting dry and feel lifeless. And I am tired. But I set my alarm and am forcing myself to get up and get writing. The crazy part? When I get up and out of bed I write 100% more than I do when I remain in bed. Go figure.

2)   Plan ahead. A few nights a week I make several meals and put them into containers that I store in a cooler I take to work. This keeps me on track with my fitness goal of eating healthy, and ensures that I have a full enough stomach to avoid zipping through the McDonald’s drive-thru when I get a craving. As someone once said, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

3)   Be Accountable. I have a few people in my life who have full permission to ask how I am doing in any area of my life. They can ask me how healthy my spiritual life is, if I am eating clean and hitting the gym or if I am writing on a daily basis. They can also ask about my family and thought life. It is very motivating for me to know that I have to answer to someone looking into my eyes about things that would otherwise go undetected.

The main goal of my life is to be a disciple of Jesus. And it is impossible to be a disciple without being disciplined. I know that through a daily routine of doing the small things to become more like Jesus that eventually I will look, sound and be more like Jesus. It’s a lofty goal, but it is worth it.

 

What elephant are you eating right now? If you are getting stuck, keep on going. Take another bite today!

Take 3 Steps Away from the Envy Slope

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Often when people refer to something being a slippery slope, it is said in the context of a fairly banal action that may lead to an unintended consequence if taken to the extreme. When I was in Bible College it was feared that if blue jeans were allowed in class what might be next? People may become so casual they may attend class in the buff! As you can see, some slopes are more slippery than others.

In Psalm 73 Asaph records a time when he came close to the edge of a cliff and almost lost his footing. It wasn’t so much because of an action that he did or didn’t take, but an attitude that he allowed to harbour in his heart.

What was his heart attitude?

At some point we have all been there. We have envied the person next to us, desiring the prestige, position, beauty or bank account that they have. We look at our paltry place in life and long to be like them. For the Christian this can be even more frustrating because many times the wicked prosper while the righteous flounder. What is the deal with that?

Green is often the color associated with envy. However, it is much darker and destructive in reality. When we let envy set in it can lead to very ugly consequences. Asaph found this out first hand as pain and bitterness that had cemented into his psyche because of his envy. It had blurred his perspective-making him foolish and ignorant (vs. 21-22).

So how did Asaph come to his senses before falling off the cliff? He came to a few key realizations:

1)   He belonged to God

We lose perspective when we are straining to see the success of others and fail to see the reality that God does not only like us, but we are loved by Him. We are his prized possession. When you get your mind around that principle it quickly puts things in perspective.

2)   God was still guiding him

One of my favorite sayings is “Do not question in the darkness what God has fully revealed in the light.” When things look bleak it is very tempting to wonder where God is or what his plan is. While others prosper and we are paupers we must remember that God isn’t finished with us yet. He is still guiding us. We just need to make sure that we are following.

3)   He needed to focus on God rather than others

A psalm that started out very bleak ends in triumph as Asaph proclaims “I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do” (v. 28).

If you are falling down the slippery slope of envy today, take a few minutes to refocus like Asaph did. The same God who guided him through the darkness will also guide you. He certainly has done it for me a time or two.