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So far Dave Marr has created 199 blog entries.

Lincoln’s 2nd Inauguration

On Saturday March 4, 1865, a humid day with the Battle of Appomattox still more than 30 days away and Lincoln’s assassination 5 days beyond that, Lincoln gave this famous speech. Its structure and depth hold insights that we can apply today. It is instructive to our personal perspectives because from this distance we can discern and weigh without excessive partisan energy that always colors the present. Current partisan energy biases men’s minds, so looking back 152 years allows us the freedom of discernment without that bias.

“Fellow-Countrymen:”, he begins with the democratic ideal of equality. By addressing his listeners with this common salutation, he is asserting he is no higher and we are fellow travelers on this earth. In the speech, Lincoln treats combatants on both sides almost as if he were an impartial observer regarding the justifications and righteousness of their thinking and prayers. But it’s clear some thoughts carry more substantive spiritual weight than others, like the peculiar institution of slavery versus freedom. Lincoln is taken aback that men “both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.” Yet, “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces.” In other words, how could someone pray to a God whose very character embodies justice that slavery should exist? How could that be if God is just? But he continues immediately in the same sentence, “but let us judge not, that we be not judged.” 620,000 deaths and the near destruction of the country, 4 long years of life and death struggle, and the leader of the nation speaks of not judging his adversary. Instead of the hardened heart of vengeance that victors quashed the vanquished, Lincoln embodies a higher ideal, a more substantive spiritual quality, of charity. Lincoln offers grace to the defeated in response to their hatred.

Even though there is more to say about the speech, much more, my Letters are designed for easy bites – a quick Friday morning snack for your contemplation and discussion in your Ironmen group. But of the ideas I have promoted over the years, this is a bigger one. The notion that ideas have spiritual weight is largely the point of our existence here on this planet. In our travels from birth to death we grow physically, mature socially, and climb spiritually. Our daily efforts engage the world in a kind of battle for survival or supremacy only to find, as Lincoln did, fellow travelers doing battle and asking God for assistance against you. And you must, as they must, defend convictions. However, Lincoln makes a distinction – some would make war to achieve their ends; whereas others would accept war rather than let their ideals perish.

So where am I going with all this? The world, i.e. work, politics, society, friends, and particularly your wife and children, deserve your grace, your acceptance, your willingness to look at them as fellow travelers. Conflicts will arise in your life that gives you the opportunity to defend and define your convictions. But you must lift your own countenance, your own renewed center towards charity, charity and grace my friends, because you may one day wake up upon reflection and find that you fought for the South.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Isn’t that a sentiment that would serve well in the world today?

To grace in your life,

Dave Marr

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By | November 17th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Motivation

Are you born with motivation or is it something you can develop?

After several decades of observing, I don’t have conclusions, but maybe some insights that might help you with your motivation.  It’s a nature/nurture kind of question: Are you born with the maximum amount of personal energy that drives you to wake up early and get after each day or is it something that must be coaxed and coerced into life with various techniques of threats and rewards?

By my framing it as nature/nurture you already know that I think it’s both. We have a certain inherent disposition for energy that characterizes our personality, but we certainly aren’t fatally fixed at one level. We have choices if our natural state does not serve our long term interests. Granted it’s easier for some than others, but I strongly believe that everyone can be more consistent in the energy that runs through their minds, limbs, and lives. How to do that is the multi billion dollar industry question.

Keep in mind that, like you, I’m just a guy trying to figure things out. I’m no scholar. No preacher. No guru. Just a guy on the bus that has ebbs and flows in the consistency of my motivation. So these thoughts are puzzle pieces that when fit together offer me clues on how to read my own spirit. It seems prudent to begin with the idea that anything permanent must look at the whole of me – mind, body, and soul.

Puzzle pieces

Purpose: It’s the reason I act at all. I have purpose when I work out. It’s to feel good and project health. I want to lead my family by example in health. I diligently go to work because I don’t want to be mediocre (ego), don’t want to be in a negative position later in life (fear), and want to enjoy the benefits of money, power, and choice (freedom). I made a deal with God in my mid 30’s to lead in such a way to encourage positive growth in everyone I come in contact with and He would take care of my physical needs. Having a reason to push motivates me.

Workouts: I have never been able to work out fully by myself. So I’ve have worked out with friends, joined karate, hired a trainer, or set event goals (See Tough Mudder). Workouts give me momentum in other areas of my life. Committing to someone else that I’d show up motivates me.

Leadership: I am a hypocrite. I don’t want to be. So when I encourage people, I don’t want to be that doctor that smells like cigarette smoke or that financial planner that drives a 2005 Subaru. I want to be the thing I am leading: responsible, diligent, healthy, knowledgeable, caring, purposeful. Being able to present integrity to the world motivates me.

Resonate: The world affects me. When I see something that I think is cool, I get motivated for that thing. When I listen to certain kinds of music, I get energized. When I read things of quality, I get inspired. My mind then turns to my purpose and I ride the energy resonating from the source. Conversely, I am now more wise in the things affect me because I know that I can also be affected negatively. Nature and higher levels of humanity motivate me.

Fear: The concern that I will wake up one day and look back on what could have been and express regret at my actions as feeble, as prideful, as comfortable where I end up with a life short on choices. Fear has motivated me more than love in my earlier days. Love and purpose more so these days.

Events: I put things in my future to challenge me, inspire me, define me, and often to reward me. Travel, adventure, and uniqueness motivates me.

Bible: I have a natural tendency to relax. I know that if I relax too much, lots of bad things can happen. I find the Parable of the Talents instructive on four points: 1) You are given a certain capacity and must do with it what you can (faithful); 2) Slothful inactivity is an expression of fear; 3) There is opportunity cost in doing nothing (“I can even get interest”); and 4) Those that use their talents purposefully will be rewarded with more energy and those that don’t will lose what they have. Being in alignment with spiritual wisdom motivates me.

Habits: I have learned my tendencies. I know what affects me. New Year’s energizes me because it’s a fresh start. Springtime too. Mondays too. Friends energize me. Reading energizes me. Going to the right movies energizes me. I have learned that eating poorly sucks energy from me. Watching too much TV drains me. Focusing on the world’s problems saps my energy. On average, making good choices motivates me.

Feedback: I like praise. I enjoy it when someone says something nice about my effort. My wife’s praise is the number one motivator in my life though, weirdly enough, I don’t spring to action at every little request. I like positive engagement, but it’s not a top motivator. It’s more like the cherry on top of the others. But definitely, negative talk dispirits me.

Putting the pieces together

Nothing stands alone.  Every element of your life is a dynamic component with every other element of your life. Energize one area, it should energize other areas. Over time, you’ll arrive at a level of accomplishment worthy of your life. In your Ironmen group brainstorm the pieces of your puzzle:

  1. Identify the things that energize you – people, music, reading, TED talks, seminars, church, material rewards, accolades, father approval, economic rewards, safety, adventure, etc.
  2. Discuss how you can harness those elements into your plan. Start the day with prayer and meditation, watch a TED talk while eating breakfast, read a “How to” book before bedtime, workout with a friend, sign up for a marathon.
  3. Ask your wife, girlfriend (hopefully not both), and Ironmen to hold you accountable to eating right, working out, reading regularly, watching less TV, going back to school.
  4. Report back to your Ironmen group and wife how you’re doing. Energy will be high early, so prepare for the long haul. Consistency is everything!!!
  5. Send me an email as to how this process is going for you. I’ll report your successful techniques so that everyone can benefit from your insights. You matter to me. You matter to others.

2018 is going to be a great year!!!  Get motivated!!!!!

To your continued success,

Dave Marr

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By | November 11th, 2017|Personal|0 Comments

The 45 Foot Dilemma

A plane must gain 50 feet of altitude by the end of the runway or face potentially devastating consequences. If for whatever reason takeoff does not occur, it doesn’t matter to the passengers why it hasn’t happened, blame is hopefully for tomorrow, only that impending tragedy has arrived. And now, as the margin for error has vanished and life and death decisions play out in an instant, the pilot holds the key to the future path of many lives.

This metaphor has room to run. The pilot could be any one of us. As a young man, I can readily recall the instances where my ignorance and arrogance caused me close calls. The speed of my car, the level of my blood-alcohol, and the Grace of circumstances allows me to type these words today. Or another time, the depth of the water that separated me from the concrete slabs below the murky surface and the arrival of the police to shoo us kids away to live another day can only be given to God. Or how about the Providential timing of the parenting class that captured my motivations which saved my marriage. Yes, the pilot holds the throttle whereby man, machine, and environment come to the moment of risk where liftoff occurs or impactfully not.

Trying to find a metaphor that really does justice to the risks of life and welfare is difficult. My goal here would be to penetrate your current state of thinking and motivate you young men 1) towards introspection, 2) to reassess the risk of being wrong, 3) to strategically widen the field of inputs which increases the margin for error, and 4) to energize your daily action away from ineffectual momentum where the plane’s trajectory is blindly heading towards a fast approaching obstruction. The plane metaphor works because pilot error is the number one cause of crashes in the air and in life.

Every   single   young   man   must overcome the shortcomings of his mind in order to navigate his life properly. Ego, conviction, naivete, misperception, misplaced loyalties, untested skills, misunderstandings, underappreciation of risk, fear of risk, excessive humility, arrogance, and ignorance are qualities that every man has in some measure. Maturity often comes through pain and adversity- if it comes at all. The motivation, then, is to avoid big pain that will thwart your upward trajectory towards well-being. What I’m talking about is figuring yourself out – in time – to ensure a long life of happiness.

Many guys have been programmed by their past so as to be indifferent to the formula of happiness. On the surface you’d ask them if they wanted happiness, satisfaction, health, wealth, and marital bliss and the answer would be “Of course”. But their actions would speak more clearly than their words. Daily activities demonstrate the true path whereas mental justifications are just immature rationalizations. Again, this is commonplace. Everyone does this to one degree or another. Everyone. Those men that become wise to this self sabotage make a course correction and lift their noses to sail above the danger. Close-minded inaction causes pain. Hey, but on the bright side, you’ll grow…maybe.

Marriage is a great environment to clear up self delusion. A wife and children are passengers to the pilot’s maturity. A great marriage is one of the top reasons for a man’s success, and that’s not even scoring the impact he has on his children and generations down the line. The fun-seriousness a man brings to the marriage helps him see in the mirror his own mental shortcomings. Nothing is more health and wealth inducing than a good marriage; nothing more destructive and expensive than a divorce.

Another great vehicle for introspection and feedback is an Ironmen group. Two other guys you can set goals with, encourage, hold each other accountable, inspire, practice your articulations, and gain perspectives that strategically widens the field of inputs to help you assess your circumstances. This is the path of wisdom – being open to inputs before they’re necessary. And how old are you before you age-out of this Ironmen idea? I’d say early 40’s. Until then, you should widen your field continuously.

Gentlemen, if you’re at 45 feet AGL and you don’t know it, you have a true dilemma that only you can solve.

To gaining altitude,

Dave Marr

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By | October 27th, 2017|Personal|0 Comments

Projecting Success

The head jut. The way you carry yourself projects to the world how you feel about yourself: confident or insecure, disciplined or a little lazy, meticulous or possibly unaware. After 20+ years of being average in my awareness, I had average posture. The mid-thoracic area between my shoulder blades was weak, so I comfortably slouched in front of the computer. My belly sagged, shoulders rounded, and pelvis turned under. Even though I was working out in karate and running marathons, my posture sucked. I wasn’t projecting vitality. I was well on my way to some problems.

No doubt you understand that your entire musculature is one big rubber band that runs throughout your whole body and that the fatty fascia that interlaces throughout carries water and nutrients to every cell in your body. Well I didn’t. So in sitting at my desk with my feet tucked under my chair, I shortened my hamstrings, curved my back, jutted my chin, and let my belly relax. I ran in the mornings without stretching where I eventually paid the piper. My T-Bands tightened, my legs turned slightly out, my lower back was unsupported, and my body got old quick. So I went to see a chiropractor for my lower back aches because I started to get plantar fasciitis in my heels. I wasn’t a complete basket case, but reality was providing a wake up call to my immortality mindset.

Your body is a powerful projection to the world, true, but it is even more powerful to your mindset, your attitude, your confidence, and your disciplines. A good understanding of how your body works and the pride it projects to the world pays dividends. You don’t have to stick your chest out and act macho, I’m not talking about being a poseur, I’m talking about being comfortable in your own skin. Confidence is projected through little things like posture. Your health starts with piercing the ignorance of bad habits.

Fortunately for me, I was blessed with an interruption. One year after trying to run my 3rd marathon by June, my right leg cramped and wouldn’t un-cramp for 2 weeks. That stopped my running and put me on a path to solve what I thought was a small problem but ended up being rather foundational. I was ignorant of just about everything. What I thought was good and right, wasn’t. Here’s my point: If you want to succeed in your whole life – business, family, and personally, you should invest in good posture. Do the small things today that will make this a non issue for you later. Project confidence by investing in your health and don’t assume you’ve got it under control. Just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Take the few minutes to gather information from an expert.

To your confident projection

Dave Marr

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By | October 20th, 2017|Personal, Physical|0 Comments

Adventure Mindedness

I do not want to die having not lived. I don’t want to look back on my life having never mattered to the full extent of my potential. I want to take this life God has seen fit to provide me – my strengths and weaknesses, my insights and ignorances, my loves and my doubts – and do what I can to make the world a better place all the while having fun in the process. Is that too much to ask?

When I think of adventure, I think of travel to locations you’d see in a magazine. A bucket list kind of thing – running with the bulls in Pamplona, learning Spanish in Costa Rica, skydiving in Sydney, scuba diving in Cozumel, dove hunting in Argentina, sailing around Martha’s Vineyard and drinking beers in any number of cool, beautiful, faraway places. Yet none of the above would matter squat to the world if I were to check all those boxes and shuffle off this mortal coil because they’re all just personal pleasures. There’s more to the adventure-minded vision. But those things that I did do and many more besides have been hallmarks of a mindset of adventure.  And that mindset has not existed in a vacuum.

Where can I make the most impact and have the most fun? At home. As a current or future husband and father it is your job to set the tone of how you are going to lead your family. In taking your family on a trip you are the one who frames how everyone should embrace the experience. Wide open expectations and minds should greet each new day. The family culture will largely be defined by you – let it be one of adventure. But I don’t mean just exotic travel. Adventure mindedness is being open to experiences, foods, people, disciplines, and ideas. You must be a salesman at home from the very beginning by encouraging and inspiring your wife and children to look out of amazed eyes at the richness and beauty of God’s creation. You must cheerlead your family that it’s the best thing in the world to be alive RIGHT NOW and be a part of THIS family! When do you start doing that? Long before you have kids.

You start today. You allow yourself to get excited about the possibilities in front of you and the things you’re going to emphasize in life. Decide how YOU are going to live your life because apples don’t grow from a juniper bush. You need to become the thing you intend to harvest from. For me, I always thought I’d have money. I didn’t start with any, but I figured it’d work out that way. I also just assumed I’d have a family. I never really thought about taking kids on trips, but as I matured and my work life started to pay dividends, that’s what we did. We took our kids on trips instead of buying things. We were not ‘thing-oriented’, we were ‘experience-oriented’. Each place we went required an eager expectation and a willingness to suffer the slings and arrows of missing luggage, close quarters, and long waits. Those things create family unity – as long as the mindset sets the correct perspective. Don’t be a passenger in your family life by letting your wife and kids set the tone of how things will go. Drive. Lead. Set expectations. Adjust attitudes. Call time out and provide expectations and then monitor how it’s going.

For example, my family was on this incredible vacation in Italy. We’re staying at this renovated 15th century monastery in the Venice sound where we had to take a water taxi to and from St. Mark’s square. While we’re waiting to be picked up, my 13-year-old gets in a nasty funk. I take his picture and he looks like he couldn’t be more bored. So I call time out, ask for a re-do, get him to laugh at himself, and take a new picture of him smiling. Two almost identical pictures except for his attitude. These pictures are classics in illustrating choosing mindset. It will be your adventure-minded attitude compounded over the next 20+ years that will set the tone for generations to come and will define your family character.

Your current and future family needs you to fulfill your maximum potential in life, starting today, in capturing a passionate mindset of adventure. Tomorrow is fast approaching. Take the next month to write down what you’re going to do, exactly how you’re going to do it, and who you’re going to become as a result.  Get after it.  Life is short.  Rest when you’re dead.

To your adventurous life,

Dave Marr

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By | October 14th, 2017|Personal, Relational, Spiritual|0 Comments

Idiot

Ok, so I’ve grown up a little. I have a long, uncomfortable history of saying or doing something that if I had a little more self-awareness, I’d have been humiliated. But somewhat fortunate for me, I’ve had the self-awareness of a tree stump. It’s only somewhat fortunate for me because I’ve come to conclude that I have hurt my trajectory in life with my immature mindset. I’ll explain that, but first some examples of embarrassment and my thinking that went with them. I’m highlighting my thinking from back then to see if you have similar thoughts. If you do, it might serve you to reevaluate.

In general, older people want to see younger people grow and succeed. It would be prudent to honor that and foolish not to. However, helpful people are only willing to test the waters to gauge whether their helpful effort will result in anything worthwhile. If the water isn’t right, they’ll pull back. In other words, the question before these folks is: Is it worth the effort or be “Pearls before swine”? If the young man is too immature to appreciate their insights, they’ll just hold back maybe till you’re ready…or maybe not.

Mistakes
The time that I made a joke about body parts at a society event; the time that I made an off-color joke when introduced to a US Senator that immediately made me persona non-grata at the table; the time I was asked about selling my company and made a quick reference to something edgy…each of these instances I cringe as I think back on my foolishness. But at the time, long before I learned the discipline of running my commentary through my brain before responding, I thought that being funny was the best way to be accepted. I thought that being edgy was the best way to being funny. I thought that being inappropriate was the best way to be edgy and get other people to loosen up. What resulted instead was I just came across as a fool, as an immature idiot, as a crass boor. Eventually, I came to realize I was not respected among the group who I wanted respect from.

So many times I’ve caused my wife discomfort that she pulled me aside at a time of non-conflict (not when I was being an idiot, but later) and said in effect, “I love you, but when you act like an idiot, you dishonor me and everything you’re trying to do in life”, or something like that. That one got through to me. I came to realize in my late 30’s that trying to run slightly askew of the crowd with the thinking that I was being an individual was just being immature. I didn’t have to be edgy. I was unique enough that I didn’t have to monogram ‘Mr. Individual’ on my sleeve. The plain truth was inescapable, I hadn’t grown up yet. I was holding on to young thoughts that didn’t serve my long-term interests.

Being Appropriate
So what is appropriate? First, it’s situation specific, so you have to recognize past instances in your life where you were immature so you can identify how your mindset skewed your understanding of what was important. One mistake I made was taking my peer group behavior and applying it to situations that were above my maturity level. I told a dirty joke as part of my toast at a family function. Nice.
Second, I got in the bad habit of not being cautious in my remarks. I didn’t care what others thought of me.  I was so caught up in being bold and independent that I undervalued my reputation.  Reputation matters, I just didn’t know how much. Finally, I needed to grab hold of my compulsion to speak when I didn’t have anything to say. My need for attention was just plain immature.

“Better to look like a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”  – Proverbs 17:28

Immaturity is like a thick veil over your mind. It’s tough to overcome. You have to be open minded to see it; you need to invite feedback or you’re blind to it.  So my advice here is specific to those who suffer from the same kind of immaturity as me and not so much to those that suffer from some other kind of immaturity.  If you are too quiet, care too much of what other people think, and need a boost of confidence, then this message would be quite different for you. Here’s where having men who will sharpen your iron with honest feedback is enormously beneficial.

Discuss in your Ironmen group the different personas you present to different groups and how you should emphasize different aspects of yourself in each. These aren’t fake presentations of you, just different versions of what is appropriate.

To your maturity,

Dave Marr

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By | October 6th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

What’s Your Integrity Worth

Over the last 3 weeks I’ve talked about life’s difficulties. Today’s Letter discusses one of the most challenging things you’ll face over your lifetime. Maybe not the sharpest pain, but one that is “long and tough”.

It was 1987.  I was 26 years old.  I was living hand to mouth.  Parking downtown in a lot cost $3 in some far away location from where I worked.  Somehow I figured out how to avoid paying the $3.

….$3.

Here I was sneaking around an unattended gate arm for $3. What a loser. After doing this the day before and coming up again to steal another $3 from some schmo that owned the lot, I realized that I was worth more than $3. This was one of the most meaningful days of my life. My integrity might have a price, but it wasn’t $3. Probably more in the $10 range. Well, not $10, maybe $1000. I’d steal for a grand. No? Ok, maybe a million dollars. If you left a million dollars on the sidewalk, I’d knock your grandmother to the ground to get at it.  Hmmm, maybe not.

Another real life example comes from a friend. He was the lone accountant for a firm. One day he decided that he COULD take a couple of bucks from his employer, so he did. Then later, a little more. Then more. His integrity became a boiled frog. By the time his employer found out, it had climbed to $400,000. His integrity was on vacation and he rationalized it to himself because his employer was wealthy and his family was in need. Now, after 5 years in prison and the slow difficult climb back into the working world, he’s trying to get his family back. He’s hopeful that his ex-wife will forgive him someday. His relationship with kids has been restored, but he missed most of their teen years. Don’t think this guy is a bad guy. He’s a friend and a good, good guy…today  – after the fall. He’s learned. Heed this: Every man is subject to moral temptation – economic, sexual, internal. To think you’re the exception is naive.

Ok, you get my point.  I’m not a big fan of listening to how much integrity someone else has, but I thought I’d share this cornerstone of who I am given the spirit of these Letters. Money can never replace your integrity. The last thing you want to do is define yourself by foregoing a bit of integrity for a couple of bucks.

Stealing is kinda black and white and I’m sure most of you wouldn’t think twice about correcting a meal tab that mistakenly undercharged you for dinner. But a more subtle aspect of integrity is the exchange of value between you and your employer or between you and your customer. There is a good-better-best spectrum when going to work and expecting pay. Just as I learned to value my worth differently greater than the sum of my bank account, so too should you remove your salary from consideration when you show up for the day’s effort. There should only be one level of service from you because it’s in your best interest to provide it – all you got. Provide your employer and customer your very best attitude, your very best proactivity, your very best cooperation, your very best creativity regardless of what’s in it for you. Certainly your employer, competing employers, the marketplace, the world won’t undervalue you for long. Therefore, it’s not wise to pour out less than you can because you mistakenly think you’re worth more than you’re being paid. Integrity demands your best. Don’t place a limit on your integrity.

This leads to a larger point: I propose that integrity is a spiritual magnet. You bring your reputation and smell wherever you go – your reputation of character and your smell of fair dealing. This spiritual magnet will attract back to you over your lifetime a compounding of who you agree with God you’re going to be. Money, relationships, reputation, and many other critical factors eventually reflect back to you. You get what you give. Somewhere in your past you have had integrity modeled to you. If you haven’t evaluated this, pull out the model and evaluate it. Discuss it in your group. Kick it around and feel whether it needs a little more intentional effort on your part. Figure out who you are in the process of becoming relative to honesty, reputation, philosophy, giving, personal discipline, loving, faithfulness, effort, and all things integrous.

To your growing character,

Dave Marr

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By | September 29th, 2017|Personal|0 Comments

“Never give in, never give in…” – Part 2

I’m hoping from last week’s letter that you gathered a little insight that might encourage more personal resolve in your life. In life you will encounter difficulty and ‘right-mindedness’ is essential to growing through that experience. I want to expand on each takeaway so that it becomes a little more real and less a bumper sticker slogan.

Takeaway 1: Keep your eyes on the horizon. Life gets increasingly complex the older you get because you increasingly buy into things that matter and thereby take on more ownership of your life. Therefore the idea that something is difficult arises because you care – you care about your marriage, you care about your children, you care about your lifestyle, you care about your reputation, lots of things. Difficulties arise because the vision you have of your life and the reality end up being different. That tight-chested feeling of frustration occurs when reality is significantly different than your expectations. This is God’s normal process of maturing you, weaning you from naivete, toughening up your resolve, helping you gain a critically important understanding of His world-view of loving your neighbor as yourself. None of this happens without the blessing of trials. So staying focused on the long-term horizon and accepting difficulty as a natural consequence of caring about life keeps a balanced perspective which thereby provides important context to your current decision-making.

Takeaway 2: Keep moving forward. Once difficulties do arise – economic problems from a job loss, marital problems from alignment issues, parental problems regarding health, children problems from that endless bag of worries – you are confronted with a spiritual question of how to respond. The more spiritually aware and mature you are the more you “respond” than “react”. Your character, that mental/spiritual/emotional structure you’ve been developing since day 1, will come into play. Adherence to principles, integrity, perseverance, resolving to understand and see it through, patience, humility and grace are all qualities of character that will be revealed and tested during times of difficulty. The desire to escape, to quit, to have a drink, to have an affair, to flip the bird at God is not unheard of. Therefore, looking at the horizon past your difficulties acknowledges that they are short term. But the key is to keep moving forward until answers begin to materialize. Know that these challenges will end and you’ll be stronger as a result.

Takeaway 3: Be optimistic. When facing difficulty, there is a difference between suffering in stoic silence which can increase your isolation in a sort of masochistic selfishness versus being resolved and keeping your own counsel so as to not invite high school drama about superficial challenges. Take a moment to be clear on my meaning there. The difference is in the internal debate between optimism and pessimism as worn on your countenance, your face. For example, projecting your energy as a Debbie Downer intends to invite sympathy and pity. Coming home from work after a long difficult day and shifting your projected energy to one of ‘woe is me’ so that you can justify consuming your wife’s positive energy is a character issue. The internal debate is how much positive energy do you have in your tank? Do you have a little more? And a little more? The idea here is to create new and positive patterns in your life, so being aware of the internal debate between producing energy and consuming energy is vital. To respond is to remain in charge of your psycho/spiritual/mental/emotional self and not devolve into selfish reactions. This is a character issue. Keep your eye long term, keep moving forward, and control the positive internal monologue.

Takeaway 4: Produce goodness. Everyone faces takeaways 1-3. Not everyone is equipped with the understanding about life’s difficulties, the presence of mind to respond versus react, and the awareness of the incomprehensible blessing of God’s Providence. Life’s journey is largely a journey from self-care to other-care. For whatever reason, most people are hand-to-mouth in spiritual energy and consume as much goodwill as is available. Conflict and high school drama is their life. Fear, shame, helplessness, excessive ego and competition are hallmarks of this consumption. However, there is abundance available. You should fear not, worry not. Ego can be shelved because you are not in a fight or flight situation. There is a better way. In a zero sum game when there is a finite pie to split amongst the contestants, then quick competition gains more. But life is not a zero sum game. Expand the pie. Create abundance. Lift others. Zig’s “If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get what you want” applies. Love your neighbor as you love yourself is the essence of spiritual maturity. Your capacity to grow through difficulty expands your ability to produce goodness because you see mankind for what it is – in need of your positive energy.

To your spiritual abundance,

Dave Marr

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By | September 22nd, 2017|Personal, Spiritual|0 Comments

“Never give in, never give in…”

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Winston Churchill, 1941.

On a plaque in my office I have the pith of that quote – “Never, Never, Never, Give In”.  It has served me well these 25 years of self employment. I didn’t understand that philosophy in my twenties back when the smell of my freshly minted undergraduate diploma still tingeing the air. I began my career with little experience and less idea of the road ahead, only the certainty of the blue sky of greatness. And for a dozen sun-kissed years, my life was filled with blessings.

But into every life rain must fall. My personal bias is to believe completely that the path to joy and happiness is, as James describes it, through difficulty. I’ve referenced that belief here in these letters many times. Because that belief is foundational to life. Dr. M. Scott Peck’s opening line in The Road Less Traveled is “Life is difficult.” It goes on,  “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” 

My difficulties have been extremely small compared to many. They have been questions of business survival, nothing more. The marriage difficulties resulting from personal immaturity, role definition, languages of love, time balancing, and leadership were resolved in our late 30’s, so that extra energy could be more wisely used elsewhere. Raising children takes energy. Fortunately, we had only blessings there. In other words, a blessed life with only normal issues arising.

Because I have had my share of business difficulties, as a result I have a few takeaways that have served me well. Churchill captured perfectly in the same speech as above a mature principle that life teaches, “But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough”. There will be times when the Nazi’s are bombing London, Hurricane Irma winds are blowing, cancer is attacking a loved one, or the government machine is mindlessly grinding your way. But mostly life is a long pursuit of navigating circumstances, challenges interspersed with happiness and joy. Takeaway 1: Stay focused on the horizon.

That realization leads to the second takeaway, difficulty doesn’t define your character, it reveals it. A young man may not know what to do with his life. That is not uncommon. But it is to his character that he pursues movement rather than listless ennui. Direction and purpose will eventually come because the skill of navigation is easier to achieve than the engine of movement. Takeaway 2: Difficulty develops a God-blessed character of a man revealed in times that are long and tough – keep moving forward.

Takeaway 3 is about when life provides you the blessings of difficulty – smile. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. Be optimistic that in your custom-made difficulties you are blessed. Yes, this seems trite and like superficial advice, but it’s not. Everyone will be challenged. And real pain isn’t fun. Making the most of your time here on earth takes effort, so showing the world a smile keeps a positive perspective. And this leads to the last takeaway.

Mankind is divided into a spiritual spectrum of producers and consumers. The vast majority of people consume energy. They are filled with want, need, helplessness, conflict, fear, shame, negative competition, self satisfying ego, all varying degrees of consuming energy. Therefore, be a producer of well-being, maturity, grace, acceptance, help, positive cooperation/competition, and love. Difficulties are designed for you to distinguish in the pit of your resolve who you are in the act of becoming. Produce goodness, which starts in your maturing heart. This is part of the great commission in life.

If you are persevering now through some God-blessed difficulties – press on.

Dave Marr

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By | September 15th, 2017|Personal, Spiritual|0 Comments

The Baton

Sunday the 10th marks the 11th quick long year since my dad’s death. I wrote this Letter in honor of him and my father-in-law Steig. I love them and miss them both. Life is short gents, so please don’t let small things get in the way. Do you have someone you could honor while they’re still here? And as a father, be honorable.

To my Dad:

The sweat dripped from his brow as he scaled the hill. His muscles were fit but lean from the years of training. No longer carried by the meaty limbs of his youth that bounded with certainty among the rocky terrain, he picked his way with crafty precision with a mind toward efficiency sparing his remaining strength. The hill was a long one and the injuries of past events could be felt with every step. The many scrapes and scars stood out against his sinews as he pumped up the hill.

His breath was strong despite the slope, though his pace slowed a touch as his strength faded, the crest fast approaching. The race continued after his part was done; his job was nearing completion. The baton weighed more now than a short while ago, but he remembered when it weighed nothing at all. When the race started so long ago, the baton seemingly weighed nothing in actuality compared to what he thought it might. How he imagined the weight would cramp him and cause him to stumble. But in the end, he carried it well like so many before.

Looking up he could see the next runner waiting at the milestone, running in place with fresh legs, the sun anointing him with a golden glow around his head. Squinting, he couldn’t see the next runner’s expression backlit against the sun. However, as he neared, an eager smile appeared. He firmed his pace down the stretch so the handoff would be on his terms; where he could look into the next runner’s eyes as an equal, not as one who had spent his last to gain the final yard. He would carry the baton at a solid pace running along side for but a short while. Then with an easy manner pass the baton to the next runner wanting so much to encourage him, to explain the course, to describe what meaning can be derived from the race itself. But in the end, after a few paces where the untested energy of the new contestant begged to be released, he handed off the baton.

He kept pace for a couple of strides and caught the eyes for but a glance.  And what a glance. Optimistic and full of light, the new runner smiled with a wide grin and unknowing but heartfelt appreciation. With a slight wave of his hand that held the baton, the young runner eased his stride respectfully, but certainly. He moved smoothly away. The older runner, without baton, running no longer had meaning. But after such a long race, stopping didn’t seem right either. He carried on for a bit till the baton runner melted into the sun. At that point, when he could see the other runner wasn’t going to fall or drop the baton or need anything whatsoever, he slowed his pace to a walk. The race continued, but not for him. He had run to the best of his ability and now that he had passed the baton, it was time to rest. The baton ran ever towards the sun, but here, evening had already begun to set. It would be nighttime soon. Time to get off the hill and rest.

To grandpa and morfar with love.

To a successful passing of the baton,

Dave Marr

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By | September 8th, 2017|Personal, Relational, Spiritual|0 Comments