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Man in the Polis

I stole that title from William Bennett in his fantastic book: The Book of Man. In it, he takes writings from throughout history and categorizes them into 1) Man in War;  2 )Man at Work; 3) Man in Play, Sports, and Leisure;  4) Man in the Polis;  5) Man with Woman and Children; and 6) Man in Prayer and Reflection. I recommend this book with all my being. I gave it to my two boys with an inscription that I hope they’ll keep for their sons. I recommend doing so for your boys when they’re at least 20 years old. Even at that, it’s a bit weighty.

But I digress a tad. Today’s letter is about how incredible this country is. Still is.  It will always be, as long as there beats in the hearts of its people the values we all cherish: freedom, individual responsibility, family cohesion, and communal comity. It is with this idea—love of country—that I write to you every week. It is my desire that you take one idea, a seed of truth, and plant it in your life with all the care and nurturing that you can summon, and grow that into a forest of well-being. That idea—you matter.  Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “You must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it.  We must not drift nor lie at anchor.”

You matter to you. You matter to your current family. You matter to your wife and your children, and their children. You matter to your friends and their children. Your light cannot be muffled under a blanket of insecurity and unmanliness. Your life and all of society’s existence depends on you waking up to your God-given power to nurture your garden into abundant well-being.  Overstatement? I think not. When you compare an energized man with an optimism for life versus a drifting man who believes he’s powerless against larger forces, which man would you bet matters  more to his world?

There is a phenomenon that has gripped society today that is a negative trend, among many negative trends, that I think will not serve America’s interests. It is  man who is like the drifting boat; the Independent voter. Stay with me, because this civics point does serve your interests and isn’t intended to be political. The Independent voter’s mantra is essentially this: “I want to remain neutral until the end and vote for the best candidate.” Unfortunately, the Independent’s values won’t be on the menu at that late date. So they won’t necessarily get to choose among the best candidates that could have been available had they participated sooner.

This point is not a small one. From your perspective, it’s about the scope of things you consider important to your family’s well-being. There’s taxes, healthcare, global warming, the cost of education, foreign affairs – will these candidates present you with acceptable or unacceptable choices? The independent voter says that he is a victim to those issues and is willing to let other’s frame the discussion and decide. That’s because Independent voters can’t vote in primaries where all the action is. By the time the general election rolls around in November, the parties have decided everything and the choice is binary. Candidate A will support Party A on all the issues versus candidate B who will largely do the opposite.

The reason Independents have come to this conclusion, in my opinion, is because the issues are too complex; the media focuses on the latest shiny object; their lives are too busy; the parties promote conflict in order to dispirit the electorate so that they can control the outcome by getting out their base; and politicians will say anything to get elected. Who needs all that aggravation in one’s life? Yup, it’s not easy to decide what’s important at a young age.

Here’s what I suggest: Decide that over the next 4 years, you’re going to inch your way into understanding the issues of society. You can’t just pick one source, like Jimmy Fallon or Fox News, you have to spread it around. I like RealClearPolitics.com because it has a balance of views. Then you need to pick a party to join. Yes, you’ll get stuff in the mail. That’s a part of life. But by picking a team to support, your boat will pull anchor and sail. Your team should reflect your values, of course. You need to observe what their values really are rather than what they say they are or what the opposition says they are. That takes time and it takes the skill of discernment. It takes time to figure out the issues and how you feel about them. I’ve changed my mind a couple times on important things as I have matured and discussed it with a bunch of smart people. You should do the same.

Both parties represent important values. It’s easy to love your team and hate the other team, to think they’re idiots or manipulative liars – and some are, which is why it’s easy. Each party is a big tent that accommodates lots of folks with divergent views. When you vote, you’re not really voting for a person even if that’s your intent. You’re voting for a party and all that goes with it. To think otherwise is uneducated and naive.

Ultimately, you should vote in the primary as a minimum to your civic duty. Now, I’m 53 and have never done it, but have recently come to understand that I need to. If you become particularly impassioned you should volunteer, but at a minimum, you owe it to your future and that of your children to take a stand. Because doing so matters.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | January 12th, 2018|Personal|0 Comments

As

Today’s discussion on spiritual development: I think we are jars. We come in different sizes and shapes, but jars nonetheless. Each of us has a capacity to be filled and to pour out. Some jars are big and have a tremendous capacity to take in much, as well as pour out much. Unfortunately, some jars are small. At year end, I ask myself how I can make my jar bigger so as to pour out more. I pour out my positive energy and thoughts, my efforts, my goodwill, my inspiration, my love to all those I come in contact. Some of you may wonder about my motivations as to why I write this stuff; it’s just me pouring out what I have in my jar.

My wife and kids are a constant recipient of my pouring which I believe is critical for happiness and well-being. I believe that in trying to create a life that is fulfilling and satisfying I must park my ego at the door and do what I can do to help others become a light in the world. By doing so, I make my jar bigger while at the same time creating an environment where others can make their jars bigger as well. The home is the best place to practice that because of the huge dividends it repays. The work world is challenging because there are so many new opportunities and people to demonstrate the example of creating well-being in the land of short-term constraint, ego and self interest all of which sometimes stresses my capacity to pour out. I must improve on when to use compassion and understanding and when to be firm. Regardless, work provides an opportunity to demonstrate both to myself and others that if I keep pouring myself out, others will follow.

Occasionally, I observe some people whose jars are half empty and it shows in the life they have created. I listen to their thoughts which often sound like victimization. I believe a universal truth is: You are where you are because of who you are. It’s an “apple grows on an apple tree” sort of thing. What’s the difference between half empty and half full? One molecule. And the difference between half full and a cup that overflows? Intention. So for me, Ironmen is a weekly reminder to live with the intention to make my jar bigger so I have more capacity to pour out my love to my family and friends, co-workers, customers, strangers, and basically everyone I come in contact with.

Despite the challenges one may face in the external life, working on one’s jar is an internal process that transcends victimhood, economics, religion, politics, gender, race, sexual orientation, left-handedness, and any other categorical distinctions. It is a human thing. It’s this internal process of being more gracious, more accepting, more loving, more energized, more optimistic, more creative that compounds day after day.

And the result?  The results are at once subtle and dramatic. By being a vessel that pours out in a mutually satisfying manner placing the well-being of others coequal to you, the capacity to receive love and well-being is affected. At the absolute minimum, appreciation of others and life is enhanced. But far beyond that, well-being can flourish, …and it does.  Healthy relationships create a base for personal growth that leads to seeing opportunities and, importantly, having the capacity to capture them. Interestingly, when times are good, it’s easy to be selfish. When times are tough, that’s when you need to make withdrawals from the relationship account. That’s why it’s important to make deposits in the jars of others all the time.

So what does this have to do with work or the word “As”?

There is no such thing as wearing different hats in life.  You don’t wear a work hat, then go home and put on the husband hat or dad hat. There’s no close buddy hat that’s different than the employee hat. Whether you are at home or work or play, there you are. You and your jar are the constant in your life. By living with the intention to have less ego and thereby live in such a way to practice expanding your jar to pour out to others, you are being a catalyst for positive change in the lives of all those you come in contact. You are loving your neighbor AS yourself.

For such a tiny word, “As” is pretty important. Highlighting that importance, I think, is critical to growing one’s jar which leads to the good life. “As” is usually interpreted to mean “to the same extent”. Love your neighbor at least as much as you love yourself. But that would miss the power of the conjunction.

  • It also means “While”. Loving your neighbor in the act of loving yourself speaks of the timing of your intentions.
  • “As” also means “In the same manner”. Loving your neighbor in such a way that it affects that person positively speaks to the quality of your efforts.
  • And importantly, “As” refers to “In the process of”. In the process of loving your neighbor, in reality you are loving yourself because you are working on increasing the size of your jar and thereby increasing the capacity to be loved.

Here’s an important point in all this: If you aren’t loving those at the epicenter of your life, then it’s you – it’s your issue. Somehow your ability to love has been diminished. You need to pour out in order to receive. It is a selfish motivation to pour out love and goodness on people because, not only does it feel good and rebound back to you, but your ability to love will increase over time. You end up seeing the world in a different light. And this isn’t some new age crapola slogan, it actually is true.

So – You can touch the lives of those closest to you, reflect on the role you play in their lives and they in yours, bring forth appreciation of all that you have at hand to make a life worth living, put into perspective what life is all about, gain strength to go forward with the intention to make your time here on earth matter for all those dearest to you AS you pour your life into the coming year.

Get after it.  Open up the lid of your jar and start pouring.

To your continued loving success,

Dave Marr

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By | January 5th, 2018|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Father and Son

 

One day my Dad and I got into an argument. It must have been building up for a while because it was a doozy. We worked together and inevitably there’d be something that would trigger a dispute. There was and it was a big one. We didn’t speak for several months. I finally wrote a letter telling my dad that everything I had ever done, I had done to make him proud of me. But at 38 years of age, if he wasn’t going to be proud of me by then, the die was cast, and I had to live without it. Therefore, the letter continued, I would do anything he wanted, accommodate him in any way whatsoever, but I needed to move on. I would seek his approval no more. It was on that day, unfortunately, that I became my own man.

Every boy grows with a core desire to have his father recognize him as a man – self-sufficient and accepted as an equal – and to feel proud of who that young man has become. To have the mantle passed onto his shoulders is more than to be loved and recognized as mature, but to be beheld as worthy. That there might be some ancient ritual where the son is accepted into the tribe of men and given the keys to the kingdom. I would have killed for that. It’s what I longed for even past the day I knew it would never happen.

It grieved me to have it not work out that way. I loved my Dad and I knew he loved me. But his life and my life had their own trajectories. The challenge was for me was to accept our relationship for what it was and not be burdened for what it wasn’t. My Dad had his strengths: he was a good man; he loved my mom completely; he was scrupulously honest; he enjoyed a good laugh, a glass of wine, and a good cigar. But my Dad had his shortcomings: he was quick to anger; he was stubborn when offended; he was too proud at times; and he was a man of his generation.

In the end, my Dad and I were too much alike with too few communication skills and too little grace. We eventually got past the impasse because my mom pleaded for a truce. She got it reluctantly from both. I eventually grew to the idea that at 38 years of age, it was upon me to accept my Dad for who he was and realize that I was not going to change him. He was 68. We got through by talking football. We talked politics. We talked about my kids. But we never tried to go back and resolve what was said that day. Some things you need to reconcile and some things you just have to get past. This was one of the latter.

I know many of your stories. I wish I knew more. (So send me your Father/Son story).  A lot of your stories are quite a bit more emotionally devastating than mine – Fathers who write a check to never see a son again. Fathers who drink too much. Abusive fathers. Absent fathers. Fathers that cheat and the love that should go to the family goes instead to someone else. Fathers that work too much. Fathers that work too little. Fathers that can’t figure it out for themselves and have nothing but bitterness to pass down. Fathers who are there physically, but absent emotionally, absent fiscally, absent relationally.

These legacies exist. Our society is filled with these stories. It’s important for you to understand that if you come from some mild or wild dysfunction, that it’s a part of who you are. It’s in there and must be dealt with. Because if you don’t deal effectively with your relationship with your father, it could come back to live through your actions. Now, you may not have the opportunity to do it directly with him, he could be dead or just gone or doing so would just make it worse, but that doesn’t matter. Bring it up in your Ironmen Group, with your wife, with your therapist, but bring it up.

One technique that I’ve recommended is that you write a letter to your Dad that lines out all the issues and anger and crap in your relationship. Pour it all out. Get it ALL out. Then put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and actually send it in the mail. However, send it to your own address. Then, write a letter from your Dad’s perspective, accepting your anger and hurt. Have him explain all the issues from your Dad’s perspective. Come up with the best most gracious explanations as to why he acted the way he did. Stamp it and send that letter to yourself too. In a few days, you’ll get this handwritten note that ends “Son, I know I haven’t been a perfect Dad to you, but I’ve tried the best that I could to be a good one. I’m very sorry for all the mistakes I’ve made. Just know that I love you. Your Dad.” See how that feels. If you think I’m joking or that I’m loopy, that no letter that you wrote and sent to yourself will make any difference whatsoever, I think you’ll be surprised. One guy did it and it made a world of difference to him.

Here’s the main payoff – It is your job in life to put a stake in the ground and declare to the world that despite the fact that you didn’t get as good of a deal as many others, by God, you are going to give your family what they need, you are going to give you what you need.  You must declare by your actions that you will turn the sins of the father into blessings of the father to the third and fourth generation. You are not going to let his actions and your hurt affect your family. It stops here.

To your generational success,

Dave Marr

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By | December 29th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Overcoming Obstacle to Success

Epiphanies.

You’ve had them and hopefully will have many more. These “aha” moments of realization are experiences of sudden psychological/spiritual awareness from the maturing of your mind. A previously unconnected idea fits into the pattern of your conscious model. The cause of that realization? It has arisen into your reality and is but one tile in the mosaic of your life. Your mind becomes incrementally aware through theory, experiences, and inspiration. You learn theory from others, you cement the tile of that knowledge through experience, and you connect larger whole pieces into your overall model through inspiration. This re-modeling process of theory, experience, inspiration are not separate and distinct, but dynamically interrelated.

Cause…Dynamic…arise.

What will be the cause of your success in life? The idea of causality presumes there is an actor initiating an action and the result comes to follow – cause and effect. Success, that self-defined location of happiness and well-being, would result from sustained actions by the actor towards the goal. But you can instantly see that the complexity of that goal in the environment of life requires that the actor adjust to circumstances – that the goal, the actor, and the process are all dynamically related. This destination/journey question speaks to the maturity of purpose. It would be too simple to connect life’s success resulting from the cause solely from the actor’s efforts. A life is more than the aggregate culmination of myriad causes and effects. So although success requires your initiation of effort, there is more to it than that – obvi.

You arrive at a party (cause) and instantly are in relationship with everyone there (dynamic). Your arrival affects others and you are effected by them at the same time, instantly. If the party is your love life, your work life, your health life, and even your mental life, then you affect others as they effect you, at the same time. This dynamic exists whether you think so or not. If your mental model is more in line with cause and effect, then your thinking is too simple. You are underestimating the impact you have on others and others have on you. Your very existence has an impact. Period. A dynamic model is more complex and closer to reality.

But dynamism is too simple as well. Your success will not arrive solely through your initiation of effort and the dynamic interrelation amongst you and the actors of your life. It’s clearly part of the model for success, but too simple of an explanation. And of course you may already know that. You may know that the tile pieces of your life’s mosaic (experiences) are handed to you in a seemingly random fashion and yet, in retrospect, they fit a pattern. It takes time to see the patterns in your life, to discern truth from your own experiences. So theory and inspiration help you form a more correct model to follow. But who’s theory will you follow since there are many out there. And inspiration, is that reliable? Where does that come from? The tiles of your experience, if they result in a pattern that is unique to you, is there not a Tile-Giver that underlies the whole process? Seems so to me.

In the last Letter I asserted that the biggest obstacle to your success is you, or rather more fully described here, the mental model you have of reality. Your current model is insufficient for you to have a life that will fulfill you. It will change, as it must. However, the more energy you apply in changing the model, the more theory you can gather, the more experience tiles you can collect, the more likely you are to be inspired to higher levels of thinking which results in a more developed way of being. Epiphanies arise from the Tile-Giver to encourage and energize your efforts to push forward in life.

So what do you do with this theory of mine? This theory that states that God creates the mosaic of life in little tiles of experience laid down in a pattern unique to you. I am not evangelizing. I am describing my model. It is incomplete. So I am still on the journey to add to, refine, and attempt to articulate my model. So what should you do to overcome the obstacles that confront you on your way to a wonderful successful happy life? Be aggressive in 2018 in taking on life so that you interrelate ever more pieces of the mosaic into your understanding.

To more tiles.

Dave Marr

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By | December 22nd, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Obstacle to Success

Do people change?

This is an unresolvable age-old question on the nature of man – Can a person change the essence of who he is or is he just fulfilling his already existing potential, for good or bad, large or small? As a coach and mentor to many a young man, this isn’t an idle question. In my lifelong epistemological search for practical meaning and here in this penultimate chapter on 2018 goals (BOOM! – I  just used epistemological and penultimate in the same sentence! Now me go back to small wordses), it’s a question we must confront – Can I change my trajectory?

Can people change? Yes. It is possible to make significant change to a disposition that has been set from childhood. There are 2 times in one’s life when change to one’s fundamental nature is easier – 1) as a young man out of adolescence embarking on establishing an independent existence; or 2) after a long period where errors in judgment have compounded into crisis and change is mandatory.

This letter is entitled Obstacle to Success and I’m talking about change because the clear fact is that your mindset is by far the greatest obstacle to your success and happiness. That statement is not an indictment against you of course, but is the reality mankind faces. We must figure ourselves out, learn to consistently be our own advocate, harness our mental, physical, spiritual, and social strengths in order to achieve our personal degree of well being. But you may say, “Davo, that may have been you, and I can see other guys whose thinking is weak, but I’m doing pretty well. To be candid, I’ve got it going on.” Indeed. Errors in judgment is an intractable dilemma. For some, after many years with a closely held belief of “being on track” do errors in judgment come to crisis. You can fool yourself for a long time in thinking that today’s casual effort won’t come to crisis, that there’s time yet tomorrow to get motivated to clean out your habit closet, that these small hidden frailties of drinking or porn or excessive use of smartphone won’t compound into a crisis down the road. Yes, you could be fooling yourself somewhere in some way.

Look at it this way – you leave adolescence at around 25 when your brain roughly finishes its physical development. Up till then your view of reality is 2-dimensional. As your life becomes more 4 dimensional, your mind develops in complexity (or vice versa) and you become more set in your ways. Think of a sapling tree that can be trained to grow according to external stimuli. The more it grows, the less it’s able to change its essential structure. Errors in judgment become set as you get older. Therefore, before those become calcified negative habits, as a young man you are most empowered now to set a path that will lead to power and well-being. Ignorance and arrogance are every man’s Scylla and Charybdis (Boom!).

Ok, today’s letter was a bit preachy, sorry. (Not sorry). Even the optimal path of your development is strewn with rocks on which you can easily trip without awareness. I know the dangers first hand of drifting along with smug certainty. This series is designed to make 2018 a powerful year for you. You must intend to stoke the engine (Motivation), that drives towards a direction (Goals), and develops a pattern (Habits) that manifest well being in your life. In the last Letter on this series, I’ll talk on Overcoming Obstacles to Success.

A sapling tree does not grow fruit. Only after years of development will that tree manifest fruit that represents the intention of the Gardener. Only then will you know.

To your spiritual path,

Dave Marr

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By | December 15th, 2017|Personal|0 Comments

Business Conflict

Conflict in business is everyday stuff.  People don’t like conflict, so they don’t get a chance to get good at its resolution. I like conflict, or rather, I enjoy the opportunity to get better at its resolution. As CEO, I deal with conflict all the time. By the time it’s made it to me, it’s festered into a rather significant boil. And if it were easy to resolve, it would have already been taken care of at an earlier stage. Therefore, unless I want to upset all parties and take a defensive stance, I need to get at the core elements of the conflict, soothe emotions, and come up with a solution that keeps the company’s reputation somewhat unharmed and the parties happy enough. I have a formula and style that has worked for me countless times.

First of all, my assumptions:

  1. People don’t like conflict and want to see it go away as soon as possible. Those that have been hurt by someone’s actions, usually don’t want to punish, they just want to see it made right. For those that have caused the conflict, they face a character issue on its resolution.
  2. 98% (made up %) of all conflict is a result of poor communication, miscommunication, an ambiguous communication, unrealistic expectations, or just everyday human error.
  3. Of the 2% that is genuine conflict, a negotiation or lawsuit may ensue. We’ll take this up some other time.
  4. Mistakes often get compounded by people avoiding responsibility and postponing notification of the parties that they made a mistake.
  5. Oftentimes there’s pain for one of the parties to resolve the matter. Postponing the situation won’t alleviate the pain and often makes it worse.

So, for example, this has happened many times: I’d have a loan originator (LO) employee that would take a loan application and set expectations with the borrower and, if a purchase loan, with the real estate agent. The LO would gather all the borrower information, look it over, and address anything that needed work. After working on validating the information in the file through processing, something would come up that would stop the deal from moving forward until resolved. The LO would need to go back to everyone involved to say that there’s a problem. If the LO made a mistake, or didn’t interpret things correctly, set the wrong expectations, or one of a thousand things, the agent and borrower would get upset. Any unwillingness from the LO to face the music and resolve the issue would just make matters worse as the deadlines got closer, and escalate the problem to my desk.

When this happens, my formula is:

  1. Talk to all parties and let them know I am going to get into it. I ask for a little patience and to stay calm of emotions. I will ultimately get to the right answer and, if my company is in the wrong, make it right. This buy-in from everyone gives me enough time to gather facts. Without facts, it won’t get resolved amicably.
  2. Tell everyone exactly what I’m going to do, who I’m going to talk with, the information I’m going to gather, and exactly when I’m going to contact them again. This is the most critical piece of the puzzle. Tell them what you’re going to do and do it. If you don’t, you’ve blown any real chance of restoring your reputation.
  3. Take responsibility for the problem. “I apologize that we’re all in this situation; we’ll get past this and we’ll get this problem off our plate so we can move on to more productive things.” I say this as a way to plant that idea in their minds rather than lawsuits. If there’s a potential for a lawsuit, I’m careful with my words so as to not admit liability, but still take on responsibility.
  4. Get into the situation. Most issues involve a couple of degrees of complexity. A human error that went unnoticed that put us in a corner which would result in the borrower potentially having to pay more money (we usually eat those). Or the plain reality that the borrower’s finances had a problem that went undiscovered for a time. This delay resulted in expectations that needed to be adjusted and now require the borrower to pay extra (we don’t eat those). I don’t own someone else’s problem, I just try and help them.
  5. Determine the salient facts and features of the conflict. I call the aggrieved parties back at the exact time I said I would whether I am ready to proceed or not. This is a big error that I’ve seen. When a borrower is told to expect a call, but the information just isn’t ripe for resolution, and the call isn’t made: Explosion.
  6. If I‘m not ready to proceed to the next step for resolution, I explain why and ask for some more time. I repeat the formula for the new expectation.
  7. In the resolution phase, I lay out the facts. I need to identify clearly what happened and why the train got off the tracks. I do not hide if or where we slipped up.
  8. At this point, I either eat the cost and make good on our error or identify the steps required to get back on track. I also address the cost to the borrower, if any. If there’s some good will gesture I can make by paying for some of the issue, I’ll generally make it.  But if it’s too large and is clearly in the borrower’s camp, I’ll just wait for their reaction.
  9. Silence at this stage is important to let the parties digest matters. Pain doesn’t go down easily, but sometimes it is what it is.
  10. Sometimes deals just don’t get done and sometimes you have to do deals that you don’t want to do because it’s the lesser of two evils. Those are just judgment calls. But at least jumping in to stop solvable problems from spinning out of control is a learnable skill.

As I said most people don’t like conflict. They just want to resolve issues and move on with their lives. And most of the time (Highlight this in your mind because this is a major takeaway): It’s not that a mistake was made, it’s what you do about it that matters.   What makes things dramatically worse is when people run and hide rather than admit and resolve. This is a character issue that is defining.

What I haven’t talked about here is what happens after this. I’ve run out of space, but quickly, punishment doesn’t make sense. Learning is important for all good intention situations.  Learn, fix, and move on. If someone makes the same error over and over, then maybe employment isn’t a good fit.

How comfortable are you with conflict? With customers? Employers? Spouse? Friends? Parents? Siblings? Others?  How can you be cool during conflict?

To your improving your ability to handle conflict,

Dave Marr

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By | December 8th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Disciplines, Habits, and Routines

Not every Ironmen Letter is a towering epistle soaring among those clouds saturated in wisdom that rain down on mere mortal men. No, not every one, ahem. Some are mundane, with feet on the ground, designed to cover territory that is hopefully familiar, but fundamental nonetheless and therefore worthy of repetition. Two such recent Letters covered Motivation and Objectives. And now as we approach that ever recurring starting gate of the New Year, honing your behaviors is today and will forever be a critical aspect on gaining traction in personal growth.

Ok, Time Out: Let me ask you to gauge your attitude right now as you read this. Are you getting through this Letter and moving on to the next item of the day? Or will you get FROM today’s message? Because what the heck are you doing? Let some messages into the inner sanctum where it hits home and creates resolve in you. Some messages should reach you and not be held at arm’s length. Let this be one.

All right, Time In: Presumably you are interested in creating a fantastic life. My discussion on Motivation two weeks ago gave 9 factors that generated positive energy in me that I could translate into motivation. Motivation towards what? Last week I discussed Vision and Objectives for next year.  The two combine to equate to an intellectual blueprint of my coming year. And when I was in my 30’s that would be the end of it. I would be motivated to write down my goals, but wouldn’t be disciplined enough to figure out how to act on them and thereby accomplish most of them. It took me many years of trying to learn the basics of my personality and behaviors before I could harness my motivation to gain traction on my more pernicious issues.

Some men are blessed with a default mode of action. I have many friends who are that way which is good for them. I am not that guy. My default mode is one of laziness. Not extreme laziness, but one of selfish “conservation of my energy”. So if I were given a choice of organizing my garage or reading a book, cha, not even close. But that base modality conflicts with my ego where I see myself as a man of consequence. Those two views don’t square, so I had to navigate that little thing we call “reality” and overcome some limiting behaviors.

I have no problem brushing my teeth twice a day. It’s part of my routine. If for some reason I miss a day, I don’t say, “Ah screw it. I’ll start again next year.” You don’t do that with routines. You do that with disciplines. Because routines are already inside your pattern where you are efficient and you move from one activity seamlessly to another. No doubt you have a morning routine and a nighttime one. You’ve probably got an eating routine, a driving routine, a toilet routine. Efficiency of habit. You don’t have to think about what comes next. That’s the key.

To make lasting change in your physical and personal life you must routinize the things you want to compound over a lifetime. You do that by structuring the habit you want to insert into your routine so that it fits easily into that efficiency mode. Let’s say you want to get in shape. The reason you haven’t done that in the past is lack of time and you weren’t experiencing negative consequences anyway. But now you’ve decided that it’s time to be intentional about your health. You decide that morning has the greatest shot at being consistent, so you plan to get up 30-60 minutes earlier and work out. Awesome! And, after doing it twice and you’re sore and it’s cold outside and the workout was just running a mile followed by pushups and situps, you decide to take a one day holiday because working out daily just isn’t “realistic”. Doing it every other day becomes a problem if you miss your workout day. Soon, the law of diminishing intentions kicks in and the idea of getting in shape remains just that, an idea. Motivation must be restored regularly during the time discipline is honing a habit. Let me say that again: Motivation is the energy to get going and must be restored regularly so that turning a discipline into a habit isn’t a vertical climb. Structuring how you’ll turn the habit into your routine by figuring out exactly what you’re going to do, what you’re going to need, what time you’ll need to wake up, and what time you’ll need to go to bed – are all the details of success.

Now, of course that example may not apply to you. It’s a template. Thus: Motivation is a positive energy. It needs a vision to become something. Your objectives are the plan to turn your motivation into reality. Discipline is the fortitude to stick with your decision long after the energy has dissipated. Habits are the patterns created by discipline that must be structured and thought out. And routines are those habits that are efficiently incorporated into your life.

One last thought – Nothing stands alone. All your behaviors – the disciplines, the habits, the routines – are part of the pattern of who you are. If you discipline one part of your life, it’ll affect the whole.

There. I saved you 15 years of struggle. You’re welcome.

To getting FROM the day,

Dave Marr

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By | December 1st, 2017|Personal|0 Comments

Next Year’s Objectives

Over the last 30 years or so, I have written down my goals maybe half the time and the other half just had them in mind. In assessing the difference, I’d have to give the nod to writing them down, as you’d expect me to say. The years I would continuously reference back to my written goals, the greater likelihood I wouldn’t drift from them. My best year that saw the most economic gains was the year I worked my plan the most consistently. Which makes sense of course – plan your work and work your plan.

The key to a successful year is a strong start, therefore, you need to start working on next year’s objectives now. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a great time to reflect on this year’s effort – where were you consistent? where do you need to strategize around your inconsistency? If you just drift from one year to another without extracting all the value of your experiences, then your trajectory will be less than it could be. Therefore take your most mature developed attitude and focus 4-6 hours on what you want next year to be like. That’s a lot of concentrated time, but maximizing your life might be worth a few hours. Now, I’ve done the casual goal setting that doesn’t last a month and is quickly cast aside. But to truly maximize your year you need to envision each part of your life: Family, Work, Health, God, Finances, Social, Giving – in your particular order of importance – and create a vision statement as to what you want to accomplish.

From the vision statement, you need an action plan. How are you going to bring your vision into existence? Who can help you? What steps can you work on today that will move you closer? What milestones exist that would indicate you’re 10% there, half way there? What are you going to do to celebrate once you’ve accomplished it. How are you going to feel once you’re there? Is it a box to check off or is it a lifestyle that you’ll own? Not a small question. When I got my blackbelt in karate, a commonplace occurrence was guys would get their blackbelt and never be seen again. It’s like getting your undergrad degree and never learning another thing. How will you feel once you’ve created the reality of what you’ve envisioned? Because, that vision is but a milestone in itself. Who are you becoming?

The path to creation is: Thought – Word – Deed. (Rather Biblical, I’d say). But each must be consistent. To bring about a new and improved you that has a quality family life, great marriage, a valuable career that is stimulating and rewarding, a healthy body that exudes confidence and vitality, a connectedness with God and his creation where ego is appropriately placed, freedom to travel and enjoy life with friends, and enough substance and presence of mind to contribute back to God’s creation in such a way that makes you both bigger and smaller at the same time. Yes gentlemen, conceive of a vision, write it down, and act upon it with daily consistency.

If you are like me and pretty much everyone else on the planet, then this topic is not easily done. Because consistency is predicate on you resolving yourself to the task which waivers with each passing day. You go to bed and wake up a different person. That’s why it’s important to have a couple someone’s in your life where you can commit your vision to. An Ironmen group can do that. The power in this idea of creating a vision for your life and getting 2 other guys to hold you accountable cannot be understated.

Get motivated and get going on your life. There’s nothing to lose but a lower version of yourself.

To your abundance,

Dave Marr

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By | November 24th, 2017|Personal|0 Comments

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