Relational

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Santa and Family Traditions

Another Christmas. It really is a time of renewal and hope for people. And when life doesn’t go well, Christmas time lays bare the memories that could have been, the disconnnectedness one can feel from family and friends, and the spiritual deficit that is possible. Therefore, here at the fulcrum of your life you need to decide for yourself, regardless of what childhood memories were wrapped as your present, how you will create memories. Therefore, I thought I’d describe some of our family traditions that have made our life fantastic.

Our youngest was 2 years old when we suggested that they sleep under the Christmas tree and wait for Santa. All 3 kids still believed in Santa and as they lay looking up at the twinkling lights of the tree, they talked and squirmed at the excitement of Santa’s arrival. They whispered guesses as to what he was going to leave them, encouraged sleep so he would arrive sooner, pretended sleep to catch a glimpse, and flail arms and legs at uncontainable excitement. Eventually, when time and youth overcame and sleep was unavoidable, Santa would finally come and bring presents wrapped in special paper so as not to give doubts. He would bite the cookie and sip the milk. Presents were place around the children and some actually inside the sleeping bags. That would bring the most excitement. “How did he do that?!!!”

The rule was they couldn’t wake mommy and daddy up till 7. It taught patience, respect and self control. We would wake up and have the stocking presents before breakfast. Then make a big feast with banana pancakes, eggs, bacon, fresh squeezed orange juice, and fruit. We’d clean up and then gorge on the material haul. Each child expressing short term appreciation for each gift until the next was opened. My philosophy was that gifts should hit different categories: one for fun, one for the mind, one for the body, and the rest are practical – socks, underwear, pajamas, etc.

Traditions are so foundational to family culture. Traditions to dads aren’t what they are to kids. Maybe I’m being cynical not coming from an upbringing that had closely held traditions, but the kids own these annual events with a fierceness that surprised me. One tradition that I encourage is taking a family picture every year and sending it to your friends. Don’t send just the dog, that’s a little pathetic. Don’t send just the kids, that says there’s no family unity. The kids will look at the family evolution depicted by the Christmas cards taped on some door along with all the other cards you get. That ends up being pretty cool. Another tradition that we did was read a Christmas book “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”. We all loved it. We watched the greatest movie ever made: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. We’d go over to Aunt Sue’s for Christmas Eve. Some traditions were obligations, but most were not.

This little child phase is a period of your life that is idyllic on which you will look back as dreamland. Cherish it. Let all conflict pass by without escalation because this period goes quickly enough followed by a more complex period. This is the Santa era and is special. Santa represents an innocence and simplicity that is fun and should be treated lightly. He’ll fade like some ephemeral morning haze and the residual will remain as a love of Christmas time. A good trade-off. Some families struggle with the idea of Santa due to their spiritual beliefs, but I don’t think kids can make those principled distinctions. It’s fun and life needs to build that reservoir before you’re 8.

As the family leader, take the best of your and your wife’s Christmas past and make conscious decisions to play the games, trim the tree, drink the eggnog, sing the carols, pray with the family, read the stories, and immerse yourself in the season. You have something special that too few enjoy.

Discuss in your group, family traditions that you want to incorporate into your family life. Steal the best ones.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | December 20th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

The Baton

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 mile stone, 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.

I wrote this when I went to my wife’s father’s funeral. This week my Dad would have been 82. You Ironmen, time moves faster than you can possibly imagine. Make sure you place honor on those whose shoulders you stand. Reach out this weekend and tell them how much you appreciate them.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | November 15th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

Sex (vol 1)

Sex is a central issue, both a cause and effect, in the health or ill health of families because it is a foundational element in the male/female relationship and therefore creates or fails to create well-being for the entire family. As a core element of the relationship, a couple’s sex life can be generalized as a barometer of well-being. If there is mutual happiness and satisfaction in sex, so goes the relationship. If sex is not mutually satisfying, there are issues afoot. So bedroom issues don’t stay just in the bedroom.

This Letter is the start of one guy’s non-clinical views on what a healthy sex life is and how to get there. The hope here is that this introduction can lead to discussions where men can exchange perspectives in a positive forum that leads to increased growth towards a happy, healthy sex life and greater family well-being. In all my years of talking with other guys, I’ve rarely, rarely discussed sex in a salacious manner. Despite what the media might portray, guys just don’t do that. As uncomfortable though as this topic may be, we should cover anything worthy of discussion as long as we’re heading leading toward the goal of greater family well-being. Sex topics certainly fit that criteria.

For example,
* How do men and women reconcile different sexual drives?
* What role does fantasy play in sex?
* How does family leadership affect your sex life?
* Do children affect sexual intimacy?
* What is sexual intimacy?
* Is porn destructive to the family?

Sex is viewed differently as people age and mature, as relationships change, as children enter the scene, as economics change, as stress is introduced, as marriage is challenged and as those challenges are surmounted or not, and as hormones fluctuate. Fortunately society handles the whole thing with dignity and delicacy. Oh wait, strike that. Society does a horrible job regarding sex.

I guess the best place to start when trying to communicate something that has many meanings is to define terms. Sex is generically used as a term to reference interaction between body parts of two people. But that definition is pretty limiting. Between a husband and wife, sex is more commonly used to reference the act of coitus, making love. However, sex has so many facets and nuances that it might make sense to identify the many scenarios of sex to draw out the meaningful elements that inhibit or enhance a couple’s sex life.

Discovery Sex is an introduction into sex acts or of a new relationship. Enjoying the pleasures of one’s own body and providing pleasure to someone else’s seems like the nirvana of sex. Newness can last years as God’s ever refreshing batteries seek discharge. However, for some, the psychological aspects of sex quickly emerge. Newness wears off and chasing frontiers of exploration often separate men from women as different comfort zones develop. Furthermore, women’s connection to sex is significantly more emotional than men’s; therefore, men appear to pursue the physical act of sex while women pursue the relational. The thrill of Discovery Sex can be mistaken for love. Lust is confused with love which sometimes leads individuals to seek that newness elsewhere in order to recreate that thrill rather than do the heavy lifting of recreating the relationship.

Love Making – Let’s call this our base line. It’s the intimate act where husband and wife share intercourse in order to give and get mutually. Each partner pursues pleasure in a balance of selfishness and selflessness that establishes sharing and intimacy not found in other aspects of the relationship. The fore play and after play aspects of sex establish important relational ritual. This type of sex is the heart and soul of a healthy sex life in marriage. A balanced exchange of all life’s elements provides context for Love Making. For the man, sex is a precursor to harmony; whereas for women, harmony is a precursor to sex.
Pre Travel Sex is sex before one heads out of town for a night. The relational reason ostensibly is to wish him well with an act of love. If a multi-night stay away, it’s an opportunity to be together before a long absence. At some level, it could be a reminder of what awaits at home with a faithful return and a subtle request to be faithful.
Fantasy Sex in mature relationships is more akin to Discovery Sex than normal Love Making. A more prolonged time together where sex is the objective and the normal routine is set aside for more variety. In younger relationships Discovery and Fantasy may be synonymous, but as time passes, more factors become part of the equation can leave Fantasy outside the bedroom door. Fantasy is a outward exhibition of passion and desire and is an important psychological element in sex, primarily for men, but requires a delicate relational balance to maintain. It likely requires more focus and intentionality from the woman’s part when hormonal input that is lacking during segments of the menstrual cycle. Though a man likely can participate in an instant’s notice, Fantasy Sex is a relational objective that takes a great deal more than just showing up. Therefore being an intentional family leader is key to a successful Fantasy Sex life.

Vacation Sex is the carefree opportunity to return to a life of adventure in an environment outside of the norm. Fantasy Sex during a vacation is more likely if enough of the other boxes are checked, children taken care of, hormones available, no time crunch, and time together is maximized.

Assistance Sex is when a woman is on her period, but a man would prefer to ‘be together’ anyway. It’s a substitute for Love Making. The couple must navigate the rocky terrain of Assistance due to a woman feeling ‘unclean’ during her period, unsexy, unhelpful, and possibly unloved. If Assistance is routinely requested without reciprocating physical touch, the woman will build up a belief her main purpose in life is to provide a man physical release. The reciprocation (back rubs, hair stroking, foot rubs, etc,) must be genuine and untethered to Assistance or it will be seen as manipulation and given no credence.

Accommodation Sex is when one party, typically the woman, provides her body while half heartedly engaging emotionally or psychologically. She submits to a man’s physical drives without participating fully. There is a subtle but meaningful difference between participating without the ability or intent to orgasm for the woman and just submitting physically in order to avoid conflict. If she’s filing her nails or reading a book, solid clues you’re having Accommodation Sex. Intimacy requires two people, so Accommodation Sex is a woman’s partial retreat from the relationship when something within the relationship is amiss, but not so broken that a full withdrawal from sex is required. Or, if the relationship is so imbalanced the woman feels she must submit out of duty, for the children’s sake, for economics, or for safety. If any of those reasons exist, intimacy is not on the menu.

Physical Touch is intimate contact throughout the daily relationship. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature, and likely shouldn’t be, but is critical for developing a loving relationship for those who relate to world physically. Holding hands, making contact whenever you pass by with loving intent while avoiding groping is quality physical touch.
No doubt there are other scenarios that provide meaningful distinctions. By providing these different definitions, the idea is to show that there are commonalities within all our marriages that sex evolves and follows common paths as men and women age, as children enter the scene, as relationships mature or are challenged by the many circumstances of life. Sex seems to be a barometer of health, but not always in a straightforward manner.

There is much more to say and I will say it, but for now…

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | October 4th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

Women, Continued

The softness of her skin, the feel of her hand in mine, the taste of her lips,  the laughter in her eyes, the sway of her waist, the roundness of her breasts, the response of her body to my touch, the tickle she feels at the nape of her neck, the comfort she coos in the crook of my arm, and the smell of her fills me with desire. It is because she is woman that I am man.  The sight of her affects me. The companionship with her fills me.  The feel of her arouses me.  The idea of her motivates me. The engagement with her changes me. The partnering with her defines me.  

The impact women have on our lives cannot be overstated.  They love us; nurture us; motivate us; console us; care for us; organize us; give us feedback that supports us or brings us back to reality.  Women, due to their nature, confuse us; anger us; demand of us; temper us; sharpen us; reconcile with us; and are loyal to us sometimes beyond reason.  It has been so from the beginning because they are our suitable helpers.  

Suitable is an interesting word.  Having observed many marriages for a couple of decades, I can safely say that pretty much every couple I know is suitably matched, though not always harmoniously.  I think God has created something incredibly brilliant here.  He leads with lust and sexual attraction which I’m cool with, then he follows up with this increasingly complex thing called a relationship.  Then comes children and responsibility.  Wow, what a brilliant system to draw you in with candy and sweets then harness your male abilities to “provide and protect”.  This has been going on for thousands of years.  Unfortunately lately, “No Fault Divorce” seems to give men and women a door to escape which is almost off its hinges from overuse.

Let’s start with the ideal and work backwards.  A suitable helper ideally is an ally that satisfies relationally, physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically, functionally and financially which ultimately lifts each person to new levels of well-being.  Good enough.  So why is the divorce rate around 50%?

It seems to me there are 3 relationships in a single man/woman relationship: The man with himself; the woman with herself; and the man and woman with each other.  Each of these relationships must develop by resolving life’s issues in order to be suitable for the other.  As a young man, you need to be reasonably mature in order to enter into a successful lifelong relationship.  A man can’t have the maturity of a moody and frustrated 17 year old, can’t lack reasonable ambition, can’t be selfish and lazy, and can’t procrastinate at meaningful forks in the road.   If so, the relationship doesn’t work out very well for the woman.  A man can’t have major mom and dad issues.  For example, if his parents were divorced and he grew up without a good model of what loving conversations look like, how to treat a woman, how to eat at the dinner table, how to resolve conflict amicably, how to divvy up responsibilities during the week, how to effectively use languages of love, how to reasonably delay gratification, and how to create a household that fosters growth.  If a guy doesn’t have these things in his conscious or subconscious, then it could be a major problem in building something he has no experience in.  And then there’s the comfort or discomfort a young man has with his spiritual and religious life.  Will this blend harmoniously with her upbringing and take the family to a life of well-being?   

All these elements are the base from which a man engages a woman and begins to sort through life’s challenges. Of course, same thing for her.  The reason I think the divorce rate is so high is because if one or both of the two have unresolved issues, the relationship has extra unstated challenges.  All the divorces that I know enough about to draw conclusions from I’d say were due to unstated base issues.  These issues were not addressed early and often and therefore problems grew out of proportion to the point of being unmanageable.

The idea of suitability gets tricky here.  In order to grow into a man that has a balanced life and the respect of his peers, a man must identify and resolve the issues of his mind and soul.  He can only do that within an exclusive, intimate relationship of a woman.  Without this exclusive intimacy, a man cannot resolve the conflicts of inner/outer realities.  A woman suitably creates a contrast that must be resolved in order to reestablish harmony.  This results in growth.  I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement on this.  The degree and depth to which a couple becomes intimate can only occur as a result of continual engagement and resolution of life’s many issues.  To think divorce is not a possibility in one’s life is foolish when 1 of 2 marriages end that way. Enjoy the good times; prepare for difficulty.

The Irommen’s design is to get together with two other men and discuss success in all areas of life, particularly relationships.  Though this may sound trite, if you have tremendous success in business, but lack someone to deeply and meaningfully share it with, success can feel pretty empty.  Conversely, if you don’t achieve business success but have a deep abiding love of a woman, your life will still have meaning.  Of course, it’s nice to have both.  Ironmen enhances a relationship with a woman by practicing the qualities of intentionality, transparency, and accountability, not to mention having loyal men to brainstorm solutions to current relationship challenges.

The takeaways here are thus:

  • You can’t become a larger more mature adult without having a quality exclusive relationship with a woman. Don’t miss this point because it intones conflict resolution.

  • The woman you end up choosing to be with will end up being suitable to your development.

  • In an Ironmen group you gain insights and maturity, skills and character, vision and discipline, initiative and intentionality.  All of which will help your growing life of well-being with a woman.

In your Ironmen Group, you should identify what you’re looking for in your future wife whether you’re married now or not even dating.  Also talk about how did your parent’s marriage was and how you’d improve on it?  Lastly, I’ve already written a discussion on sex.  It’ll be a multi part series.

To your future success,

Dave

 

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By | August 23rd, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

Women

Women

“My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps…..”

Yeah, ok, so let’s call that one way to describe it.  However women may be described, one thing is inescapable; they fill our thoughts, our passions, our days and our dreams.  Men are irresistibly drawn to women on many levels.  Let’s agree that after 10,000+ years of this, it’s complicated and seemingly getting more so.

Each human is layered with spiritual DNA, biological DNA, personality, and upbringing.  Each layer contributes to our unique approach to life and importantly how we relate to women.  Biologically, we are driven to have sex and ultimately to procreate.  It’s marginally controllable, we’re not cavemen that take sex by force, but it’s a major factor in our lives.  From a spiritual standpoint, we desire intimacy, to know and be known.  This relational feature develops over time and is critically important as relationships develop.  The nurturing we received as children plays a role in what we find attractive.  For example, it didn’t occur to me till late in my relationship that my wife (blonde haired, blue-eyed, Lis) is similar in disposition to my mom (one time blonde, blued-eyed, Liz).  Did I have some sort of Freudian desire for my mom? Gross.  But it likely influenced what I thought was attractive.  God took care of the rest.

Women have certain imperatives as well which can be harmonious with those of men, given enough work between the two. Young girls have been described as mean and manipulative.  That biological trait is designed as a mechanism for women to develop the skill of competing against other women for men’s attention and then, as the “weaker sex”, be able to manage a stronger, potentially volatile mate.  Is it a conscious act to be manipulative?  I doubt it.  It’s a gift.  At some level, her objective is to find a suitable mate that can provide her with babies, then provide and protect her and the babies.  Let’s agree that level is largely below the surface.  Not entirely, but largely.

At the surface women are infinitely more complex.  Their desires are varyingly mature or immature depending on the time of day or month.  In the end, “most” women will succumb to their long-term desires.   To the degree that a man lines up with those desires of being physically fit, filled with purpose and direction, and is a reasonable social partner, he will be acceptable to women…many women.  However, if that man continues to pursue ‘many women’ after finding one woman (infidelity), he will forego one of the true satisfying pleasures of life – intimacy.  It takes persistence to work through the skill development necessary to navigate power sharing and harmonization in order to get through to the higher levels of intimacy.

Humps and lumps will never lose their allure for men and therefore remain part of her power base to maintain safety, but as men mature toward self-governance, a more mutual power sharing arrangement can be had.   

Yeah, like I said, it’s complicated.

 

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By | August 16th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

Engaging in Your Life

There has been a lot of new people join the Ironmen project.  On Fridays I send out a thought or two regarding Physical, Economic, Relational, Spiritual, Personal,  and then a Summary recontextualizing those topics.  I have spoken personally with many of you who have started an Ironmen group and we are all in agreement that there isn’t enough time to read everything that comes across your screen, so I want to keep these Letters short and digestible.  Some of the feedback has been positively critical (like on when one becomes an adult) of one thing or another to which I am very grateful that you’d care enough to take the time to respond.  The goal here is to pierce the noise so that you who are on the front end of your adult lives stop for a couple of hours and work on your plan, work on your lives rather than only working in your plan and lives. This is an important distinction in business and in life.  You need to spend important and valuable time thinking about thinking, discussing which perspectives to hold, which hill to climb and which hill to die on.

In talking with Mario, he re-started his workout regime because he recognized it’s so easy to get caught up in starting a business and dealing with a newborn that you can easily become boiled.  Kudos. (Don’t Let Your Frog Boil)

I got quite a bit of feedback on the discussion on Money (The Truth About Money).  Understanding that money is directly tied to your economic value and indirectly related to your attitudes about money and wealth is very important for you to come to grips with in your life.  Start a conversation about how your parents lived their life (non judgmentally of course) and note what stands out.  

I didn’t get much feedback on the Father/Son discussion. (Re-Parenting: Father and Son) though I think this is a key to a successful life.  The Sins of the Father (Exodus 20:5) will be visited on subsequent generations unless you put a stake in the ground and decide as, for example, my father did, “I WILL NOT HIT MY WIFE! “  Who you are is significantly a consequence of the choices made by your parents of which you may not even aware.  Becoming aware, evaluating, forgiving, and choosing anew can instead establish the Blessings of the Father being visited upon the third and fourth generation.

Starting a discussion about Spiritual Truth is like being in the middle of the Sahara.  The only way to contemplate progress is to put a stake in the ground somewhere and begin.  Searching for Spiritual Truth is an endless conversation no matter which path you take.  The reason parables are so effective is because every time you come to contemplate it, you are different and so the message is richer and speaks to where you are at the time.  Your view of what IS is and what TRUTH is will affect how your relationship with your wife develops, what kind of father you will be, how you will succeed in economics, and developing a healthy sense of well-being.  TRUTH (Reality) and PURPOSE are inextricably linked (unless you’re a nihilist or atheist).; PURPOSE (the Why of your life) and PROCESS (the How of your life) are also connected.

Finally, last week’s Letter was about engaging in your life, owning full responsibility for all aspects of your circumstances, and having the mindset that you have power to positively affect your life. Don’t Be a Victim to Victimhood.  It’s very easy to dismiss this warning as not applicable to you.  I would say that everyone has some degree of victimhood as a part of their current makeup.  It’s a natural defense mechanism designed to protect one’s self esteem.  But this weed left untended can overrun the garden.  The sooner you engage with the notion that you are solely responsible for your life, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the outcome, the better off you’ll be.  It’s actually a much more secure path in the long run than getting someone else to take care of you like your parents or the government because ultimately they will let you down.  It’s the way of the world.  You may find this debateable, so check around.  And a somewhat advanced thought that is very debatable is that you should not be a victim to someone else’s victimhood.  Engagement solves that, but I’ll cover this in one of my marriage topics.

So the formula is: Intention – perspectives – vicarious experience – nuance – awareness – different perspective – increased maturity =  the Ironmen idea.  If you’re reading this and haven’t started a group, I promise you with all my heart and soul, do it and you’ll be glad you did.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | July 26th, 2013|Economic, Personal, Physical, Relational, Spiritual, Summaries|0 Comments

Re-Parenting Father and Son

I love my Dad.  He died a few years ago, but I think of him all the time and wish he were still a part of my life, that he could see my family grow, could see my accomplishments and be proud of me.  I still very much long for his approval.  

My Dad had his shortcomings to say the least.  When I was around 4, he traded me to our neighbors.  Told me to pack up and head over to the Rassmussen’s.  As I was crying with my belongings in a suitcase walking out the door, he said that they didn’t want me and I had to stay.  Pretty funny stuff there.  When I was in my teens, he told me that even though I wasn’t much of a baseball player, I was the best dressed on the team.  Hmmm, that was a huge shot of encouragement.  In Dad’s entire parenting life, he never once told me he loved me.  When I got my MBA, my wife invited my parents out to Denver for the graduation ceremony.  They declined.

Ok, I’m an adult now and the sting of those things aren’t painful to me anymore.  I’m a father with three adult children and I understand my Dad a lot more now than then.  When I was 4, he was 34.  He had grown up on the farm with 4 brothers and an alcoholic, wife-beating Dad. As soon as he could he left and went into the Navy.  He got a scholarship to the Naval Academy and entered the Air Force afterwards – flew F-100’s.  His life was hard and not filled with lots of emotional development.  So Dad had to figure things out on his own.  

Was he trying to be mean to me?  Of course not.  He was joking about the trade and the baseball “encouragement”.  He thought it would toughen me up.  The no “I Love You”’s?  He really didn’t know how to say it.  The skipped graduation? He’d fallen on hard times and couldn’t afford it and wouldn’t take money from me.  I love my Dad and thought he was a great guy, but he was…human.

Here’s the thing: The BEST parents in the world will make mistakes.  Children will hear something incorrectly or misinterpret something or make incorrect assumptions.  Every child grows up in a different family than his siblings.  Each child has his own personality, unique qualities, and birth order.  These things make the family experience very different.  So much so that two similar aged brothers can walk away from childhood with very, very different results.  Parents say one thing and each child hears something different.  Tough crowd sometimes.

So what is a guy to do?  Re-parent.

It’s important that you recall your upbringing, keep the good, toss out the bad.  If you’re stuck on something particularly painful, at some point you might bring it up and get clarity.  But don’t hang on to bitterness or the feeling of being victimized by a horrible upbringing.  No matter how bad it was, someone else had it worse.  My buddy’s father told him “Marrying your mother was a huge mistake.  I don’t want you in my life.  How much money will it take to never see you again?”  Pretty tough on a teenager.  This sent him  into a major tailspin with drugs, alcoholism, and attempted suicide.  But eventually, with God’s help, he overcame.  At some point in your life you have to accept the cards you were dealt, forgive, and move to improve. You can’t whine about it; just decide to be bigger, forgive, learn, and don’t repeat.  The forgiveness thing is a pretty big deal. It helps the pain subside faster.  Sure you may have truly had a shitty Dad and it would have been nice if things were different, but they weren’t.  So by working on forgiving and letting it go, you can move on and not let it ruin the rest of your life.  People aren’t shit heads to kids because they’re mean.  They’re that way usually because, given the circumstances, it’s the best they could do.  We’ll talk about forgiveness a bit because it colors just about every waking perspective you have. Without it, good luck in your marriage, climbing the corporate ladder, keeping any success you achieve, and enjoying your kids. Forgiveness is huge.

Should you decide to confront your parents with something that’s bothering you, you might want to be prepared to be disappointed all over again, but at least you’ve got the balls to seek a mature engagement.  Accusations won’t be a great plan, but seeking understanding can be worthwhile.  “Dear Father, Dear Son” by Larry Elder is a great example of a black kid reconciling with his dad.  Quick worthwhile read.

The real key in re-parenting is to figure out how you would have done it better and work on your heart.  Your wife and kids will benefit tremendously from this heavy lifting.  And it is heavy lifting. The Father-Son dynamic absolutely affects who you are, how you love yourself and others, and how your life manifests before you (more on this later).  The earlier you dig into it and deal with all the issues, the better your life. I would put this as the number one factor in a healthy marriage since it is bound in your self esteem.  This topic in your Ironmen group will certainly create a bond amongst you.

To your continued success.

Dave

 

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By | July 5th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

Strategic Thinking

Ten weeks ago, I approached many of you and requested that you participate in this Ironmen initiative.  Since then, we’ve sent out 60 quotes and 10 letters.  I hope you have at least one takeaway thus far.  Chances are, depending on where you are in life, there will be a few worthy takeaways per section.  The point of Ironmen is that you are the one whose success is impacted. Everyone is currently on a growth trajectory regardless of Ironman; but my goal is to positively influence the trajectory just a bit.  Having you create a well lived life of abundance is the goal.  Ironmen is but a tool designed to remind you that you need to be strategic in your thinking and your life.  Strategic thinking about the big issues in your life is to figure yourself out, to gain confidence in your thoughts and actions, to develop stronger leadership in your relationships, career, and health, and to radiate well being to your family, friends, and community.  Be the ball Danny.

There’s a parable that I like about the sower of seeds.  

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”  – Matthew 13.

Of the many ways to look at this parable, the reason I like this and why this is relevant to your story is it captures the essence of your life.  Seeds represent your efforts, your plans, the opportunities that come your way, the relationship you have (or will have) with your wife, your strength, your maturity, your ability to produce an abundant garden of well-being.  Those are the seeds of your life that you want to plant and nurture into a beautiful garden that will bring you respect and happiness.  You are the strategic farmer.  Ironmen is the hoe.  (No boats and hoe jokes, please).

So far the letters have only talked about your internal development.  The post on The Physical discussed how you can get out of your comfort zone by pushing yourself physically which will build character that will give you insight into other aspects of your life.  The Career/Economics discussion was about Habits and observing how you think.  It discussed the reality that we are linked, if not bound, to our upbringing and that our habits are tied to our past. To succeed you must evaluate that past and substitute where necessary to build daily success habits.  The Relationships section discussed that creating a life with someone takes time and perseverance.  Conflict is a beneficial and necessary requirement to a successful relationship.  Without it (shallow soil), your roots don’t go very deep.  The Spiritual post discussed that you have a God-given magic jar that expands as you push yourself forward––emphasis on push.  And The Personal discussed the need to check yourself for arrogance and a closed mind.  Each of these posts say essentially the same thing like hoeing different rows in the same garden – it’s the quality of your character that will determine the quality of your life.

Going back to my thought above, the difference between tactical and strategic can be described this way: Tactical deals with efficiency and effectiveness (A salesman that wants to increase his income would go on sales calls, get increasingly better at interpersonal skills, learn more about the product, group his meetings in geographic areas so as to not waste time).  Strategic thinking deals with factors that are of a different category or of a greater magnitude (Salesman wants to start his own company some day, so learns everything he can about his industry, his company, goes to school at night to get a higher degree, looks for opportunities).

Ironmen is a strategic decision to dedicate 2 hours per week on thinking about your life both tactically and strategically.  The emails I send out are trivial compared to the rich discussions you have with your mates.  You need to strip away the less mature aspects of your youth, focus on who you are in the process of becoming, own the beneficial and detrimental of your past,  be serious about learning to bring forth your God provided talents and spirit, and engage fully into all aspects of your life.  That is what Ironmen is for. If you haven’t started your group yet, your future awaits.

 

To your continued success,

 

Dave

 

In addition to feedback on how you like the emails, format, frequency, and idea, can you send me some issues in your life that I can integrate (anonymously of course) into my discussions?  We’ve started 5 topics that we’ll be developing going forward, so your questions, comments, insights would be welcome.

 

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By | June 14th, 2013|Financial, Personal, Physical, Relational, Spiritual, Summaries|0 Comments

Relationships

“What can you do today that would absolutely destroy the relationship you have with your wife? Can you come up with 3 things that would end your marriage today?”

This question was posed by life coach Zig Ziglar at a seminar I went to in 1985. He was very funny, so the crowd reacted with laughter as he said it because it was totally unexpected. Everyone was expecting the typical and constructive: “What are the 3 things you can do to build your relationship?” But sometimes it is the exact opposite question we should ask ourselves.

Zig’s point is a good one: It requires huge amounts of time, energy, money, and emotional investment to build something worthwhile, but only takes a moment to destroy it. What great things in our world have taken only an instant to create? I can’t think of anything. Health can be destroyed with a needle. Savings…please, a card made of plastic can bury you. Reputation? Lie to the wrong person and it could spell disaster. Absolutely – a lifetime to develop and a weekend on a yacht with a hooker to destroy (see Gary Hart). And how much time and energy were needed to buy the property, develop the plans, arrange the financing to build and then lease the twin towers in New York?

Like all worthy things, personal character also takes time to build. It is the foundation of your life, your happiness, your economic success, your health and your relationships. You have inherited a bit of your present mode from your parents: how you relate to women; how you react to feedback; how you handle stress; how you express happiness; how you recover from disappointment, and on and on and on. At some point, you pass into an age of accountability where you can’t look to them (or blame them) anymore. It’s your responsibility now to fix the past and design the future.

You carry your upbringing into your relationship with a woman.  Once you’ve been with her long enough to declare you’re a couple, you start navigating agendas, styles, respect, interests, goals, tendencies. These are relational power dynamics that you must navigate between you, your mate, and your childhood.  As each of these issues break the surface into your awareness, you lay down the foundation and build the walls of your character. Often times power struggles are heated and the lifting gets heavy. For example, like my Dad did pretty much my entire childhood, I wanted to watch TV after dinner.  Weirdly, I still expected to have sex with my wife before bed. Also weirdly, she didn’t think TV was proper relational foreplay, so sex wasn’t on the menu that night. I had to deal with my frustration for not getting my way. At any point you can say “screw it” and allow corrosion to set in, or you can remain dedicated. But a dedication to the relationship is more than just sticking with her. What it really looks like, is sticking to building character and fulfilling your self-selected responsibilities.  This is the picture of fulfilling your potential: not to just endure difficulties but to persevere through challenges and establish self mastery, find common ground, and create a win/win scenario. So once I recognized my wife was giving me feedback and not attacking and judging me, I was able to make compromises that didn’t subordinate my manhood to her complaints. By using conflict as an opportunity to grow instead of grudge, I got my ego out of the way and we found a way to strengthen our intimacy.

The Bible labels a spouse as a “suitable helper” in the book of Genesis when Adam laments his loneliness to God before the arrival of Eve. This is a perfect depiction of what every man is searching for. You ain’t perfect bucko, so someone who is suitable for you will provide the right combination of rewards and conflict to help you mature into the man and the leader you aspire to be. She will hold up a mirror to you every day that amazingly requires an ever-increasing sophistication to interpret. I have a friend whose particular style didn’t satisfy his wife any longer after 20 years of marriage. She complained about it often…that is until she stopped complaining and started seeing another man. Ultimately they divorced. He says the kids are fine now. Hmmmm….I wonder. The divorce rate is 50% for a reason and it’s not because every woman is a bitch. Men need to lead in certain areas for marriages to work out well. (Yes, women need to lead in their areas, too).

Here’s my point, relationships are God-given opportunities to go through life with someone, have inside jokes, laugh your butts off, play, have sex, reveal inner inner circle stuff with, and share the incredibly nuanced joy of raising children together. But it takes engagement from you. It takes the commitment to work through the myriad issues that present wonderful conflict that will result in you being lifted out of your current level of maturity into the next higher level of development. That’s where my friend went wrong; he didn’t use conflict to grow. He won the battles but lost the war.

Yes, you can destroy your relationship in an instant and thereby define yourself accordingly, but be a builder instead! Ironmen can help you brainstorm ways to navigate conflict issues by sharing commonalities.  If you haven’t started your own group yet, your future children will thank you if you did.

To your continued success.

Dave

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By | May 24th, 2013|Relational|1 Comment