Every Day Your Best

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
– James 1:2-7

I can feel the fatigue. It’s like a vulture perched on my shoulders. With 238 emails to go, a few hundred more messages, and never ending lists to do, I try to muster whatever energy last night’s broken sleep allowed me, and sit on the dining table to type. I have to practice what I preach. “If you go to the gym and you’re not exhausted after, did you really get a workout? If you went to battle with the day, if you went to work, and your soul isn’t stretched, did you really live that day?” I like to ask my team. “Being tired is proof you didn’t hold back on life. Don’t hold back on life. Someday, you’ll look back, and you’ll have one of two thoughts: Woah! Look at what we’re now able to accomplish or Yikes! What happened to the time? Why don’t I have much to show? You don’t want to be the latter. Don’t hold back on life. Give every day the very best that you’ve got.”

What does it mean to give your best? Let me tell you exactly what it means:

  1. It means you’re a net contributor (not a net taker): this simply means your life contributes significantly more to the world than it takes, and I don’t mean some cheap inspiration, but contributes to the purpose, growth, and freedom of others. It means we seek to give back to our parents, not merely live off them. It means we discipline ourselves to be effective at work, not merely use the job for money or prestige. It means that we are vigilant about supporting our spouse’s success more, not merely preoccupied with our own expectations and entitlements. It means we are serious about making concrete contributions, NOT merely wanting to be appreciated for random acts we do at our own convenience, despite not consistently making an impact because we lack maturity to embrace the necessary discipline and hardship true impact requires. Giving each day your best means accepting the hardships of the day, facing them bravely, calmly, with faith, and with a determination that despite our own adversity, we will not only succeed, but, in the process, become an overwhelming source of goodness instead of walking talking drains.
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  3. It means your energy is wisely being spent on purpose (not randomly). People want the freedom to do whatever they want, when they want, how they want, why they want, and it’s true we are free to live so to a point. But we are not free to choose the consequences of living without purpose. Purpose for me is an inner North Star to help me make sense of the swirling storm inside me. When there are options, and challenges, and offers, and doubts, and guilt, and dreams, and responsibilities, I close my eyes and imagine a bright light in the dark stormy skies of my soul, and I tell myself “sail there”.  Do I wake up even though I’m tired? I look at the light of purpose and say, “rise there”. Do I study even if I’m weary? I look at the light of purpose and say, “illuminate these words.” What should I do with my day? What should I do with my weekends? What should I do with my after-work? What should I do – period? I look at the light of my purpose and I say, “Here I come.” To live purposefully simple means to live “on-purpose” meaning, you base your thoughts and actions on the why of your life, your reason for being, and this better be more than some formulaic logic or some inspirational fart as life’s curveballs won’t sustain these. The best description I’ve heard of purpose is that it is a great furnace inside. You know you’re living on purpose if you’re burning for it every day.
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  5. Finally, It means you grew as much as possible in every possible way. It means reaching out. It means digging deep. It means stretching beyond your limits. It means challenging yourself. The Bible says that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man. Even Jesus improved in these areas. I like it that the word used was “grew” meaning, He added to what wisdom, stature, and favor He originally started with. In the same way, we are gifted with an infinite capacity to learn and expand ourselves, but too many times, we limit ourselves to the easy stuff, the comfortable topics, the subjects we get. We don’t allow ourselves to be challenged, to transcend, and to overcome our weaknesses. To grow in every way means to get good at math even if you’re not a math person, because you know it can only make your life better. It means improving in language and communications even if you’re not a communicator, knowing that it’s an important step to connecting with others. It means challenging the limits we’ve placed on ourselves and the statements we’ve accepted about things we can and cannot learn. It means being humble throughout life, saying, “Good days, bad days, friend, adversity, teach me. I want to learn.”

I’m tired. I can feel the vultures claws tightening. I smile to myself at the thought, that once again I gave today the very best of me. 

I Was Supposed to be Great

“I was supposed to be great.”

I looked at the weathered man who spoke those words. He looked beaten tough by a difficult life but now contrite with aging of regret.  “I was supposed to be great.” He said again.

“You are great, Michael.” I encouraged him, well, more reminded him. He was great after all. A loved author, an amazing painter, a strong athlete, who had that rare combination of art and business savvy, he managed to build a more than comfortable portfolio, though he always says it was all luck.

“It wasn’t me, David.” He always said. “It wasn’t me. I was lucky in those areas.”
“No, David.” He said solemnly. “I am not great.” He gently and slowly patted his chest with a clenched fist. “I was supposed to be great. But I am not.”

I listened to him and wondered what he meant. How could such an accomplished man feel so broken as a failure?

“Look at that mountain” Michael said, pointing to the solitary peak in the distance, now a dark violet against the setting the sun behind it. “Do you see it?” He asked.

“It’s the only mountain there. Of course I see it.”

“Don’t get smart with me, boy.”

“I see it.”

“Is that mountain great?” He asked.

“I guess. I answered. It’s pretty big.”

“So bigger makes greater?” He followed up.

“I guess for mountains.”

“Franco!” Michael called out to his visibly overweight valet, who was waxing the car bellow the balcony.

“Yes, Sir Michael.” He responded dutifully.

“You, Franco, are the greatest of us.” then he looked at me and winked.

“Um… Thank you sir.” Franco said, not knowing what that was about.

“He’s not a mountain.” I told Michael.

“Franco!” Michael called to him once more. “Are you a mountain?”

“A mountain, sir?”

“Yes, a mountain. Are you a mountain?”

“I do not understand you sir. But no, I am not a mountain.”

“Then you are not great.” Michael said plainly.

Franco looked at him, then at me. I simply drew circles in the air beside my temple. Franco shrugged and went back to waxing the car.

“I saw that.” Michael said grumpily.

“Saw what?” I asked.

“The crazy sign. I saw you make he crazy sign. Doesn’t matter now I supposed. Who cares if I’m crazy? I am not great. But I was supposed to be you know. I was supposed to be great. Mountains are great. I could have been a mountain. But they gutted me. Like a gold mine they took everything I had inside. Now I’m a shell. I am nothing.”

“You’re not nothing” I reassured him, wondering who ‘they’ were. Who gutted him so bitterly? And how could he be thinking of this now. “You’re about to receive an award tonight, Michael. A lifetime achievement award. You’re obviously norm nothing.”

“It’s a nothing award given by nobodies to nobodies” he said gruffly. “I don’t even why I agreed to show up.”

“You agreed because you were invited. You’re being invited because you’re being awarded. You’re being awarded because you’re great! Can’t you see the logic?” I said getting exasperated by his self pity.

“I am not great. I am a shell. If you let them empty you. They will. Listen to me. If you let them empty you. They will. Franco! Let’s get ready to leave. You’re not coming with us are you, David?”

“No sir. The awarding is for you. I’m needed elsewhere.” I replied.

“I envy you young boys in young love with young girls. I envy you. Too stupid to ruin love.”

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“You understand. When your heart is smarter, you’ll understand. I have no time to explain this to you. I have an award to receive remember? An award!”

“Congratulations Michael. See you tomorrow.” I shook his hand.

“Send my condolences to your unlucky date. Tell her she’s better off dead than with you.” He said looking at me straight.

“You’re an ass” I told him.

“No. I’m a shell.”

Missionaries Not Mercenaries

I wrote a post for our company blog on the type of team we’re building. As readers of my blog know, business is a big part of how I express the freedom and creative calling God has given all of us. I’ve come to appreciate the shared thoughts and ideas of other business people as I’ve learned a lot from. I told myself that I would be as generous as possible in business as well.

Building a great team is incredibly important for success in anything, and a great level of care and deliberate action goes into this exercise. At Bridge, through a lot of trial and testing, we’re learning more about the type of person we’re looking for to achieve our mission. Here is our list so far: Missionaries Not Mercenaries