If

I’ve become acutely aware of the word “IF.” It is a simple little word, seemingly unimportant, but it gets wielded in powerful and sometimes dangerous ways.

One of the definitions that Merriam-Webster provides for If is this: conjunction; on the condition that. This is the one that scares me and it is the one that I have started hearing like fingernails on a chalkboard…

  • If my boss realized how hard I work, I’d get that promotion.
  • If my spouse would only appreciate me, we’d have a better marriage.
  • If my company really valued me, they’d pay me what I’m worth.
  • If my kids would only practice their sport more, they’d be Division 1 prospects.
  • If I could just lose the weight, I’d feel better.
  • If I had only taken that job a few years back, I’d be happier now.
  • If __(fill in the name here)___ would only call me back, I could make that sale.
  • If we put ___(that important thing now)__ off, we’ll be able to do __(that bigger thing)___ later
  • If I wanted to run a half marathon again, I could.
  • If I were in charge of my happiness, here’s how I’d spend my life…

Those last three are mine, which is why I’ve been thinking about this recently. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used all of those other conditional phrases in this list too, but the last three are my most recent.

It was on the trip pictured at the top that I started thinking about this. It was my daughter’s 10th birthday and she had been promised a trip with dad to anywhere in the continental U.S. for a long weekend (her older brother had opted for Washington D.C. on his). My wife and I had been hoping to take the family to Europe in the next few years, so we debated as to whether or not her dream trip to New York City was a good use of money. We kept using the “if” to place conditions on the opportunity. In the end, we decided the father-daughter trip to NYC was worth it and Europe would have to wait. Man, am I glad we did.

On that trip, one morning I woke up early and wrote a journal entry I titled “Living my best Life.” It was all about the things I would do IF someone would pay me what I want to make to do what I want to do. After I wrote it, I reread it thinking, “wow, that would be awesome!” And then I sat back and asked myself – “What are you waiting for? Why is there an IF in this list? Why can’t you just do these things?” I didn’t realize it so much at the time, but that set in motion a series of changes in my life that have caused me to believe that the word IF has no place in my vernacular.

And then yesterday, on a morning run, I found it creeping in again. As I was doubting how my body was feeling I kept saying to myself, “you’ve run a marathon and several half marathons, IF you wanted to run another half you could.” There is was again, putting a condition on something instead of just doing it. That’s how those “IFs” become dangerous – they give us an excuse (the condition we place on the thing), that allows us to blame why we’re not doing something on that condition. I could blame the Europe trip for not taking my daughter to NYC or I can blame my current job situation on not living my best life, or I can blame not wanting to for why I don’t train harder to run another half marathon. That little word wields a lot of power in these scenarios.

So I’m eliminating the word “IF” from my vocabulary. I’m looking back at that journal post regularly and doing the things on my list as much as humanly possible; that actually was a major factor in a recent job change. I’m dragging my butt out of bed more and running a little farther every time because I AM going to run another half marathon. And I’m not allowing myself the excuse of “IF” for simple day to day things. Either do it or don’t do it; no conditions.

What IFs in your life are holding you back?

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What you see from Mountain Tops

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A week ago, our family hiked to the Highest Point East of the Mississippi – Mt. Mitchell – just a couple of hours from our home in North Carolina. It is amazing what you can and can’t see from a mountaintop.

Obviously, on a clear day from the top of a mountain you can see grand vistas and miles and miles of land laying out before you. When we were at Mt. Mitchell, we could see for probably a hundred miles to the West. On the other hand, you can literally have your view “clouded” at that height. Despite the fact that it was a beautiful fall day, our view to the East was only a mile or two as that side of the mountain was foggy and cloudy.

The other thing that struck me that day was that your perspective changes on the mountaintop. You sort of feel in a power position until you start to try to focus on specific things in the valley below you and recognize that the details are hard to make out from up there. You can gain a broader understanding of the terrain around you, but the exact twists and turns, rivers and rocks that you might encounter are difficult to discern.

The mountaintops of our lives can be the same – it feels great to be soaring high and seemingly in control of things. But when you look out on the horizon of your life from those high moments of life, it is sometimes a clear view and other times a bit cloudy. I’ve been experiencing this feeling a lot lately. Things are going great – a healthy, loving family, fantastic new house, professional successes, financial stability. But when I look out across the landscape, it is difficult to see the details of what might be ahead. Things are a little hazy and cloudy. So here’s what we did when we were on the physical mountaintop…

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We found the trail and started to walk down. And you know what we found out? There were things on that trail that were WAY cooler than what we could see from the mountaintop. There were interesting plants, rocks to climb on, side trails to explore, warm sunshine, and cool shady areas. It was rocky and steep in places and smooth and easy to walk in other places. But the journey along that trail was may more fun than just standing on the mountaintop.

I think that’s the plan for me in life today too – time to head down the trail and see what else is down there. I’m sure there will be some surprises, the trail may get tough again. But the walk is the adventure and life can only really be experienced if you get off your mountaintops and keep on going. Here’s to a good walk down life’s next trail.

Your Plate

Some mornings, I sit down at my desk to this:

empty-plate

An empty plate is not a bad thing. I can attest to the fact that starting a day or a week with an empty plate can be both invigorating and challenging (particularly for goal oriented people like me). It can be fun to have to really WORK to make things happen in your business and get things moving. On a personal level, having an empty plate for me usually means things are clicking along with my family, our finances, and friendships without much conflict or stress.

Empty plates can also cause me anxiety if they stay empty too long. Here’s where the danger comes for me – when I sit in front of an empty plate too long, I start to put things on it; often without considering if they go together or not. Pretty soon, I end up with this:

fullplate

As I start my week today, my plate looks a lot more like this mis-matched pile of goodness. Lots of great stuff on there to work through. For me today, I’ve got both personal and professional opportunity on my plate. I’ve got big potential changes for our family. I’ve got two huge projects wrapping up at work in the next month and two great opportunities to pitch this week. On top of that, I’ve piled on some extra work by teaching a college class this semester and we’re in the final planning stages of this year’s Jay Bilas Skills Camp. My gravy is dripping off the side!

A full plate can often be overwhelming. I’ve had nights where I wake up at 3am just thinking about everything that needs to be done. I’ve looked at “to do” lists on Monday that seem never-ending and just wanted to procrastinate it away. I have felt the stress of family and financial pressure pushing in all at the same time as the “gravy” of life spills over.

And this is what I’ve learned: The only way to clear the plate is one bite at a time. Furthermore, it is important to enjoy and savor every delicious bite. This week, as I sit here today staring at my plate, I’m going to slowly work through this full plate of responsibility, opportunity, fear, and possibility until it is cleared and I am satisfied that I’ve tasted each task or challenge to the fullest. And I’ll take my roll and wipe up every last drip of gravy that life has poured on top.

Life, the Liberty Bell, and the Pursuit of Happiness

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Last week was a good week. It all started with a Monday morning run and I knew it was going to be a good week.

The week started with LIFE, just regular old life, but we lived it. Between running the kids around, cleaning the house, work, and errands, our family made time to eat dinner together, play outside, and read books before bed. It was just life, but it was awfully satisfying.

On Thursday and Friday I traveled to Philadelphia for work. In Philly I did what I do best – new business development conversations to help drive business for our company and ongoing client relations with an existing client. Around work, I squeezed in a morning run in the historic district of the city, and stopped to snap the above picture of the LIBERTY BELL. It was pretty cool to run on cobblestone streets where Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Paul Revere once walked to the pub.

The weekend held the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Eight years ago I left the college basketball coaching world out of frustration with the ‘business’ the game had become and in search of more stability for my family. I still get frustrated with the business of the game, but in the last eight years I have realized that coaching the game of basketball is still a passion of mine. Over the weekend, I coached a boy’s high school AAU team in a tournament and was able to feed┬áthat passion. We won some and lost some, and we were able to teach lessons in both that made them better players, a better team, and hopefully better men.

That all would have made for a good week, but what really made it great was the ending…when I arrived home Sunday afternoon, my wife and kids greeted me with hugs and kisses and we set out on a family bike ride. We enjoyed the warmth and the breeze on our leisurely ride and on the way home made a rare all family grocery stop for dinner supplies. I grilled burgers and we sat on the back porch and ate together to end a pretty great day.

I thank God that I am able to recognize and realize the blessing HE provides in so many ways – in life, in work, in family, in fun, and in hobbies. I truly believe that we all have the opportunity to be thankful in each small area of our life if we choose to make the moment we are in a meaningful moment. Today started with a Monday morning run too, so here’s to another great week.