How Many Days Left?!

The most wonderful time of the year…bah, humbug!  Can we please hurry up and get this over with?  I know, not a very saintly attitude.  I promised you a weekly rant, and that it will end on a high note so never fear…here we go…

There are people everywhere clogging up my streets, parking lots, stores, restaurants and fitness center.  Thankfully the kids are staying off my lawn since it’s too cold and dark outside.  But you people are messing up my routine.  I expect crowds on weekends, but weekdays are mine.  Don’t you people need to be at work?  Get there and leave me alone!

I do feel guilty for being so annoyed this time of year.  It should be a time of joy. Without Christmas there would be no Easter.  Without Easter, no chance for us to become saints and live eternally in heaven.  So why do I dread it?

Unrealistic expectations, I think.  I have never understood our collective need to jam every conceivable activity into December.  Let’s review.  Shop for gifts, decorate the house inside and out, attend holiday parties, send cards, visit relatives and the elderly, give to the poor, volunteer for worthy causes.  Plus, there are typically a whole other set of year-end expectations at work and school.  All on top of our normal busy lives. Exhausting!

Then when we think it’s done, it starts all over again.  Return all the gifts you don’t like and shop with the cash and gift cards.  Take down the decorations.  Send thank you’s for the gifts and parties.  And then your credit card bill arrives.  Oh, and you get to do your taxes.  Good times…

I’m working hard to adopt a new attitude this year.  A saintlier one.  I have been using the “smile and be nice” strategy we discussed last week.  Seems I usually get the, “what are you so happy about” look in return.  I’m supposed to be the grumpy old man.  I don’t appreciate being outdone at my own game.

I’m guessing the way we celebrate his birth is not what The Savior had in mind.  Unfortunately the expectations of the season seem to overwhelm the reason for the season.  It should be the saintliest time of year.  It is often feels quite the opposite.

Enough ranting.  Here’s a suggestion for your consideration.  How about we do all the things we typically associate with Christmas throughout the entire year?  Send cards to people when we think about them.  Have parties when we feel like it, no reason, just because.  Give gifts when we happen upon things that remind us of someone important to us.  Find worthy causes and be charitable with our time, talent and treasure all year, every year.

If we do these things routinely, as a normal part of our daily life, maybe we can focus solely on the reason for the season in December.  No stress.  Just a time to review the blessings of the past year and anticipate the opportunities to come in the new.

Of course there are some things that you can’t, or may not want to change about your Christmas celebration.  Family traditions.  Personal customs that bring you joy.  Do them.  But also consciously cut out the excess.  The distractions.  Your stressors.  Learn to say no to some events without feeling guilty or selfish.  Take care of yourself.  Keep exercising.  Be temperate.  No need to make that lose weight resolution any harder than it’s already going to be, Scott.

Personally I am attempting to not be grumpy this entire month, except briefly on Monday mornings.  And I’m also working on my plan to ensure that 2018 is my saintliest year ever.  One of the ways I intend to do that is by helping you to do the same.

I am currently developing a “virtual retreat” that is intended to make it easy for you to develop your own 2018 plan toward sainthood.  There will be no cost to you other than about 5 minutes a day to read an email and do a short exercise. It will start Monday, January 8 and your plan will be complete by the end of that month.

You can learn more about the retreat and register by clicking the button below.

Virtual Retreat

By the way, owning a copy of the “sAint Me?!” book is not necessary for the retreat.  But I have reduced the price by a third through the end of the year in case you want the full story.  You can check it out here.

Have a Joyful and Saintly week all!  Scott

A Case of the Monday’s…

Thank God it’s Monday, TGIM!  This is what you woke up thinking, right?  Fresh off a restful Sunday, you are excited about the prospects of the upcoming week and ready to rock and roll.  Or alternatively, roll over and hit the snooze…again…

I used to dread Monday’s.  I hope you don’t.  But if you happen to suffer from “Chronic Case of the Monday’s Syndrome,” I have a suggested prescription for you.  And no, it’s not “more cowbell.”

A number of folks have told me they really enjoyed the “Old Man Rant” chapter of the “sAint Me?!” book.  I always laugh and let them know I could have written an entire book on that topic alone.  Yeah, I’m a cranky old guy.

So at their urging I’m going to rant further on Monday mornings until I run out of material.  Is ranting consistent with our striving to be saints?  I’m thinking “yes” if it concludes with recommendations for a better way.  I’ll be sure to do that…always ending on a high note.  Hopefully this will add to your enjoyment of Monday’s.  Give it a try.

I’ll be writing about things that annoy me.  They likely irritate you too. Keeping our frustrations bottled up is not good.  Remember the “serenity now, insanity later” Seinfeld episode?  Check it out for a guaranteed Monday morning laugh.

Ranting is good therapy.  Eliminating the source of frustration is even better.  I’ll be making recommendations about how we can do that.  They will be simple solutions.  Things we can all do immediately.  Ways we can “be the change we wish to see in the world” as Gandhi put it.  I’m hoping to get my grumpy old man out of my mirror soon!

Let’s start with the original “Old Man Rant” from the book.  Future rants will be shorter since I realize you already have too much to do.  So let the ranting begin…

Chapter 2 – Old Man Rant

In case you are on the fence about whether to devote yourself to striving for sainthood, allow me to give you a little more background.  It will help to clarify where I was at in my thinking prior to accepting this mission.  It may help you do the same for yourself.

My retirement goal was to find something significant to do in the world, guided by the Holy Spirit.  I read many books, did some volunteering, and am participating in the religious education of teenagers.  I’ve always enjoyed writing and have written many short articles on topics of interest as they come to mind.  In reviewing those articles, I noticed that most of them are about things that annoy me.  I’m going to summarize those things, as I believe they are part of what motivated me to embark on this saint-building challenge.  Please indulge my old-man rant.  Or don’t, and feel free to move on.

It goes something like this.  I’m annoyed and fed up with this world!  If only I could be a kid again; everything made so much sense then.  The rules were simple:  Be nice and respectful to everyone, work hard to be your best at whatever you chose to do, and play by the rules of right and wrong that are self-evident.  You will then be rewarded commensurate with what you do and how you do it.  And the good guys always win!

Now, it seems that nearly the opposite is viewed as the better route to worldly success.  It’s goes something like this: Respect those you agree with and ridicule the rest, work less but expect more, and the end justifies the means, so go ahead and break the rules that don’t help you get what you want.  Right and wrong are relative, perception is at least as important as reality, what you say and what you do can be vastly different and that’s okay.

Everyone is an expert at everything; just ask them.  I thought I knew a lot coming into the workforce out of college but was promptly informed otherwise.  I accepted that assessment; observed and listened to my bosses, coworkers, and clients; and worked long hours to gain valuable experience.  Now, you can’t convince most of the newcomers that they don’t already know everything.  They certainly don’t have a confidence problem.  Of course, they don’t know what they don’t know.  I’ve heard this condition referred to as unconscious incompetence or the arrogance of ignorance.  It makes me sad, like watching someone who can’t sing try out for that television singing competition.  They are stunned when finally given an honest appraisal of their ability.  But with honesty comes the opportunity and motivation to improve.

Obviously there are exceptions (many I hope).  Maybe I’ve just become the grumpy old man in the neighborhood yelling at kids to “get off my lawn!”  Or maybe I should just give up on the old ideal and go along with the more “advanced” culture.  I mean, why should we have to be nice to everyone, work hard, and be on our best behavior all the time when we can get what we want with much less effort?

We have become content with letting people tell us what to believe, since it’s so much easier than actually reviewing the facts and coming to our own conclusions.  Who has time to do the research required to form our own opinions in these fast-paced times?  Plus, we’d have to consider alternative points of view to get to the truth.  I already know I’m right because someone told me so when they told me what to believe.  Remember when we were taught how to think, not what to think?  In fact, that was the main purpose of education, challenging us to think and come to our own conclusions based on facts, to question everything and search for truth.

Good and evil used to be easy to spot.  Now it’s hard to tell.  Bad guys win way too often.  They are experts at making you believe they are the good guys.  Or many times I don’t think they even know they are the bad guys.  We certainly don’t.  Confusion reigns.  Everything bad is good, and everything good is bad.  Cats and dogs living together!  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  Come and be bad, have a good time…What?!

Anyhow, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should either (a) stop letting so many things irritate me and just go along to get along, or (b) do something about it.  I choose b.  I think the only way out of the mess is getting back to the basics that I hope we all still learn as children.  How about if we were all nice to each other, worked hard, and played by the rules . . . simple!  If we can replicate this in enough people, what a pleasant world it would be.

Here’s our first assignment.  Just for fun, try to be nice to everyone you interact with today and every day.  Smile and greet everyone.  Use the person’s name.  Expect the best.  You will be amazed at the results.  People may wonder what the deal is with you, but they will appreciate your kindness.  Just spread your happiness and joy, even if you have to fake it in the beginning.  What’s the saying, fake it until you make it?  Of course you will encounter some who will make this difficult.  Remember, patience is a virtue.  Give yourself a niceness score at the end of every day.  I use a 1-10 scale, 10 being the nicest you can be.  I am currently averaging a 7.  Interestingly, my annoyance level actually went up initially.  I got annoyed that people weren’t always nice back, but that’s my problem.  Don’t expect the world to change too quickly.  Just feel good that you are doing your part.

Okay, rant done.  Thanks for listening.

Click here to sign-up to follow the weekly blog and have it delivered to your e-mail every Monday morning.  They will also be posted to the Saint Builder Foundation Facebook page which you can like here.  And please share them with your friends who might enjoy a good old-fashioned Monday morning rant.

Thank you all for your support and have a saintly week!  Scott

Gull Lake Salad

We just spent some time in heaven!  At least it felt like how I imagine it.  A beautiful home on a pristine lake in northern Minnesota.  Guess which one of the 10,000?  It was the peak week for the turning of leaves.  The weather was perfect for long walks and slow boat rides to enjoy the colorful scenery.  Heaven on earth.

We were with our friends of 30 years, Donna and Tom.  They kindly invited us to their place.  Thank you!  They are the type of friends you can hang out with and always feel completely comfortable.  We want the best for each other.  We freely and honestly share our thoughts.  We simply enjoy each other’s company.  Complete trust.  Again, heaven.  We are thankful to have many couple friends like this.

I enjoy our rambling free flowing discussions.  They start with a review of what our kids are up to, and then drift into whatever we find of interest.  We typically solve at least one world problem, at least in our minds.  And on this occasion we developed an idea for a new radio call-in program.  It could actually work.  We’ll probably never know. Then we moved into topics of the day.  One struck me as particularly interesting.

Tom had just read an article about self-driving cars. The gist of it was that we humans are not going to be happy with them.  Think about it; they will obey all the laws that we treat as mere suggestions.  Imagine the annoyance of them clogging up the roadways by driving at the actual posted speed limit!  They will probably be very courteous and thoughtful defensive drivers as well.  Come on, the best defense is a good offense, right?!

We will attempt to alter their driving habits through a series of hand gestures and audible remarks.  But they won’t care.  They won’t react at all.  How infuriating will that be?  They won’t be pressured into driving like we want them to.  Eventually we will be forced to adapt to them.

Or will we?  Maybe we will just write laws and regulations to force their creators to adapt them to us.  Yeah, we can’t let them get away with forcing us to obey those pesky rules of the road.  We want our driving freedom.  My belief is that it will take a long time until we relinquish control of our vehicles.

Anyway, back to reality.  Time to head home.  Our temporary heaven quickly faded as we drove.  Seven hours in traffic will do that.  I was back to a normal level of annoyance within the first hour.  I was cut off, tailgated, and surrounded by fluctuating speed drivers.  Don’t all cars have cruise control nowadays?  Use it!  Oops, I certainly wasn’t demonstrating the patience of a saint.  Very sorry.

To calm myself I wondered what this trip would be like if we were all in those fancy self-driving cars.  They would all be following the rules while taking us safely to our destinations.  Just sit back and peacefully enjoy the ride.  How nice.

Then I wondered, what has caused driving to be such an annoying experience nowadays?  Too many cars?  Too few rule followers?  I’m a cranky old man?  Let’s go with the rules thought.

We all learn the same laws and rules of the road.  We take a test to prove we know them.  I’m guessing that most of us start out following them all.  Then we notice that not everyone does.  Especially as it relates to the speed limit.  It seems like most are going faster.  They are not pleased when others observe the limit.  And they let us know of their displeasure.  Peer pressure kicks in.  Everyone’s doing it, better speed up.  Slippery slope.  How about hitting the gas at a yellow light next…why not?

Reminds me of life in general.  We learn the rules from our parents and teachers.  Then we are introduced to another way, like the “little white lie.”  That won’t hurt anyone.  In fact, it may spare someone’s feelings.  Peer pressure, everyone is doing it.  Why not?  And the slippery slide begins.

So what’s the point?  Rules and Trust.  You can trust that a self-driving car will follow all the rules.  You know exactly what to expect from them.  They are predictable and safe.  That should make it easy for us to live peacefully together with them on the road.  As long as we follow all the rules too.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that same level of trust with each other?

I recall the John Lennon song, “Imagine.”  He sings about imagining something, and then says “it isn’t hard to do” or “its easy if you try.”  But it’s not easy.  Because it’s so far removed from reality.  But let’s try anyway.

Imagine going out into the world everyday knowing that everyone is following the rules.  The natural laws.  Living morally.  Living the virtues.  Being kind, patient, charitable, humble, diligent.  Developing their talents to the fullest.  Using them to make the world a better place.  Encouraging and helping each other to become our best selves.  Selfishness and dishonesty don’t exist.  Heaven?

It’s hard to do, but it can happen.  We start with ourselves.  We strive to get better every day.  It helps to surround yourself with others who share your desire.  Friends like Tom & Donna.  And don’t cave to the peer pressure of these who don’t.  They may not be happy about it.  They may tailgate, honk, use sign language, and even try to run you off the road.  Just ignore them, follow the rules, keep your eyes on the road and your destination in mind; to become the saint you are meant to be.

And the song goes on, “… Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us.  And the world will be as one.”

Oh, gull lake salad is my secret mixture of peanuts and candy corn.  A story for another day…

Be Saintspirational!  Scott

My 800-Pound Gorilla Stole My Halo!

Everything was going so smoothly.  Write and publish a book, develop a website, setup social media accounts and write a few blogs.  Receive some really nice feedback and invitations to speak from several groups.  Reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. Then, BAM!  My gorilla strikes and my halo goes missing.  Well obviously the halo never existed, but the gorilla does.

The definition of 800-pound gorilla in the urban dictionary is: “A seemingly unbeatable presence always to be reckoned with; whose experience, influence, and skill threatens to defeat competitors with little effort.”  A perfect description of the one I battle; Distractions, those things that prevent me from giving my full attention to the important work I should be doing.

I’ve developed many tactics for defeating them over the years, stopping just short of being locked up in an empty room.  Still it’s a constant struggle to focus on the most important things in life.  Like this mission.  I had been consistently winning the fight for nine straight months.  Probably because I had a clear goal, plans to achieve it and the commitment to see it through.  The book is done and available, mission accomplished, right?  Wrong!

The point of the book is to get people to do it.  To make their personal plan toward sainthood and stick with it.  And to encourage others to do the same.  Unfortunately I had set no next step goal or plans to encourage and support people in doing that.  Same thing happened when I was participating in triathlons.  I set a challenging goal, trained hard, finally succeeded and have rarely ridden a bike or swam since.  I was satisfied and ready to move on to other things.  Thankfully my aim with this cause is much higher than achieving the initial goal.  And speaking of aim, how about a short relevant story?

Once upon a long time ago in college, a group of guys were going pheasant hunting.  They were all farm kids.  They said something to me like, “Hey city boy, you’re going hunting with us.”  I had no experience or interest.  But given the choice between studying and, well anything else the choice was easy.  Plus, it was clear that they were not asking for my consent.  They were on the football team, I played tennis.  Enough said.

We trudge through the snow to a corn field.  I’m handed a shotgun and instructed on how to use it.  They tell me they are all going to the other end of the field where they will spread out and walk through the rows.  I am to stay put and shoot a bird when they start flying.  What could possibly go wrong?!

I wait and suddenly a million, or maybe a dozen pheasants take flight.  It’s loud and startling.  I’m distracted by the flapping of wings and guys yelling at me to “shoot!”  I  attempt to take aim…but at which one?  I give up and figure I’ll just shoot as many times as I can.  I’m bound to hit something, right?  Wrong again!  The only thing to hit the ground were my friends rolling around the snow in laughter.

They knew exactly what was going to happen.  They just wanted a good laugh at my expense and a story to hold over me forever.  End of hunt, my last.   I am glad the birds got away.  Seriously, I don’t even like swatting flies.  I did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You must aim at one thing in order to have any chance of hitting it.  And don’t let anything distract you from your intended target or you will shoot aimlessly and miss them all.

Following the book release I had no goal, no target, no one thing to aim at.  There was plenty to do.  I did a Blog Blog here, and a Facebook there, here an Instagram, there a Twitter, everywhere an e-mail.  Cute, huh?  But it became overwhelming and I couldn’t keep up with what I thought I should do, so I quit into distraction land.

I watched the endless hurricane coverage, U.S. Open tennis matches, football, etc.  Worse yet, I quit the book.  I wasn’t following my own plan.  I stopped playing saintball.  Then I started getting down on myself for being so lazy.  “Dude, what’s your problem?  People are actually interested.  Why would you stop now?”  “No good reason.  Maybe fear of success and all the work that entails.  Or fear of future failure where all the work goes to waste.”  “You are being rediculous! Only one way to snap out of it.  Establish a new goal, plan and commitment.”  What…you don’t talk to yourself like this?

The new goal is to attract 450 free newsletter subscribers by the end of the year.  I like to think that we have a shared goal to save the world, one person at a time starting with ourselves.  Therefore, the more people we can reach with our saint building philosophy, the better chance we have of making the change we want to see in the world.

Why 450 you may ask?  Simple math.  The Saint Builder Foundation Facebook page has about 90 followers.  My hope is that they will all become newsletter subscribers too.  Then they will each find two friends to do the same, resulting in 180 more.  Finally, each one of those 180 will find one more, another 180.  Total, 90+180+180=450.  Goooaaal!!!

And here is the plan.  I pledge to:

  1. Do the book consistently. Follow my own advice.  Walk the talk.
  2. Provide you with interesting and valuable information to aid in your pursuit of striving to become the saint you are meant to be.
    • Publish new website content to dive deeper into the main heading topics, at least two times a week starting in October.
    • Develop a newsletter and publish the first one by the end of September.
    • Blog as the Spirit moves me.
  3. Develop and deliver the presentations already requested, and seek out more.
  4. Keep my gorilla in his cage.
  5. Ask for your help.

I have been advised that to enlist your help that I should give you something.  I’m not sure what that would be.  There are many resources on the website, especially on the sandbox and saintball pages.  I was also advised not to put them all out there for free.  I have to keep reminding the expert marketers that this is not a money-making venture, but rather a life mission.  We are all in this together and I want to develop and give you stuff that helps in your journey.  Aspiring saints just aren’t “what’s in it for me” types anyway.   Regardless, how about this?  When we get to 450 newsletter subscribers there will be a yet to be determined cool recognition for you early adopters.

Here are a few ways you can help.  Sign-up for the free newsletter if you haven’t already. Send an e-mail to your 5 best friends with a link to saintbuider.com and ask them to sign-up for the newsletter too.  Share these blog posts with your friends.

I truly appreciate your ongoing interest and support.  You all have my sincere gratitude!

I think George (yes, my gorilla has a name) has retreated for now.  Back to work.  I did cancel the distraction of the NFL Sunday ticket.  George was very upset.  I am too.  Sacrifice is a saintly trait, right?  Right!

Have and enjoyable weekend, Scott

Mother Nature Reveals Human Nature – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I’ve been a little distracted lately by hurricanes.  We have family, friends and property in the path of Irma.  We’ve been through this before having lived in Florida for six years and experienced at least that many potential big hurricane strikes.  As lifelong Iowans, we initially thought hurricanes were like tornadoes.  We were so wrong.  Tornadoes hit fast in a relatively small area.  They are here and gone.  Hurricanes are slow moving, cover large areas and hang around for weeks.  We got a crash course when Floyd, a Category 4 arrived in Florida soon after we did.  We were fortunate that it ended up skipping around our location.  Unfortunately for the folks in North Carolina, it hit them hard, and Irene did the same a couple weeks later.  Tragic!

It dawned on me during the recent coverage of hurricane Harvey that the dark side of mother nature sure reveals a lot about human nature; the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly.  Let me attempt to explain by taking you though a typical hurricane experience.

The first thing to understand about hurricanes is that there is a long lead time.  You know for at least a week that it may be coming.  The well-meaning folks in the media love to talk about it 24/7.  Their intent is to make sure everyone is aware of the timing and severity, and therefore making appropriate preparations.  What really happens is that a slow panic sets in.  And the bad begins.  It’s every man and woman for themselves.  Grocery stores and gas stations are emptied.  Hardware stores are busy selling generators, batteries and emergency necessities that have been ignored during the good times.  And yes, people are pushy, rude and selfish…fear has that affect.  And there is some ugly price gouging by a few to take advantage of the bad situation.

And then you wait to see if anything is really going to happen.  You make your evacuation plan in case it is absolutely necessary.  You try to live your normal life.  In truth, everyone is completely distracted and on edge as the storm approaches.  Most are continuously checking their devices for an update on the storm track.  Why, I don’t know?  A hurricane’s forward speed is typically around 15 miles per hour, a slow bike ride.  Fear of the unknown makes us anxious.

Eventually the waiting ends as the future becomes clear.  There is either panic and worry, or relief and gratitude.  We were always in the latter situation so I really can’t do justice to explaining the former.  I think it’s impossible to know unless you have personally experienced it.  My daughter and her family are on the road out of Florida right now.  I’ll ask her to share her feelings at some less stressful time.

Then it happens.  The storm hits.  Words can’t explain the devastation.  Lets just say, it’s bad!  Raging water, ripping winds and mass destruction of property.  Recall the recent images from Harvey.  Imaging yourself in the place of those in the path of Irma as you watch the coverage this weekend.

Now here is the really interesting thing.  Immediately following the storm is where the good begins.  Recovering from a tragedy seems to bring out the best in nearly everyone.  We are generous with our time, talent and treasure.  We are in our people helping people mode.  All the divisions fade away.  Our differences in race, religion, politics and whatever just don’t matter.  We are all just people ready, willing and able to help each other out. Why is that?  I believe it is because we are all good at our core.  It’s our natural instinct.  Helping others makes us happy.  So why aren’t we in this mode all the time?

In interviews of impacted people they will inevitably say something like, “I just want things to get back to normal.”  I disagree.  From a people interacting with each other perspective, I’d like our immediate post-tragedy behavior to be the new normal.  How do we make that happen?  Do we need to manufacture tragedies.  Creating a crisis to get what we want is a common strategy.  Kids learn that early on.  Want candy in the grocery store kid?  Create a scene and bingo!

Actually, I think we are already in a perpetual state of tragedy, no need to create one.  A hurricane of division, distraction and confusion about what is good, right and true.  We could be nice to each other all the time.  We could be unified all the time.  We could help each other solve problems all the time.  Why don’t we?  I’m sure we could come up with many reasons.  But I am also certain there is no really good reason.

How about we all do this.  Aid the hurricane victims in whatever way you can.  Pray that those impacted by Harvey and Irma are able to maintain a sense of hope and purpose to facilitate a speedy recovery.  Try to imagine the sense of loss, anger, hopelessness and grief they must be feeling.  Then go out with that sense of empathy and treat everyone else as though they were a hurricane victim. Be your best self by using your unique talents to serve others in a virtuous manner.  Be saintspirational!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this.  These are just my thoughts, I’m always interested in yours.  Godspeed to you all.

 

Sport Imitates Life – What Game Are You Playing?

Pop Quiz – What percentage of time is the ball in play during a professional tennis match?  I was curious since I’ve been watching U.S. Open tennis tournament matches all week.  Luckily there is plenty of downtime during a match.  It’s easy to get work done while watching, like right now.  Wow, great shot!  When the announcers raise their voices I pay attention.  Using the DRV to zip through a match, stopping to watch the crucial few deciding points is also a good viewing strategy.  Tennis really does imitate life, a topic for another day.

Do you have an answer yet? I looked it up and was a little surprised.  Then I became curious about other sports.  Same question, what percent of time is the ball (or puck) actually in play?  Here’s what I found through some quick internet research.  I do not vouch for its complete accuracy.  Let’s just say it’s approximately right.

  • Football – 5% (11 minutes over 3.5 hours)
  • Basketball – 32% (48 minutes over 2.5 hours)
  • Hockey – 40% (60 minutes over 2.5 hours)
  • Soccer – 75% (90 minutes over 2 hours)
  • Baseball – 10% (18 minutes over 3 hours)
  • Tennis – 17.5% (37 minutes over 3.5 hours)

So, what the point?  There is a lot of wasted time in sports.  I’m sure there are arguments to be made to the contrary, but let’s pretend there aren’t for now.  I was actually shocked to learn that my favorite to watch, football, is a 95% waste of my time.  My spouse was thrilled to know that.  I should have saved that fact until after the upcoming season…ugh!

Now the big question – What sport does your life most imitate?  How much time do you keep the ball in play?  Translation – How much time are you spending on the important things in life?  Those things that matter to making the world a better place for others.  I hope you have been tracking that time by playing saintball.  We started out with the beginner game where you subjectively label your daily activities as either valuable or waste.  Or you took the easy route and only tracked wasted time and called all the rest valuable.

My early tracking showed that I was spending 39% of my time on valuable activities. Hockey, not bad comparatively.  But wasting 61% of my time on earth is pathetic…embarrassing really.  So, I kept tracking and vowed to do better.  I set an 80% value goal.  I rarely achieve it but am now averaging 65%, big improvement.  That gets me 40 of 50 available saint points daily:-)

Over time I was able to get more specific about what valuable uses of time were for me.  By analyzing what I was labeling as valuable in my daily tracking, I was able to group them into categories.  They eventually fell into four, plus two others that together served to capture all of my time.  They also happened to fit into the areas of focus that time management experts typically espouse; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Here they are:

  • Pray – or meditate, or do whatever helps you relax, reflect upon your life and vow to improve.
  • Learn – be a lifelong, continuous learner.
  • Act – take planned action daily to make the world a better place for others…fulfill your mission.
  • Youthify – yes, I made this term up. Keep yourself young – healthy, energized, active, positive.  Meet your physical and emotional needs.
  • Everything Else – just what it says.
  • Rest – Sleep well. If you keep your time percentage high in the first four, you will.

For you acronym lovers, the categories spell “player,” as in player of the game of life.  The valuable categories are “play,” as in let’s have some fun striving to be the saints we are all meant to be, and solving all the world’s problems while we’re at it.  Why not?

Now that I had the categories, I set a daily time goal for each.  My thinking went like this:

  • I’m at my best with 8 hours’ sleep. Rest – 8 hours
  • I should spend at least as much time on action as I do sleeping. Act – 8 hours
  • Surely I can give God at least one hour a day in prayer. Pray – 1 hour
  • I have a lot to learn in order to achieve to my new mission. Learn – 2 hours
  • I need to keep myself healthy and energized. Youthify – 2 hours
  • The balance of my 24-hour day goes to Everything Else – 3 hours

Then I did my daily tracking.  Of course, I needed to invent a new worksheet, remember I’m a CPA who likes structure and order.  My band friend Steve knows what I’m talking about, play it Steve.  My band friend Ron is horrified.  Anyway, I call it the PLAYtime Tracker.

Check it out and give it a try in the upcoming week.  Set your daily time goals in each category and see if you can achieve them.  For extra credit, make a plan for how you are going to spend the time you have allocated.  Then make them a priority by actually putting them on your schedule.

And here’s a challenge for you.  If you are working, you will be tempted to count all work hours as valuable, in the Act category.  Here’s the challenge – Ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. Is everything you do in your work making the best use of your talent, and helping to improve the world in some way for others?
  2. Would your customers, those who ultimately pay for the product or service you provide be willing to pay for everything you do if they knew about it?

I have an interesting statistic for you on the second question.  Based on studies, only about 5 percent of the work in any business is value-added, that is, has a direct benefit to the paying customer.  A world-class manufacturing company might get to 20 percent.  There are all sorts of reasons for this, some legitimate and others not so much.  Ignore that for now and just evaluate what you do based on the strict interpretation.

If your percentage is low, join the crowd.  The purpose of this challenge is not to make you feel bad about yourself, it is simply to get you thinking about the value you are capable of providing to the world.  Once you know what that value is currently, you can make changes that are within your power to more fully realize your potential value.  And you might get a raise too, hey you never know:-)  Try it.

I’m now trying to imitate soccer in life, the 75% sport.  It really isn’t my game, but I am going to get a ball and start learning as a reminder.  Let’s see if an old dog really can learn new tricks.

Have a fun, safe and saintly Labor Day weekend all!

Evade the Vice Squad – 7 Tactical Maneuvers

The police use a vice squad to enforce laws concerning gambling, pornography, prostitution, and the illegal use of liquor and narcotics.  Thankfully there is no such legal enforcement of vice in the broader sense of the word.  The dictionary definition of vice is, “a moral fault or failing.”  Ouch, guilty as charged Your Honor.  The antonym of vice is virtue.  Can we get some leniency by displaying a little virtue – like maybe a lifetime of double secret probation?

More to come on this but first I’m curious, what was your saintball score last week?  No, I don’t expect you to tell me.  Mine was 77, a lousy “C” again.  47/50 points on the valuable use of time measure, but only 30/50 on behavior.  Of course I am playing the more advanced and slightly more objective version of the game, so that’s my excuse.  Rather than very subjectively tracking good and bad behavior, I am tracking my conduct in terms of vice and virtue (the V’s).

I use the seven deadly sins to represent the vices since they are widely recognized.  They each have a contrary virtue as well.  I like to list them in a good versus evil style since they are all constantly doing battle within each of us.

  1. Humility vs Pride
  2. Charity vs Greed
  3. Kindness vs Envy
  4. Patience vs Wrath
  5. Chastity vs Lust
  6. Temperance vs Gluttony
  7. Diligence vs Sloth

I track these daily.  You can too with the Flying V Tracker.  Yeah there’s a story behind that name for another time.  The worksheet contains brief definitions of each V.  Score one point for each time you think, say or do something that was caused by one of the V’s.  I usually start with noticing the good and bad behavior and then think about which V caused it.

When I first started tracking, my goal was simply to avoid the vices.  A defensive strategy designed to keep the vice squad off my trail.  While I had some victories, it became obvious that only through actively utilizing the virtues would I ever consistently win.  That is, score more virtue than vice points daily.  So I went on offense.  It works.  Focusing on virtue gives vice little time to rear its ugly head.  But it is also very easy to slip back into vice behaviors which seem to be the much easier route to take.

So there you have it, your plan to evade the vice squad.  Use the 7 virtues to defeat the 7 vices every time.  To make this fun I envision a battle of angels and demons taking place within me every day.  Yeah that may seem weird, but try it.  Give them names if you want.  Anything to keep yourself interested and engaged in fighting the good fight.

Try using the tracker for a week.  You will be amazed by what you learn about yourself, both the good and the room for improvement.  I’m rooting for your angels!  A song line just popped into my head; “But I can hear a heavenly band full of angels and they’re coming to set me free.”  Can you name the song and artist?  I’ll tell you next time.

By the way, I’m on the lookout for saintly behavior and images.  When I see it I’m going to use Instagram and Twitter to share with a hashtag of #besaintspirational.  I encourage you to do the same with your own accounts.  It would be nice to build a portfolio of saint inspiring photos and examples to help us all on our journey.

Be Saintspirational, Scott

 

 

 

 

Saintball Survival Strategies

The original working title was, “Winning Saintball Strategies.” However, upon further review my own personal results do not justify claiming any such expertise.  But I am surviving, battling off demons every day.  Not the nasty scary ones, just the one in the mirror.  But I do have nine months of experience, so I feel like a parent of the game.  How about I just tell you what I’ve learned.

I hope you have taken on the challenge of playing saintball this week.  If not, you are forbidden from reading this!  Well, nothing bad will happen to you.  But you may miss out on some valuable learning that happens when you begin playing with very little instruction.

I’ll start by revealing my score and learning from the first week I played.  It all began on December 5, 2016.  It was a rather blustery day, Pooh…oh bother and never mind.  I had developed the game, done some testing to validate the scoring system and was excited to give it a whirl in the real world.  Let the games begin.

I set my goal for valuable hours at 13 per day, 80 percent of my waking hours.  Seemed challenging yet achievable.  I set my phone alarm to ring every hour.  I stopped what I was doing briefly each time it alarmed and recorded the hour as valuable or wasted, and tallied my good and bad behavior points.  I kept track on a notecard.  Here’s how it went.

I had one of the most productive and well behaved Monday mornings I’ve ever had.  I did not have a case of the Mondays.  Why?  I was paying attention to how I spent my time, how I was behaving and was determined to score well.  I was just starting to write the sAint Me?! book and spend most of the day doing so.  There really isn’t much opportunity to score many behavior points, good or otherwise when you are not interacting with anyone.

Day one complete.  Earned 72 of 100 saint points and a grade of “C.”  Very disappointing initially, but upon reflection I knew it was a better score than what I would have earned in most past days, and no one said it was going to be easy to become a saint.  Plus, it was the highest score ever recorded by anyone…someone call the Guinness Book of World Records!  See my scorecard if you must. Scott’s First Saintball Score

I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of that week.  Let’s just say that my enthusiasm waned as the week went on, and my results reflected that fact.  Final score, 60 points and an “E for effort” average for the week.  Sure glad to have made up that E letter grade or it would have been an “F” for fire.  I told one of my many friends named Jim about the scoring system and he said, “I assume the F stands for Fire?” and it has even since,  thanks Jimbo!

So here were my early observations and learning’s that may benefit you as well:

  • You waste more time than you think you do;
  • The lower you set your goal for valuable hours, the higher you will score. It is probably best to start with a goal that is a small stretch if you want to feel better about yourself in the beginning.  You can increase the goal over time.  Better to aim low in the beginning than to give up.  You will probably still be more productive than you had been.
  • Having your alarm go off every hour is really annoying. I had stopped by Wednesday.  I just did my tracking whenever I thought about it.  Then I realized that I was much more aware of my actions and accurate with scoring when I did the hourly thing.  I went back to it and changed the alarm to be something that made me smile when it went off.
  • It is difficult, maybe impossible to score big positive behavior points without planning to do good deeds. And you must interact with other people, after all, others are who you do good deeds for.  Start by simply smiling and greeting everyone.
  • Being around other people also has the potential to drastically escalate your negative behavior points. I have no advice for this…well how about, be patient?!
  • The terms “valuable use of time” and “good-bad behavior” are very subjective. Yes they are!  We’ll solve that next week.

So what’s next?  Finish your week of tracking.  Compute your score and grade for the week.  Ask yourself three questions about your results:

  1. What are you happy about? I bet you were an even more productive and better person than usual.  Feel good about that…celebrate!
  2. What are your opportunities for improvement? Don’t beat yourself up too badly, list a couple and move on.
  3. What will you do differently next week? Review your improvement opportunities, choose one to focus on and set a goal.  Write it down.  “I, Scott Froyen will only watch one hour of television per day next week.”  Especially since the U.S. Open tennis tournament starts the following week and the TV will be on all day long.   Hey, it only happens once a year:-)

Next week is do the right things in the right way week.  Let’s get specific.  Thank you for reading.  Be a saintspiration to everyone you encounter over the weekend and enjoy!

The Formula to Solve All Problems

RT x RW x G = S.  Do the Right Things (use your time wisely and productively to carry out your unique mission for the benefit of others), in the Right Way (live virtuously) and through God’s Grace become a Saint (and live eternally in heaven as an added bonus).  This is the Saint Builder Formula.

Simple, all problems solved.  The perfect world.  Heaven on earth.  Take a moment to think about what your daily life would look like if everyone was determined to be their best self, to serve others and to behave virtuously at all times.  Can you even image?  Nope!  Let the doubt and debate begin…

Some will argue that the G is all that is needed.  Others that the G doesn’t exist but that the S, defined as becoming your best self is still a worthy goal for this life.  Either or neither may be true.  The fact is, none of us knows for sure.  I do think we have common agreement that we should all strive to use our time and talent to make the world a better place.  Let’s focus on that.

Most of us are in a continual search for our purpose in life.  We may not think about it that way, but consider the questions you ask yourself frequently.  The basics like, “why am I doing what I’m doing, am I making a difference, should I be doing something else, is it Friday yet, did I close the garage door?”  You get the picture.  Or maybe you just find many ways to distract yourself from asking those questions and potentially facing an unpleasant reality.  So you just, what’s the latest saying, keep calm and carry on?  Yeah, it’s all good.

We all know that our purpose is not to simply exist, to survive.  It just can’t be.  We all have an internal drive to achieve.  We want to thrive.  We instinctively know that we have a purpose.  Without purpose what does any of it matter?  We all want to matter, right?!

Recall from the last blog post that striving to be a saint (or your best self) requires at least three steps; (1) knowing your unique mission in life, (2) using the majority of your time working to fulfill that mission and (3) living virtuously.  Are you playing saintball?  It will help you understand how you are doing on steps 2 and 3.  Of course step 2 truly requires that you know your mission, so we better discover what that is.  Mission is what makes us matter.

If you already know your mission, congratulations!  For the rest of you let’s do a quick mission discovery exercise.  Let’s look for your mission at the intersection of your natural talents and your interests.  Things you are good at and things you enjoy doing. Get is piece of paper.  Draw a line vertically down the middle.  Label the left side “Talents/Strengths” and the right side “Interests.”  Two-minute drill time, one minute on each side, no timeouts.  Use your stream of consciousness, no need to think about it much.  Write everything that comes to you.  No judgement, just write.  Go!

Now look for matches between your talents and interests.  Among other things I listed planning, organizing, setting and achieving goals, and problem solving as talents.  Relevant interests included coaching and writing.  The intersection became helping people develop and carry out plans to strive to become their best selves.

Here is my suggestion for you.  Do the above exercise.  If your mission becomes clear, great.  If not, don’t worry about it.  You will have random thoughts about this throughout the week.  Write them down immediately and review them over the weekend.  Eventually your mission will magically appear.  The subconscious mind, and/or the Holy Spirit are amazing at providing direction when you are ready to receive and act upon it.  Be patient.  The sAint Me?! book contains more ways to discover your mission if patience runs low…but you lose saint points…patience is a virtue you know.

In the meantime, just keep doing what you are doing with a goal of continuous improvement.  I once heard it said that it is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.  So act.  Act naturally.  Use your natural talents to do things you enjoy.  Productive things that benefit others.  Use your time wisely and productively.  Live virtuously.  Play saintball to track your results and progress.  Live yourself into your true mission over time.

One last thing, I’m guessing that many of you already know what your mission is, but something is stopping you from pursuing it.  Probably fear.  Fear of how you will make a living.  Of what others will think.  Of your ability to do it well.  Of how you can successfully transition to it from what you are doing now.  Of what it will take to succeed.  Fear not!  Have faith that it will work out.  It will.  Believe you can do it.  You can.  We all can.  It’s just a choice.

Let’s all choose to strive to become the saints we are meant to be.  Let’s solve all the world’s problems, one person at a time, starting with ourselves.  Live the formula, RT x RW x G = S.  Keep asking yourself, will I be a saint or an ain’t?  Godspeed!

Be Saintspirational – 3 Simple Steps

What is this made-up word, saintspirational?  Bet you figured out it is the combination of the words, saint and inspirational.  It refers to someone who is striving for sainthood in a way that is inspiring to others.  So what does it take to be one of those people?  Here’s what I think.

First a note of clarification.  I do not capitalize the word “saint” unless referring to an officially canonized Saint.  My purpose is to help us all in striving to become little “s” saints, the everyday variety.  If by some miracle (you need at least one, usually two) you achieve big “S” Saint status that’s just an added bonus.

Based on what I’ve learned and believe, striving to be a saint requires at least three things; (1) knowing your unique mission in life, (2) using the majority of your time working to fulfill that mission and (3) living virtuously.  3 simple steps.  I didn’t say easy.  Each has a high degree of difficulty, but are all worthy of our attention and sustained effort.  Hard to disagree, but easy to ignore.  I hope you don’t.

Where’s the inspirational part come in?  Have you ever been around someone who is already living the 3-step plan?  Are they not inspirational to you?  They are always happy.  They are always doing something important.  They have seemingly unlimited energy.  They make you want to be a better person.  You want to hang around them.  You want to be like them.

How are you doing in your journey toward becoming the saint you are meant to be?  Are you living the 3 steps?  How do you know?  Want to find out?  This part will be both simple and easy.  Especially if you like to play games.

For the moment, let’s downplay the first step, knowing your mission.  It may be the most difficult step in life so I’ll address it in a future post.  For now let’s assume that whatever you are currently doing to be a productive member of society is your mission.  That might be school, work, raising a family or any combination thereof.  Whatever you spend the bulk of your time doing.

With that in mind let’s find out how saintly you are currently.  The game is saintball  It rhymes with paintball on purpose.  We will be in a constant battle with demons to stay on the path toward sainthood, mainly our own, so the name seems appropriate.

To play you will need a scorecard and the rules.  You can get both here.  Start with the beginner version.  I recommend you look at this over the weekend and start the game on Monday.  Play for a week.  You will be amazed how quickly you become saintlier.  You may also be amazed at all the un-saintly things you do currently.  Or maybe that is just me.

The scoring system gives you saint points and a letter grade every day.  If you are accustom to earning straight “A’s,” prepare yourself.  Striving to become a saint is no easy pursuit, and neither is the grading system.  I find this game to be a great daily reality check.  It provides you a keen awareness of your current behavior.  This awareness will drive rapid improvement, of course assuming you need any.

I do hope you will give saintball a try.  The tracking may be a little annoying in the beginning, but the immediate benefit will be worth the small effort.  Trust me on that.  Why would I lie, I’d lose three saint points and I need all the points I can get.

Next week I’ll give you some tips and lessons learned from the 9 months I’ve been playing.  I will confess to only averaging a “C” so far.  I have steadily improved and set a goal to average a “B” over the balance of this year.  I am counting on your help to  provide ideas for scoring well and staying the course.  I think we can all accelerate our personal improvement by learning from each other.

I will leave you this week with one recommendation.  Eliminate the negatives in your life as quickly as possible.  I’m talking about those things that make you unhappy.  It may be a situation, person, people, social media, TV shows, the news, whatever.  You may not be able to remove them all, but do the best you can.  Start with something relatively easy.

Here’s what I did that helped significantly.  I gave up watching or reading any news.  I found it to be upsetting most of the time.  And I didn’t feel like I was learning anything of value to pursuing my mission anyway.  I turned it off for a month and seemingly missed nothing.  Bad stuff happened.  People blamed each other.  Nothing got solved.  Same old story.  It reminded me of the soap opera Melanie and I used to watch in college.  Once we started our careers I’ll bet we didn’t watch it for at least a year.  One vacation day we tuned in to find that we missed virtually nothing and were able to immediately get back into the story line like we’d never been away.  Seriously, try tuning out for a month and see how much your mood improves.

I’m thinking Tuesdays and Thursdays are good blog post days.  Next week, saintball tips and mission identification.  Or send me a note if you have a better idea.

Have a saintly weekend all!  Scott