NO JOB…NO PROBLEM!  

A manifesto for living in the new economy.

Having been out of the country for almost two years, I’ve effectively been out of the day-to-day marketplace.   The fact that I’m not ready to retire, means that I’m not ready to stop working.

But the challenge becomes…how do I get back in the game?    So I sat down and put together a strategy that I’m hoping makes sense…not only for me…but for all those people currently doing the same thing.

Please feel free to forward it to one of YOUR friends that might be in the same boat!


Change your thinking:

  1. Looking for a job is a powerless position.  If you are looking for a job, you’re basically trying to persuade someone to find value in you.   Once you’re an employee, you become a simple line item in their overhead budget and that and costs them money.
  2. Alternative:   They need you!   View them as a client.   You must boil down what talent you can bring them.   You must give them ideas of how they can use you.  Specific ideas.  Give them real life examples of the problems you can solve within their company.  Either with photos, names, pursuits or problems you know they are facing.
  3. Bring value from Day 1.   There will be no learning curve.  They need you…they just don’t know it yet.

Change the way you view money – Finances:

  1. Your life is a balance sheet. You are looking for income.  Yet, you are also cutting expenses.
  2. Income.   People are always looking for people to take care of a problem they have.  The bigger the problem, the more they will pay.   Your job…find problems.  Then either fix them, if you have the skill and expertise… or find someone who can fix them… and then manage the process.
    1. You do this by getting to know people.
    2. Asking them questions about themselves.
    3. Learning…about them.
    4. Listening to…you guessed it….them.
    5. Do this…and at some point you’ll hear what they are struggling with. Spend time looking for problems…then solve them….and get paid.
  3. There are also other means of income.   SELL YOUR CRAP!  Literally!   If you have moved at any point in the past few years, you will undoubtedly have said…I’ve got too much crap!   Most of us do and it all has a price tag!   Bottom line…if you are not actively using it…it’s crap…and it is just as good as a stack of bills…just waiting for you to find a buyer.

Change the way you deal with people – Networking:

  1. Hang out with people who are working!   Don’t hang out in the library, at Starbucks, Panera or any other place that has free wi-fi.   Everyone there is in the same boat as you…they are not working!
  2. Working people are busy!   You must schedule a time to get on their schedule.  These are the people who you want to be around because they have money, they have problems that they deal with every day and they have both connections (that are working) and money to pay you.
  3. Meet new people. Attend events that are specific to your business and expertise.  Not generalized loser mixers…where everyone is looking for the same thing and nobody there has any authority to hire you.
  4. Make it easy for people to find you and learn about you.
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Blog
    • Visual CV
    • Personal website

Change the way you view yourself –

  1. Get up each day and get out of the house by 8 am.
  2. Get dressed in business attire.
  3. Eat lunch downtown.
  4. Smile.
  5. Workout.
  6. Never say you’re unemployed, you are consulting.
  7. Never have a bad day.
  8. Business comes from people…not computers…get in front of people.
  9. Alway call…never text, email or other spineless ways of trying to get in front of someone.
  10. Advertise your success on Facebook, LinkedIn…  But in a professional way.
  11. Bring value.  If you read something interesting.   Write a note to a colleague and send it.   Highlight several points so they can see you actually read it and boil it down to why you sent it to them.  (Remember, they are busy…they have a job).
  12. You are a BRAND!   If I googled you…what would I find?   Would it be consistent and would it support the message you are telling me and the world about you?
  13. Work on your BRAND every day.

Now quit reading this…and go out and get a new Client!

 

Re-entry…

Well…it’s been almost one month since I’ve been back in the U.S. after living in Guatemala for almost two years… and I have to say…re-entry has been enlightening.

With Guatemala, its customs, its conditions and its people still fresh on my mind, jumping back into the U.S. way of being has allowed me to see and appreciate both countries with a new perspective.

Let me share and compare some of those perspectives.

Driving. (Winner – U.S.)
Driving in Guatemala is organized chaos. The lanes are very narrow and mean nothing. If a car, truck or bus can fit on it…you drive on it. Chicken buses rule the road and are very aggressive…if they want your lane…they are going to take it. I remember praying each time I got behind the wheel in Guatemala, and luckily I did ok.

Driving in the U.S. is wonderful. Most everyone follows the rules, drives in their amply wide lanes, obeys traffic signals and so on. Roads are well marked, and streets have signs and numbers. Wonderful!

Food. (Winner – Guatemala)
The food in Guatemala is wonderful! The markets are everywhere, and there is nothing “marked as organic”…because it’s ALL organic! Carrots are as big as the end of a baseball bat, and fresh fruits of all kinds are for sale on every street corner. The meats are all grain and grass fed, and although they are not a huge part of the daily diet, they are great quality. The best part is the price! Cheap, cheap, cheap!

I’ve been in “food sticker shock” ever since I got back! The average cost of breakfast with two eggs, hashed browns, bacon, toast, coffee and orange juice is roughly $10.00, and in Guatemala, I would spend about $5.00 for the same thing. Also, while the number of restaurants and choices in the U.S. far outnumber Guatemala…I have to say…I still dream about some of my meals in Guatemala.

People. (Winner – Guatemala)
The people in Guatemala are wonderful. They are courteous, helpful and happy. They may not engage you first, but once you muster the guts to engage them…you’ve got an instant friend. They look you in the eye as you pass on the street and always return the smile you give them. The family is huge to Guatemalans, and they spend lots of time together…just being together…and they love it.

In the U.S., people seem busy, preoccupied and anxious about something or other. Most conversations I hear, (yes, I’m eavesdropping on the conversations of others…), are people complaining about politics, family, their job or something. It’s rarely good conversation…always problems. Most people are doing something on their phones rather than looking around and engaging in the world around them. That’s unfortunate and more than anything; I wish that change.

Creature Comforts. (Winner – U.S.)
I have to say…I don’t miss wondering if I am going to have water from one day to the next! Many times in Guatemala, I would turn on my faucet and hear that dreaded gurgling sound. I also don’t miss the noise. The sounds of Chicken buses, the loudspeakers on the Zeta Gas trucks blaring their sales jingle, the constant explosions of firecrackers at daybreak for signifying someone’s birthday and roosters that crow at all hours of the night. Nope…I don’t miss those things.

Being home in the U.S., it’s funny how quickly I take these things for granted. Of course, I’ll have water…and I can even drink it if I want! Although there is noise, it seems to be a constant hum of traffic that is almost relaxing. I can turn on TV and get all sorts of channels…and I can understand everything they are saying! Also, if I need something, there is always a store that has it, or I can order it online and have it delivered in days! Something that was never an option in Guatemala.

Yep, I have to say that being back in the U.S. is nice in many respects. I’ve been able to see my family and friends and I don’t worry about my safety and day to day life is just…easier. However, I most certainly miss many aspects of my Guatemalan home. I miss my friends; I miss feeling that “connection” with people, I miss the smiles and laughter, I miss the beautiful children and hardworking work ethic of their parents. I especially miss seeing how far $10 will last me!

Re-entry has been enlightening…and I hope I can carry the best of what I experienced in Guatemala with me and share it here in the U.S., but I also realize the unrest that will always live inside me…as expressed best in this quote:

“You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

― Miriam Adeney

Anticipation…one of my favorite feelings…

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I love this time of year! But not for the reasons you might expect. It’s not for the lights, the music or Santa…for me it’s the Anticipation! You see, I love that feeling! If Christmas were up to me…I would never open a gift…I would just leave it there…all wrapped up so I could look at it and wonder what was inside. I wouldn’t shake it or gently peel off the tape from the wrapping paper…I would just look at it…and that would make me happy.

Well, it’s Christmas time here in Antigua, Guatemala and the churches are celebrating Advent, which means “coming” in Latin. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas, the streets are filled with people, bands and processions carrying statues of Mary, Jesus and various Angels. They shoot off fireworks in front of the procession as well as after it passes.

The anticipation of the birth of Christ and the celebrations that are to come in just a few weeks cannot be ignored. I catch myself being both joyous and humbled as the crowds of people pass by my door in celebration that God came thru with His promise.

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Thinking about the fact that 400 years passed between the promise of the coming Lord (Malachi 3:1) and the news of His arrival (Matthew) humbles me on several levels. First of all…that’s a long time to wait… and secondly…it’s a long time to hold hope. I’m not sure I could have done it. But as always…God was true to His word.

So, as I think about “Anticipation” being one my favorite feelings, I begin to wonder where that feeling originates. I believe it originates with “Hope.” This may not be the correct definition, but this is what I believe. I believe Hope is the belief that something is good is coming and Anticipation is the feeling that is caused by Hope.

We don’t hear too much about Hope these days. Maybe it’s because many of us feel like we are in control of our life and circumstances and we feel like we don’t need it. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone needs Hope! I love this quote:

“Man can live about 40 days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.”           – unknown

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I believe it!

I have been working here in Guatemala for several years and living here for almost two. During that time, I’ve been involved in training pastors and business people, working in medical clinics and building stoves. All of that has been wonderful and I think we have made a positive impact on the community to some degree. But what I think has made the greatest difference is just being here… and lovin’ on people.

I think that just lovin’ on people gives them Hope. Hope that they are ok and that they will be ok. I think it provides a spark where Faith can grow. Faith that might lead them to do something that will improve their life, Faith that tomorrow might be better than today. Faith that God has not…and will not…abandoned them.

Yep, I think Hope is the spark to everything that is good. We need it…and we need more of us dishing it out to others in massive proportions.

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So my prayer for all of us this Christmas season is to make a concerted effort to “love on people.” Anybody you can, wherever you can. Love on them with a smile, a pat on the back, a “good morning” or a “thank you.” Everytime you pass by that man or woman ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, drop some of your spare change in the bucket…not necessarily for them…but for you.

Everyone you can…wherever you can.

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Give Hope this season…it costs you nothing…but its affect never goes unappreciated…or unnoticed.

Merry Christmas.

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Two Trees…

 

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I’ve been thinking lately about the following Bible verse:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” -Matthew 12:33

When we look at a fruit tree, what do we see?  We see the trunk, we see the branches, we see the leaves and in certain seasons, we will see the fruit. But is that the entire tree? No!   We fail to see the most important part of the tree…the roots!

The roots of the tree not only provide stability for the tree within the surrounding soil, it also provides all the nutrition that will sustain the tree, the branches, the leaves and ultimately the fruit. The ultimate health of the roots (the overflow of nutrients) are what determines the overall health of the tree and everything it produces…or doesn’t…and we can’t even see them.

Back to the Bible for a second. The very next verse in Matthew states,

“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.…”

Meaning, that everything we say or do, (our fruit) comes from the overflow of whatever is in our heart. Like the roots of a tree, people can’t see what is in our hearts. But they can make a determination of the condition of our heart by what is evidenced in our lives.

So let’s look at two trees:

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The “fruit” of this tree is all the bad stuff we see in our world. Things like pride, immorality, rage, drunkenness and overall discord are all the result of what we call sin. These sins seek to destroy everything it touches, and many times, the very tree itself!

But what is at the root of sin?  What is feeding it?

In every case, I believe the root cause (no pun intended) of all sin is Selfishness. Simply stated…it is putting “your” needs and wants ahead of everyone else’s.

Ok, now let’s look at another tree.

On this tree, the “fruit” we see are things like love, compassion, generosity, joy and unity. All of these fruits are blessings to others. They uplift and give life to others and in every case, they are “gifts” to the recipient and, as a result, the tree thrives.

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But why?   What is at the root of a tree like this?

I believe what nourishes such a tree is Selflessness.   Selflessness is literally thinking of your “self” less.   It is putting “others” needs and wants ahead of your own.

Two very real trees with two very different types of fruit. Unfortunately, our lives are filled with both types and what is more disturbing is that at times…we too can exemplify the same.

So what do we do?

I like to simplify stuff…so here ya go…

Focus on the root.

Which are you? Which would you like to be?

Pick one, feed it daily with your thoughts, your words, and your actions. Nurture it and then let the fruit of your life speak for itself.

The Paradox of Our Time

 

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I recently was going through some old notes I have taken along the way and found this little nugget.   Many people have laid claim to its wisdom, from the Dalai Lama to George Carlin and others.  Regardless…I believe wisdom is wisdom…and whomever created it is irrelevant…

Our responsibility is simply to share it…so here ya go..


The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.

We spend more,but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space, but not inner space.

We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air,but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

We write more but learn less. We plan more but accomplish less.

We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less
and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer,
to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.

A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight …or to just hit delete.


Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going
to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you because that is the only
treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember to say, “I love you” to your partner as well as  your loved ones, but most of all mean it.   A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment, for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

…and another thing… why not trying to smile more while you’re at it!  🙂

-blessings,

Bob

My Grandfather Exercise…

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I call this my “Grandfather Exercise.”   By that, I mean, picture yourself as a 90-year-old grandfather (or grandmother) sitting in a rocking chair.   Think about the “life wisdom” that your Grandfather-self would share with your current self if asked about those life lessons that should be known and incorporated into your life.  Think about the value of that wisdom…

This is what “my Grandfather self” would say…

1. Do what you say.

to others

to yourself

2. Surround yourself with the right people.

people that are doing stuff

people that have good values

3. Relationships rule.

all opportunities come from people

be the friend you would like to have

4. Be effective not necessarily efficient.

be more concerned with results

5. Be intentional.

have a target

know why you’re doing everything you do

6. Grow.

read, travel, turn off the TV

be better tomorrow than you were today

7. Be grateful.

open your eyes, your mind and your heart…in that order

spend time outside in nature

8. Eliminate “good enough.”

it usually isn’t

9. Write it down.

thoughts, to do’s, goals, dreams, things you’re grateful for, people to pray for, memories of your youth

your mind is not meant to be a file cabinet

10. Think like a Sushi chef.

finish what you start

clean up as you go

11. Look people in the eye.

that’s where connection begins

and trust resides

12. Listen more than you speak.

your words will be more valuable

13. If it’s not nice, don’t say it.

our words are meant to lift others up

not tear them down

14. Everyone is important.

that includes you

15. Guard what you see and listen to.

you are responsible for you

16. Use the computer as a tool, not as a place to “surf.”

your time is valuable

and limited

17. Smile more!

we all need it

18. Watch your pennies.

like the saying goes, “if you watch your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves”

19. Give.

we were not put on this earth to be only consumers

20. Think long-term.

that which is best is rarely that which is easy

 

I know many people that may read this post have children.  I also know that you will have  limited opportunities to shape the future of your children by what you choose to talk about in the car, over the dinner table, or just hanging out together.   My hope is that you might use this time to begin a dialogue about “how to live.”   It may seem silly…but think about it…where else are they going to learn?

Ask them what their 90-year old grandfather or grandmother might share with them.  Heck…you might learn something!

Feel free to drop a comment to add to the list!   Heck…I might learn something!

Rites of Passage…

Boys everywhere have a need for rituals marking their passage to manhood. If society does not provide them they will inevitably invent their own.
-Joseph Campbell

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In 2012, I was in Tanzania and had just completed climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I remember driving through the countryside and seeing young African boys from the Maasai tribe. They were dressed as typical Maasai, however, the cloaks that many of the boys wore were black and then there were some that had very colorful red cloaks. I asked my driver what the difference was and he told me the boys in black had not become men yet. I pressed the driver to explain, and he told me all about the Maasai rites of passage from boys to men. I won’t go into the specific details (because it’s gross), but I was fascinated, and it got me thinking about rites of passage in general.   So here I am, four years later…and I’m finally going to write about my feelings on them.

So what is a rite of passage?

I began reading articles on this to try to understand a little bit more about this cultural practice. I found out that sociologists have identified three phases that constitute a proper rite of passage: Separation, Transition, and Re-incorporation.

Separation:  During this phase, the boy is separated in some way from his former life.

Transition:  During this phase, the boy is between worlds. He is no longer part of his old life but not yet fully inducted into his new one. He is taught the knowledge needed to become a full-fledged member of the new stage of life he is moving into, and he is called upon to pass tests that show he is ready for the move. The boy would then participate in ritual ceremonies which often involved pain and endurance to prove himself worthy of such a transition.

Re-incorporation:   In this phase, the boy, having passed the tests necessary and proving himself worthy, is re-introduced into his community, which recognizes, celebrates and honors his new status within the group.

During all phases of the process, the men who have gone through the ritual themselves guide the boy on his journey. By controlling the rite of passage, the men decide when a boy becomes a man.

So I began to reflect on my own life…did I have a rite of passage?

Separation: In my case, I went away to The Citadel, a military college. All my former possessions were left behind, my head was shaved, and I was given a uniform to wear. During this separation phase, my old-self was broken down and eliminated, and a new me was being prepared.

IMG_0263 (1)Transition: From the day of my arrival as a freshman in August each day for next nine months, I was subjected to an entirely new way of life that included being yelled at, prodded, disciplined,
having to perform thousands of push-ups and running in place, marching, drills, inspections and everything one might expect in a military training environment. All of this was to prepare me to join the ranks of all those that came before me and were referred to as a “Citadel man.”

Re-incorporation: The nine-month period of daily preparation culminated in May just one week before the end of the school year in a ceremony known as “recognition day.” This day began early with nothing but physical torture. Running, push-ups, more running, more push-up all the while having trash cans of alternating hot and cold water dumped on us from four stories above us. Bodies cramping as a result and being forced to continue until exhaustion and then some… Then it all stopped. Then we were lined up as one class of freshman and one by one, each upperclassman introduced themselves and allowed us from that point on to address them on a first name basis. We had officially been “recognized” into the Corps of Cadets.

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I’ll never forget that day…and that moment. It is etched into the fabric of my soul.

So why do I think about all this stuff now?

Well, when I turn on the TV and watch the news, I see many young men doing stupid stuff. When I travel around the world whether it is in Africa or Latin America, I see many “boys” in men’s bodies still acting like boys. They are not providing for their families, they are not leading, they are not providing a positive role model for other young men to emulate. They have in effect abdicated the throne. As a result, the burden that men have refused to carry has been dumped on to the already excessive responsibilities that women are carrying.

I see this everywhere. Women are taking care of the home, the children, carrying the majority of the financial burden of the home and where the man is still in the picture (as rare as that may be), they are taking care of him too.  Also, when I think about many of the world’s problems, gangs, drugs, sex trafficking, wars, and violence it’s all mostly a bunch of men…searching for power, searching for control, searching to answer the question every man needs to know…

“Am I a man? Do I have what it takes?”

In our culture, we don’t have a traditional rite of passage for men. However, in many cases, military service has served as the best route for this to happen. But as fewer and fewer men are choosing this path, the question then becomes…where will they get this question answered? How will they know? Will other men identify them as men?

I don’t have the answers to all that. But I do know that the longer we continue to ignore this need in men…we, as a society will continue to unravel.

Which brings me back to the beginning.

The reason I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the first place was to reaffirm the question that had been answered over 30 years prior, “Am I still a man? Do I still have what it takes?”

I know for me, I will continue to challenge myself and check myself on these questions for the rest of my life. It gives me a grounding, a purpose and a peace knowing the answer to both is still…yes.

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Choose Love…

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Sometimes this world seems just a little too difficult.

The things we see and witness, the pressures of family, finances and friendships, the differences in world views that are literally trying to rip us apart as a society are all constantly playing in out in our lives like a looped video. As a result, we often feel powerless, hopeless, frustrated and sad when we think of the days that are ahead of us. That feeling of “I can’t do anything about it” is the worst feeling we can have and it is the one thing we can’t allow ourselves to believe! We CAN do something! We ALL can do something!  What can we do?   We can choose to love!

We can choose to love those we don’t understand.
We can choose to love those we don’t agree with.
We can choose to love those that have wronged us or we fear will wrong us.
We can choose to love those that have different beliefs.
We can choose to love those that have different life experiences and expectations out of life.
We can choose to love those that are struggling and those that boast.
We can also choose to love those that may never know we love them.
All of this is within our power…


There are many people here in Antigua that are struggling for one reason or the other and as a result, they sit on the sidewalks and beg for handouts. These people have become “invisible” to most of the tourists and even mission teams that visit the city. They are routinely walked around, looked over and avoided at all cost. But the funny thing is…they have become “my peeps.”

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Over the past few months here in Antigua, I have developed what is now becoming a little “street ministry.” Each day I’m in Spanish class from about 9am to 3pm. Then I hit the streets to get my workout in. (10,000 steps/day…thanks to the ever present reporting of fit-bit.) During my walk, I’ll go by and see “my peeps.” They are usually located at certain places in and around the city. Some are in the park, some sit on a sidewalk on a certain street. Some are on a street corner and some are just wandering around.

Once I find them I’ll just sit down with them and talk. Sometimes we’ll pray together, sometimes we’ll just talk about their day or their family or life, and sometimes… we’ll just sit. But the important thing is…they are no longer “invisible.” They are seen and we are friends. I truly love these people! Nothing makes me smile more than the time we get to spend together each day.  They are a gift to me.

So I guess my point is this…there are people in our daily lives right now that deserve our attention…they deserve our time and they deserve our love.  But they are not the easiest to love. Choosing love empowers us and puts life back into proper perspective.  Sometimes it is not easy.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and it can sometimes be inconvenient…but it’s one of our only…and I believe our best option.  It also provides a healing that this world most desperately needs…

We all can do something.  We can all do this…  Choose to love.

Pebbles…

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Walking around Antigua I’ll sometimes get a pebble in my shoe. Now I’m an engineer and I still don’t quite understand how this happens. My foot is constantly moving forward and somehow a pebble is dislodged from the ground and is required to move up and in the same direction as my foot and at a greater velocity in order to catch up with my shoe to enter it at the precise moment and at the precise location! It defies logic…but I digress…

Somehow and for some reason…I often get a pebble in my shoe. Once it enters my shoe, I immediately know it. I know precisely where it is and what part of my foot is now being subjected to the mild discomfort of the unwelcomed intruder. But the funny thing is…I’ll rarely stop my walk and take my shoe off and remove it! I’ll just keep walking…and thinking about the growing discomfort in my shoe. I’ll even shake my foot in hopes of moving the pebble to a different location within my shoe. Sometimes, that actually works…at least for a period of time. Then for whatever reason, the pebble reemerges from its hiding place and begins once again to make my walk less enjoyable.

Why do I write about something so trivial?

Well, because I believe that unforgiveness is much like that pebble. We all go through life…minding our own business and then…bam! That unforgiveness pebble has now entered our life. We never saw it coming and we never wanted it…it is truly an unwelcomed guest in our lives. However, like me…very few of us stop and deal with it. We just continue on with our lives and every now and then we will shake ourselves in hopes of allowing the unforgiveness to go into hiding…but like the pebble…it’s only temporary. It will reemerge and it will ultimately wear a very painful blister on our soul.

So why don’t we just stop? Why don’t we just pause our life and deal with those situations, people, and circumstances in our lives that have hurt us and if ignored…will ultimately cause us so much pain? My guess is that like me…we just want to keep moving. We mistakenly think that if we just keep walking…the pebble will miraculously find its way out of our shoe and our life…much the same way it miraculously found its way into our shoe and our life! But that rarely (if ever) happens. The net result is always the same…our walk through life is hampered… and all we receive is nothing more than a painful blister.

So how about we all just take a moment out of our lives, let’s just sit down and take off our shoes and shake them out anyway. We never know what may fall out. Then we can put them back on and get on with enjoying our walk.

What I’ve learned from a year in Guatemala…

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I can’t believe I’ve been living in Guatemala for exactly one year already!

My initial plan (ha, ha, ha) was to come down for 6 months, learn the language and then go back.  Well…sometimes plans change…and I’m still learning the language.  But I’m also learning some things that I never anticipated…and that is what I would like to share in this post.

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We are all familiar with this children’s song, but I also believe it is a way the Guatemalans live their life…

  1. Row, row, row.  Guatemalans are extremely hard workers.  Like a woman I met at the Guatemala City dump said, “if I don’t work, I don’t eat.”
  2. They row “their” boat.  They are not worried about what other people are doing.
  3. They row it “gently.”  Guatemalans don’t make a big fuss about much.
  4. They row it “down the stream.”  They pretty much go with the flow…literally.
  5. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.  Guatemalans love their friends, they love their family and make it a priority over just about anything else.
  6. Life is but a dream.  They pretty much appreciate life for what it is…a one time shot..and they make the most out of each day…usually smiling.

Not a bad philosophy…don’t you think?

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I think in many interactions, there is a split second of tension when we see a new person.  Our brains begin making assessments and judgments  about them like, “Do I like this person?  Do I trust this person?  Am I safe?   What do they think of me?”

All these questions race through my mind as I meet or pass a new person each day.   However, what I have found is if I am the first one to engage them…and I do it in a nice and friendly way…I get a nice and friendly response in every case.

It’s like they are catching the ball that I pitch.

I may not be able to control every interaction, but by being the first to throw out the pitch that I want…it certainly increases the chances that I’ll get a favorable response in return.

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Here in Antigua, each day there is a sunny side of the street and a shady side of the street.   Also each day, I see many Americans walking on the sunny side of the street, shielding their faces from the intense sun and complaining how hot it is.  While at the exact same time, all the Guatemalans are contently walking in the cool of the shade.

We all get up each morning and we have a choice.   Are we going to make it a good day, or not.  That is our first decision and that simple decision then becomes the filter that we experience that day through.

Regardless of what is going on in our lives, we all have a choice in how we are going to view it…  Choose the shade!

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Sometimes I come home after a workout or a hard day and I’m all hot and sweaty.  I am anxiously looking forward to that refreshing shower and clean clothes.  Then, when I turn on the water…I get that horrible gurgling sound…and no water.

It’s in these moments I have a choice…get all upset over something I can’t control…or live with what is.   I have learned to live in what is and in those times, these Huggies wipes are the best solution to my immediate problem.

Such is life.  We can choose to get upset when things don’t work out…or we can accept what is and move on…

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I pass many Americans on the streets here every day.   I have to say, most of them seem to be miserable and disconnected from the rest of the world.  Whether they are looking at their phones or not making any eye contact as they pass…the vibe is always the same…I am invisible and not important.

While Guatemalans may be reserved, a brief “Bueno Dias” will always produce a smile and a “Bueno Dias” in return.  Even when I pass a group that is talking among themselves, they always return my greeting and smile.

I have realized that I love exchanging eye contact and greetings so much that I rarely wear sunglasses!   I want them to see me “connect” with them…unlike many Americans, they may have passed that day.

The end result is,  I am energized by them and although I may not know them personally…I feel connected to them.

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I learned this phrase from Oscar.   Many times I would wait to start something until I had all the information or answers.   Oscar would always remind me to just get going and then when new information became available, all I would need to do is adjust.

Brilliant advice and advice that works.   Many of us never start down the road of our dreams and desires, waiting for conditions to be different or perfect.  That rarely happens and by not starting…we may never arrive.

Adjust the load on the road…get going and figure the rest out as it comes!

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We bring many teams of volunteers down to Guatemala and the question that I hear the most is, “So, what are we going to do next?”

The reason this question drives me crazy is that they are missing the value of the present moment.   They are always wondering what’s next and ignoring the lessons and the experiences of the things they are currently doing or the people they are with.  It’s always…next.

Even after I tell them what we are doing next…it just opens the door to more questions.

Guatemalans don’t do that.  They just live in the moment they are in…relaxed, happy and content.

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This goes back to choices.   Do you intentionally control what you allow your mind to think about or focus on?   Have you ever had the experience of searching for something you really wanted and after finding it…you see it everywhere?

We only have so many waking hours in the day and in those hours, we can focus on things that bring us life and energy…or rob us of life and energy.   It’s our choice.  We choose what goes in our mind.

I like to look for things in my day to day life that look like a cross.   I have compiled a folder of crosses that I have seen over time and the mere fact that I’m looking for them in my world…makes me happy.

The Bible reminds us, “seek and you shall find.”   Whatever I’m consciously (or subconsciously) looking for in life…I’ll find it.  I have learned to look for the good…and I have learned to look for God…everywhere and in everyone.

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One day while Don Juan and I were building a stove, I looked up at this clothesline.  There were no clothespins holding up the clothes!   Just two cords wrapped around each other and the clothing pulled in between the two.   How cool!

Then, I started thinking about how in life, the same is also true.   Two people working together can do more than each can do individually.   I started thinking about how the Guatemalans value each other and they spend time with each other.

Family and friendships, relationships of all types are valued above just about everything else here.  Being independent or “on your own” is not something they celebrate…because life is better with others…it just is.

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I don’t think I could have learned much of what I learned about myself without traveling.  Placing myself in a new country and in new environments allows me to look back on my thoughts and beliefs and see them differently…with more clarity.

Basically, I never questioned why I believed what I believed or did what I did…until I couldn’t do it anymore.  I had to get away from it…to see it.

I think this is a valuable lesson.   Sometimes we all need a little space and time to see our situation with more clarity and honesty.   I can’t think of too much in my life that demands an immediate response from me and by creating some space for me to look at the situation from afar…I tend to see more…

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I think that regardless of what we all do…one thing is certain…we are all in the “people business.”   And there is one thing about being in the “people business”…it’s usually messy!

Most times, people have conflicting wants, needs, viewpoints and past experiences that make them do what they do.   But we also have an opportunity to make our own impression on them.

A lasting impression…and that is our opportunity…and our choice.

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I think the toughest question I’ve ever asked myself is, “Am I living the life God created me to live?”  I asked this question of myself several years ago.   At that time, I believe I was a different person.   I was pretty much unhappy with my career, I was running from a life that I felt God was calling me into,  I was pretty much self-centered and I didn’t like kids…I thought they were “little germ carriers.”   Yep, I was a “great guy.”

However, I finally quit running.   I finally turned my life over to God and got in the game.   Pastor Andy Stanley says, “When you give your life over to Christ…your future is now His problem.”   I could not agree more…

What I didn’t expect was what my future would look like and where it would take me.  What I also didn’t expect were the changes that He would make in my heart and in the way I live.

Living in Guatemala was something I would have never guessed would happen in my life.  But over the past year, I think I’ve laughed and smiled more than I had done for my entire life beforehand.   I’ve been changed from the inside and I know it.   I think God has made a better me than the one I spent my life trying to make…and all I did was to “get in the game.”

So as I look back on the past year…I think this final photo pretty much sums it up.  This little girl lives in Guatemala City dump…and I love her…

So much for being a “little germ carrier.”