Two Things I Pray For, Selfishly

When I was young, I prayed for lots of things. I prayed for a new bicycle. For a new car. For new parents, once or twice. For a new saxophone, a new computer, better grades, more friends, better looks, some awesomely cute girl to like me. Or notice me. Clasped hands on troubled man

© littleny - Fotolia.com

And more times than not, these prayers felt unanswered. I didn't get the things I asked for.

I'm no theologian, but I think it's because these were incredibly selfish prayers.

The times that I prayed for others, for them to get through some trial, or help from grief, or success in business, or relationships or whatever it might have been, those prayers always seemed to get answered in the affirmative, even if I only recognized it when I looked back across time.

Hmmm. God must really like it when my prayers aren't about me!

So I'm trying to change the way I pray.

I'm not saying I don't pray for things for myself, but 99% of the time, when I turn those prayers toward myself, there are now only two things for which I pray:

  1. Knowledge of God's will. I'm a bit thick some time, so the path in front of me often isn't as clear as it might be to others. It's also tempting to want to pray for "a speedy recovery" or a financial windfall. But that's asking God to do something that I want, which to my thinking runs counter to the whole idea of prayer. By asking God to simply reveal His will to me, and to smack me upside the head with it, I'm trying not to dictate the terms, just asking for the map.
  2. The strength to carry it out. Knowing what God wants from me and having the strength to do it aren't both essential. Quite often, my strength alone isn't going to be enough to get me through the steps that are in front of me. That's where strength comes in. And yes, part of it is the strength to not turn around and impose my great ideas anyway.

Knowledge of His will, and the strength to carry it out. That's my several-times-a-day selfish prayer. Everything else I pray about during the day largely focuses on others. I'm not perfect, but my goal is to pray everything for others, and only these two things for myself, no matter what situation I'm facing or what trials I'm in.

Strength and knowledge. That's all I'm asking, Lord.

Have you seen a difference in outcomes when your prayers are directed outward rather than inward? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Don't Treat the Monitor

I spent several years as a volunteer paramedic. And one of the first things I learned after deciding to upgrade my knowledge from EMT-I to EMT-P was, "Treat the patient. Don't treat the monitor."

Defibrillator© Renewer - Fotolia.com

I also recently became obsessed by my Klout score. A few months ago, I had no idea it even existed. Then, suddenly, it became very important to me to have one as high as I possibly could.

Why? I have no idea. Because bigger is better. That must be it.

Just the other day, I checked my score to find that it had dropped precipitously, like by 7 or 8 points. I had no idea why. But just as puzzling, a few days ago, it leapt back up almost to its original value.

Did I do anything different? Not that I'm aware of.

So what happened?

Who cares? I lost sight of the patient and homed in on the monitor.

Brand-new medics love their cardiac monitors. They're shiny. They're new, at least to the new medics. They are symbols of the advanced training paramedics receive. They tell us all about what's going on inside the patient in ways the patient can't, espcially when they're unconscious.

But in the rush to treatment, it's tempting to forget that the flashing screen and paddles are just one tool, and often not the best, or most reliable. If the monitor shows a heartbeat but you can't feel a pulse, then your patient is in bad shape regardless of what the monitor says. If the monitor shows flatline but your patient is alert and conscious, you have a problem outside the patient.

And if the patient's problem doesn't involve their heart, then the cardiac monitor isn't going to be much use.

When you're treating a human, and you're using technology to evaluate their condition, many things can go wrong. Leads can become dislodged. The movement of an ambulance can cause readings to shift. The technology can simply fail. Machinery breaks.

This is true in my post-paramedic life as well. I often spend too much time trying to "game" the metrics. Even in school, I found ways to ensure I could ace tests without really mastering the material. Has this served me well? Nope.

I'm not saying you shouldn't measure things. "What gets measured gets improved," said Robin S. Sharma. EMTs focus on blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiratory rate as measurements that can directly be affected to improve patient outcomes.

So the next time you find yourself worrying about follower count, or subscriber numbers, or department profitability, or yes, your Klout score, just remember -- don't treat the monitor. Keep doing the right things and leave the metrics to themselves. Focus on the numbers you can affect and spend your energy there.

The Nine Joys of Paper Note-taking

Everyone takes notes. And we all have many ways to capture those precious thoughts at random times; more ways now than ever before. Tablets, phones, laptops, notebooks, Moleskines, business cards, napkins, coasters. If there's a way to write on it or with it, chances are, someone has used it to take a note.

Moleskineh Amir Kuckovic via Compfight

And while many of my peers advocate using their gadgets for journaling and writing and note-taking, I'm a bit more old-school. I prefer a fountain pen and a good, sturdy paper like the Rhodia Webnotebook.

Change Your Perspective

I'm a technologist, a software developer, so you might well wonder why I wouldn't prefer to use some gadget to capture these things and, in fact, I often have. I have electronic calendars, to-do lists, and notes of all kind thanks to tools like Evernote, Dropbox, and others.

But when I really want to think and let my mind work at its best, nothing beats a blank sheet of paper.

I've found nine reasons for this.

  1. My eyes need a break from staring at computer screens all day and paper helps my eyes relax.
  2. A quality pen on quality paper just feels rich and special. It transports me back to another time, when great writers created whole works in this fashion that we're still reading today.
  3. Paper never interrupts me with email alerts or twitter alerts or software update alerts or....
  4. Ink is permanent. When I write something down, I'm more hesitant to scratch it out and start over. I get a permanent record of all my thoughts even as they develop, and can revisit ideas I thought were poor at the time but which might be gems later. In pixels, I can erase a sentence, a thought, and it's just gone forever.
  5. Ink is permanent. It makes me consider my thoughts as I write.
  6. Did I mention that ink is permanent? My laptop can crash. My iPhone can get stolen. The sync service I use can go out of business. The bits and bytes that represent my data can be lost to me in many ways. But my notebook is mine as long as I hold on to it.
  7. I can easily change from text to drawing to annotation without requiring different applications. I just draw or write or annotate. Simple as thought.
  8. The finished product often has a romantic look that just makes me feel good when I look at it. No matter what font I use, I can't duplicate that on any screen.
  9. The change of perspective, from lit screen to soft paper, often gets me thinking in new and different ways.

Are there times when I capture a note into my phone? Certainly. There are always going to be serendipitous moments when I need to grab a thought and hold it for later, and nothing does that like whatever I have at hand. Usually, that's my iPhone.

But for most things, my most important thoughts, plans, and cogitations? Those are going on paper.

How about you? How do you capture your important and not-so-important thoughts? Leave a comment and join the discussion!

Dads, Your Daughter's Waiting....

My daughter had been looking forward to the evening for a solid week. I'd have told her about it sooner, but knew she'd do her thing of counting down the days at least twenty-seven times each day and driving her mother stark raving mad. So I waited to leave the invitation out for her to discover until just a week before. 513380302_43e76dd693

image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Kumasi Ford

When we arrived, she got a little nervous. After all, a podium in the lobby and tables with candles & tablecloths just isn't normal for a Chick-Fil-A. But this was Daddy Daughter Date Night.

Big Night

We were escorted to our seat and a young lady arrived to take our drink order. We ordered dinner. A spicy chicken sandwich for me, and chicken nuggets for my princess. With applesauce. And honey for dipping, because, you know, honey!

At our table was a card with conversation starters for each of us. Early memories, favorite activities. Four or five for her and for me.

We chatted as we waited for our dinner to arrive, surrounded by other dads and daughters also out for their big nights. Some had dressed up; suits and fancy dresses were side-by-side with work boots, jeans and soccer uniforms. And it all looked perfect.

Dads looking everything from confused to thrilled. One or two with their cellphones out, most at least trying to engage with their daughters.

We talked about some of the troubles I had in school with being accepted, feeling like I belonged. About how, like her, I always wanted to be the first one done with every test. And how I learned there's no prize for that, but there's definitely a prize for getting the answers right, even if it takes a little longer.

We ate our meal and watched the candle slowly burn down. I wished for more time -- our hour time slot felt too short.

A photographer from the Walgreen's next door came by and snapped our picture, then dropped off a 5x7 print for us a few minutes later at no charge along with a coupon for use at the store.

Feeling Loved

Our server came back and offered us complimentary desserts. Two mini sundaes completed our dinner. My daughter was given a bag with a stuffed cow and some other goodies and a nice pink carnation.

My gift was a book called "Continuing the Conversation," featuring more conversation starters to cover the next four weeks.

I went into this event expecting something frankly cheesy. Fast foody. Minimal. What I got was black tablecloths (vinyl, sure) and flowers and candles and pictures and table service and smiles.

And most importantly, I got help. Help knowing what to say to her. Help making the time to spend together, just the two of us. Help practicing with her the kinds of things she's going to need when she starts dating.

It Matters More Than You Think

Dr. Meg Meeker tells me I'm her model for all future men.

I need many more hours like this one.

I'm glad I've got this book to help me with ideas after week five.

Strong Fathers Strong Daughters 30 Day Challenge

Dads, how can you spend more time with your daughter this week?

Teamwork: Why I Love Football (Or, Baseball is Not Really a Team Sport)

Teamwork. That's why I love football. 464926_344637715584507_1791173626_o

I've never been a big fan of baseball. It moves too slowly for me. I've also never really liked soccer and I've never been sure why.

Rugby? Love it.

Cricket? Meh.

Baseball? Zzzzzzz.

Gridiron football, though, is something to behold. I realized recently what it is about the sport that I most enjoy.

Teamwork.

Lessons From Little League

My son played teeball in the spring and is now playing Anklebiter flag football, so I've gotten to watch the early stages of a team coming together in both sports. And let's face it, I was a band geek who never really enjoyed sports and never had a positive sporting experience as a participant, so I kind of missed this as a kid.

But here's the thing. In baseball, the team on offense fields one guy.

One.

The team on defense ... waits for that one guy to do something while one of the defensive players throws balls to him and another defender catches them. When the offensive player hits one, the nearest defender fields the ball and tries to throw someone out while running between bases.

That's the whole game in a nutshell.

My son's little league team spent every practice working on the individual skills of the players. At no time did we ever work on "plays", or team-based activities.

Not a lot of teamwork to be done, apart from the occasional double-play or triple-play. Mostly, it's standing around waiting for your moment to make an individual contribution to your team.

Lessons from Flag Football

In my son's flag football league, from the second practice, the team was drilling plays together, learning how to move as a unit, how what each one of them did would either make the overall play work or not, how it would create a hole for a running back to get through (or not).

They've learned teamwork from the beginning and have drilled it every single practice.

You can tell the teams that work on this from the ones that only work on individual skills. The teams who drill teamwork win games. The ones with great individuals don't.

They just end up with frustrated individual players who ought to be making big plays but who can't.

This isn't limited to football. My favorite player during the NCAA tournament last year was Iowa State's Royce White, who in one regular-season game made only 4 points himself, electing to assist throughout the game.

That's teamwork. And yes, we won that game.

What examples can you think of, sporting or otherwise, where teamwork is either obvious or not? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

How Values Make Hard Decisions Easy

This is the second post in a series about Values. You might want to read the first, Can You Be Too Gazelle Intense?. Corporations are big and evil.

baby cow for baby menCreative Commons License Robert S. Donovan via Compfight

They only value profits.

Forget about what might make their employees or customers happy, the only concern is pleasing the stockholders.

How many times have we heard arguments like these trotted out in the wake of the Enron debacle and Occupy Wall Street? By now, even those of us who believe in the inherent goodness of people have stopped cringing when movies like Erin Brockovich or Silkwood or Thank You For Smoking come out.

Whenever we see a businessman in a police procedural TV show, it's almost guaranteed that he's the bad guy and will end up a victim of his own greed because his values are so screwed up.

Gone are the days of Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady, businessmen who did good and cared for their families.

Baby Food

Raymond Dunn was 15 in 1990. Born with a rare genetic defect which gave him an abnormally small head. He was blind, profoundly retarded, and cannot speak.

Raymond was also profoundly allergic.

So much so that the only food his parents found that he could tolerate was Gerber's MBF, a pricey, meat-based formula created for allergic infants.

But in 1985, due to declining sales, Gerber decided to stop making the stuff.

Gerber agreed to ship all their backlog, including expired jars (after obtaining an FDA waiver) to the Dunn's. They even agreed to provide the formula to any manufacturer willing to produce the MBF for Raymond.

There were no takers.

By 1990, she had only a few months' supply left. Every alternative they tried made Raymond sick. They were out of options.

People Matter

So the people inside Gerber who had been helping the Dunns throughout this ordeal approached their management with a proposal. They had found a way to assemble special equipment and source the special ingredients to produce a limited run of MBF. It would provide a two year's supply.

Gerber agreed, as long as the employees did the work on their own time, the company would provide floor space for the production line and ingredients.

The employees did pull it off, and Raymond received a two year extension to his life. Moreover, the Dunns were told that, if no alternative had been found by the time this supply ran out, Gerber would be willing to do it all again in two more years' time.

In fact, the volunteers kept Raymond alive for ten years, from the time they began looking for the back stock of MBF in 1985 until his death in 1995.

For one special customer.

One.

When you value your people, these decisions come easily.

How do you think Gerber's decision to have the employees work on their own time, rather than paying them for the work, might have affected how invested they were in the project? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Can You Be Too Gazelle Intense?

This post is the first in a series about Values. Come back Wednesday for part 2. Any follower of Dave Ramsey has doubtless heard the phrase "gazelle intense" close to half a bajillion times. It's the level of intensity you need to accomplish a goal.

David Sharp

It's how focused you have to be if you want to succeed at the difficult things in life.

Say you want to scale Mount Everest. You get together with 39 of your closest friends. You train. You hire a fantastic sherpa.

You prepare with the best equipment possible.

You get gazelle intense.

You lay out a boatload of cash, between $20,000 and $65,000.

This is not an inexpensive journey, in dollars, time, or any other measure.

If you set this goal, you better believe, you're either gonna be gazelle intense, laser-focused on the summit or you're going to peter out pretty quick, turn back, and sip cocoa by the fire at some lodge near the base while everyone else in your group makes history.


Along the way, your group sees a man, sitting alone in the snow. He's sitting in "Green Boots Cave" next to the body of an Indian climber who died in that spot in 1996, and whose body was left there as a tragic landmark.

The cave was named for the first climber's green boots.

The year is now 2006, and the man sitting next to Tsewang Paljor's body is David Sharp, a mathematician from England. He is freezing to death, the blood in his veins slowly turning to ice. His body is starving for oxygen.

What do you do?

Over 40 climbers passed Mr. Sharp by. A few gave him token whiffs of oxygen before continuing on. Others, on the descent, assessed his situation as beyond saving and left him there to die in the cold. Alone.

What Do You Value?

Why do you think those climbers went past David and left him there to die? I'll tell you what I think, but please share your own thoughts in the comments below.

I think they calculated the cost of their trip, the cost of attempting it again, and the loss of their goal and decided that cost was too high to save one stranger's life.

They didn't value his life enough to save it at the cost of their goal.

Was he ill-prepared? Absolutely. Did he make mistakes? Certainly. Did David Sharp deserve to die on that mountain? No. Did he deserve to watch forty people walk past him and decide their own goals were more important to them than his life?

Gazelle intense can be a fantastic tool, but don't let it give you tunnel vision.

Do you see a different explanation for what happened on that mountain? Share it with us in the comments below!

Your Business, Your Labels: Grazer, Consumer, Guest

What labels do you give the people who visit your business? The ones who hand you money in exchange for products or services? tumblr_lph0u1p8bi1qfvq9bo1_500 In the fast-food industry's parlance, we are grazers. More like the cattle most of them are serving us on mass-produced buns than like individuals for whom they should show caring and affection.

Does your business have employees? Or are the people who work together in your employ team members? Are they there holding down a job, or are they actively involved in working together to advance the business?

"Service them well and hold their custom, for you'll have none of mine!"

Judge Turpin, Sweeney Todd

Are the people who walk through your door customers? Not bad -- that's someone who'll buy something from you.

Labels abound. How about these:

  • Visitors, who come and overstay their welcome and leave you holding the bag?
  • Browsers, who wander aimlessly, touching everything but purchasing nothing?
  • Shoppers, who will haggle with you for the best possible price with no concern for the longevity of your business and what its loss might mean to them?
  • How about your target market, walking around with bulls-eyes on them?

Or are they guests, to be made welcome and pampered with no expectation of anything in return?

Even the parlance of our government refers to the Consumer Price Index and Consumer Confidence, as if our role as citizens was to consume and consume without producing anything of value.

Words matter. Labels matter. Call someone a grazer long enough and it you can't help but affect how you view them.

What does your industry, your business, call its staff and its customers?