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I am learning to use fewer words, talk less and listen more. It has been an ongoing process, and one that requires a great deal of intentionality. You see, setting goals is a good thing, but setting intentions is so much more powerful. Intentions cause us to actually do some work and to put in real effort. It is one thing to say I want to win the game, quite another to make sure I give it everything I have when I actually participate in the contest. I might lose the game (as I often do), but I can always give it everything I’ve got.

Today, as we venture into the last few weeks before my book becomes available I wanted to give you a list of five things to ponder as you begin your journey of being intentional when it comes to becoming a little bit better each day…or shall we say Exceptional Every Day!

Set intentions and act on them

-Use a calendar

-Create a daily checklist

-Track your progress and you will see yourself with a newly defined eagerness to improve

Read…Read…Read

-It works like compound interest in the financial world

-Don’t look to fill your time with reading, but instead make it your time

Get up early, or at least a little earlier than you normally do

-You can truly get more done

-Less distractions and an easy way to eliminate a little chunk of your anxiety

Learn how to say NO

-Those that find true success learn to PASS on things

-Don’t always rely on the easy YES, but instead think about what you are saying YES or NO to

Be a “connector”

-Don’t look at networking to serve yourself, but instead build relationships that last

-Build a community of intention oriented people rather than a contact list of people to ask favors from

I know the 5 “key points” of today’s blog are not all inclusive, and there is some room for interpretation, but I do believe it is a great starting point. I want to see you succeed and I definitely want to see you live the exceptional life that you deserve. Have an amazing day, and why not make it an exceptional one while you are are at it!

I may not be a singer, songwriter, or dancer. I am quite horrible at all of those things. I can’t hold pitch and have two left feet. I have two daughters and they would prefer a father who can do all of them. They have been trying to teach me and it is not really working out in my favor. But at least we are getting a few good laughs in.

And then JT came along. Well, he has been around for awhile now, but I just hadn’t paid all that much attention, and even though he is 15 months younger than I am, he has taught me so much more than the things we know him for. He recently published his first book and even though it is mostly pictures, the few words he uses are magical and powerful.

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For instance, I took the following words quite literally (as I do with most things)…”I love the silence. I love being alone in my car, holding the wheel. I drive with the windows up, and I rarely play music. I crave stillness. It began as a need, and then it became a practice.”

I set out to do this for the past 60 days (I was tired of hearing about 30 day challenges). But driving around Waco, Texas, where there really isn’t much excitement, is challenging enough. I kept the radio off and I allowed myself to think and reflect, over and over again. It was quite liberating.

Or how about this…”I understand that I don’t have to conquer my fears. I just have to learn to live with them. Instead of looking for sunlight to erase that shadow, I know that it’s always going to be there. Everything you’re doing as an adult is to try to heal whatever you’ve built up from your childhood. It’s your shadow that follows you around, and the only time a shadow disappears is when you step into the darkness. And then you learn to step back out.”

This one has been particularly challenging for me. I have carried a few demons forward from my childhood. I have done many things to try and overcome my insecurities from the past, but a few continue to persist. But I understand the process and I know that I should continue to step in and out of the darkness to let my shadow do its thing.

I took copious notes while reading JT’s self-help guide. And I could keep writing about all the things I learned about myself, but that would not help you. You need to first think about the challenges you have had. The insecurities you possess. The childhood that might not have been perfect. The first few formative years as an adult that may have gone awry. And when you do so focus on one thing…focus on where you are right now. Decide if it is the right place, and if it’s not then make a decision to do something different. Don’t put up with excuses. Don’t put up with yourself, if “yourself” is not the person you want to be. I dare you to change one thing that just isn’t right in your life, and when you do please share it in the comments below. We are here to help one another. No judgment. No critique. A simple mechanism to help us all grow to be the people we want to be.

Something to think about as you enjoy your weekend.

Whether you have ever traveled on Southwest Airlines (I have met people in Texas that have never left the state, let alone been on an airplane) or not, I am about to tell you a little bit about one of the men responsible for starting the company and keeping it airborne.

Mr. Herb Kelleher was a CEO unlike many others, as he actually took care of his people and put them before his own agenda. I recently learned a great deal about him and I only wish I could have been his friend. I could have learned so much and I would have been a better human had I been so fortunate. But even though I never knew him, those that did have been sharing what it was that made him special.

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I thought I would share those things with you because I truly believe that if you, and I, and those around us begin to harness these traits in our lives this world will in fact get better one person at a time.

Herb believed in leading with love and not fear and if you have been around long enough, you have likely seen both aspects of leadership (if you can even refer to fear as a type of leadership!). Herb could carry on a conversation with anyone. He looked at building a company as ‘human’ as the human beings within it.

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What can we do to be better? I will leave the challenge up to you to fill in the empty space after each phrase below…start doing these things in the interactions that are about to come your way…especially the very next one after you get done reading this because the only way to build a healthy habit is to start.

  1. Be interested
  2. Be approachable
  3. Be yourself, and allow others to do the same
  4. Be trustworthy
  5. Leave your ego at the door
  6. Be tough, but not mean (‘mean’ is dehumanizing, shaming, belittling, whereas ‘tough’ means that you hold others accountable)
  7. Don’t take yourself too seriously
  8. It’s okay to say I love you

I look forward to hearing about how this works out for you…and thanks again for reading this blog and for taking a look at my new book. Stay blessed!

My first attempt at a video blog…a little longer than I desire, but with practice I think I will be able to provide you with something powerful in about 60 seconds or less…thanks for taking a little time to check it out. Very raw, but a work in progress and after all, that is what the Process is all about.

When my youngest daughter turned two she was very interested in memorizing a bunch of cards with the face of a man on one side, and a short synopsis of his life on the back. The deck of cards contained all the former presidents of the United States. I would show her a card, say the president’s name and she would repeat it back to me as best she could, and then a few days later we would go through them again. By the age of 3, she could honestly recite nearly all of them (and there were 43). My oldest daughter was not a huge fan, but she would participate every now and then.

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To make it a little easier for the girls to remember the cards I would give them something that made each man unique. For example, after showing them Jimmy Carter’s face I told them that he was a peanut farmer. Gerald Ford was a former football player from the University of Michigan. John F. Kennedy was the sad president because he had his arms crossed and was looking down at the ground. Franklin Roosevelt had been portrayed in the movie Annie, and they loved Annie. George Washington was the very first. Abe Lincoln had pictures up in our house, so they saw him every day. I went on and on and it worked.

But when we got to #41, things were different. He was quite unique. He was a naval officer and aviator like their own dad (but he was better at it!). He had played collegiate baseball at Yale. He gave up the opportunity to work on Wall Street, and instead ventured to Texas to try to make it on his own (I ended up venturing to Texas as well, but I would hardly say I am trying to make it on my own here). And even closer to home, I had written ‘41’ a letter when I was a child, and I actually received one in return. Now, I am smart enough to know that he never actually read my letter, and that the letter I received in return was quite generic and age appropriate, but none of that matters. That simple experience was full of inspiration for a kid like me that did not come from much.

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I had read a few books about his time in office throughout my college years, but it was not until 2018 that I truly learned about who he really was, and I owe my thanks to another former president known simply as ‘43’ for teaching me so. From humility, to remaining humble and spending as much time with his children as humanly possible despite the various offices that he held during his life; ‘41’ actually did “the best he could” with the time he had.

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You can argue about either of these two men not being great presidents until you are blue in the face. My blog has nothing to do with any of those sorts of things. I simply wanted to convey that it was quite a joy to learn about such a prominent man through the lens of his child.

41: A Portrait of My Father is an enjoyable, relatively quick read that will leave you asking for more.

‘41’ was definitely someone who believed in service above self, and all of us would be better off if we spent just a little bit more time learning about what that actually means. Blessings!

I was talking to a patient the other day, and he told me he was having a hard time being grateful. He was seeing me for knee and back pain, but I felt like there was something more so I probed a little deeper. Life had been getting him down. A family member had passed. He had to take on a second job to pay off some debt. He felt like he was losing at everything. So then he asked me how I had the energy to be a physician. He wanted to know how I could see patient after patient and listen to all of their problems without wanting to quit. And then we just kept on talking to one another.

And then it hit me as it often does. His knee and back pain were nothing compared to the other “pains” he was experiencing. My next patient did not show up to clinic so I had a little extra time, and I wanted to give him something more. And then he put me on the spot and literally said to me, “Can you show me what things you are grateful for?”

I had never had a patient ask me this. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am relatively new to medicine since it is essentially my “second” career, but I have still been seeing patient’s for nearly 8 years now (either as a medical student, resident or fellow) and this had never happened. Perhaps he was comfortable with such a request since we had shared that we had both served in the military (he during the first Gulf War, and I still serving).

So I grabbed a sheet of paper, and I fulfilled his request in the only way I knew how. I did not learn this in medical school or in the military. In less then 2 minutes I gave him the list below. I would have kept going, but he told me to stop.

  1. Being motivated
  2. Having values
  3. Seeing past the status quo
  4. Trying to be better than yesterday
  5. Not succumbing to peer pressure
  6. Delayed gratification
  7. Marrying someone who “gets it”
  8. Not needing much
  9. Adversity to include living in my truck and cancer
  10. 5 real friends and many mentors
  11. Connection
  12. Faith
  13. Having a conscience
  14. Being able to say NO
  15. My girls for teaching me so much

He looked over my list. I told him I could keep going. That I had so many people in my life that I was grateful for. He put his hand up as if to say “enough.” The room was silent. He told me he was “grateful” for me coming into his life today. He then left the room and said he did not need anything for his knee or back pain and that it would all be alright. As he walked out I told him to follow-up as needed and that I would appreciate if he could come back to see me again.

Perhaps I had “felt too busy” to reflect about these things on my own and he came into my life that day for a reason…

And thus, we should never be too busy to reflect on what we are grateful for.

 

 

 

Today, I just want to share a quote. Because I know you are busy. You always are, and you don’t always have time to read one of my blog posts that can be anywhere from 300 to 600 words long, and I am truly blessed that you even want to read any of them. Seth Godin has taught me that if we want to change the world we need to cause a ruckus and we need to start within our own circle of people. We cannot worry about reaching the masses until we can reach those closest too us. So let’s do this together, one moment at a time.

“For one human being to love another human being, that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

I recently had the opportunity to take advantage of being done with my morning clinic a little earlier than expected. I used those extra minutes to join my wife on her weekly Wednesday morning adventure in which she reads to a group of under-served elementary school children.

She had prepped me with stories of her assigned “boys” (three of them) not being able to sit still and pay attention, knocking over bookshelves, eating nothing but junk food, and worst of all — “not being able to read” the most basic of words.

As we waited for the students to get their lunches, we met another “weekly reading mentor” and he admitted that he was lucky to have the “good kids,” knowing that my wife had the troubled ones. I soon realized that the mentor for the two boys standing near me was not likely to show up today, so I decided to step into the role.

These two boys were quiet, standing still, had kind interactions with one another, and appeared somewhat eager to do some reading. I noticed many long and dirty fingernails instantly (it is admittedly a pet peeve of mine that was instilled in me at a young age…perhaps a little OCD that I have passed on to my own children).

As I got to know the boys, I discovered that they each had their own smartphones (and they were each only 8-years old!) and one of the children labeled himself a “youtuber.” I admittedly had never heard this term before. I was quickly saddened.

As we began our reading session, I could see these boys were terribly behind. Both in 2nd grade, yet reading as if they were in preschool, perhaps kindergarten. An atrocity of sorts. How could it be so bad? Where did this situation go wrong?

I knew I would be unable to fix their reading dilemma in one thirty-minute session. My heart was aching for them. I did not want to leave them. I was eager to do something. And thus I struggled.

I am not sure what I can do. I am unsure as to what the teachers and the school can do. But the parents? Are there parents? The boys told me they had them at home, and one boy told me that his mom makes him pancakes and eggs each morning before school. And they each had Iphones. Hmm?

And I just keep thinking about those fingernails………..

The home is everything, and in cases like this it means more than everything. If only our values were consistent.

Take a look around today, and see if you can contribute a little small piece of your time to do something for someone around you…

Stay blessed and always be eager to contribute.

All of us are just that…not exactly perfect, but closer than we think. The concept of perfect is not perfect in and of itself. So I would venture to say that all of us are in fact “practically perfect.” These words came up while I was watching Mary Poppins with my girls…yes, it was a much needed not so masculine moment with two little ladies.

Each one of us in our own little way is “practically perfect.” But like me you probably don’t feel that way unless of course you are a narcissist. I have met a few along my journey, and they are quite lonely people. Some have disowned there own family members who failed to submit to their wishes. These people lead sad lives. Yet when they appear in our paths they want us to think they are in essence “perfect.” But while they might seem conceited and confident on the outside, it is a sure bet that they are quite insecure.

But again, even they, in their own pretentious, conceited manner are in fact “practically perfect.”

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We all have come to understand that perfect does not actually exist. All of us make mistakes. We have all blown up at a colleague or a family member, only later to realize just how lame our actions were. Some of us have posted to Instagram and Twitter only to eventually remove such a post or tweet after someone caught our attention and “called us out” for our actions. Or how about the time you littered, or took something without paying for it, or were rude enough to be talking on your phone while paying for your groceries (too good to interact with the cashier while he or she took care of your need), or when you parked in a handicap space because it was only for a minute?

And I am only scratching the surface. The list is quite long.

So if it is in fact true (and it is!) that we have all contributed to the imperfect list, but we are all within a standard deviation or two to one another (think back to that statistics class), then essentially we are all “practically perfect.” It is not something to boast about or to “rest on.” It is simply nothing more than a new approach to living. A way to be thankful and grateful.

Thankful for the opportunity. Grateful for what lies ahead because of such a “practicality.”

So let’s do this together and chase the opportunity to be better tomorrow than we are today.

When life gets tough we tend to either dig in our heels and work a little harder, or we simply accept our present situation without putting up a fight. Some of us never accept the circumstances we encounter, others of us pick and choose, and the rest just take the punches and give in each and every time. The last scenario occurs for a myriad of reasons that are different for all who choose the path of least resistance. It may have something to do with the cards we were dealt at birth or the ones given to us a little later. Or perhaps we lost one too “many” games and we decided to fold, telling ourselves we would only give in this one time, but eventually the domino effect occurred and it happened over and over again. And sooner or later “settling” became our routine.

A lot less work, not much sweat, no more tears. We accepted our choices as being the best ones possible. We ceased questioning ourselves and our desires. It became easier to just “be.” But obviously this isn’t how you see yourself. Maybe you did for a bit of time (or a long time), but today is different. You are conducting your search for more. You are looking for a keyword or two from this blog that will keep you as far away from “settling” as possible. But the keys that you need are already in your pocket or your purse, or perhaps they are already in the ignition awaiting a twist of your wrist. You may have just not used them for quite a while, or at least as much as the others on your key ring. You have added so many keys to that ring that the ones you really needed got lost in the mix and overshadowed, just the same as your ability to keep fighting, growing and learning was put on hold because you had too many other things to do.

Today is your opportunity to fight for something you have been putting off. Whatever you do, don’t settle for something that you have the capacity to overcome. And most importantly I want you to be able to look back knowing that you gave yourself each and every ounce of self-worth possible.  Here’s to your journey and your PROCESS.

The journey has begun

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