Christmas Movies and a Life Plan

The Similarities of Fiction and Reality

 

I love Christmas time and especially Christmas movies. There are the classics of course; Miracle on 34th St., White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc. There are a bunch of TV Christmas movies that are really good as well. Then there are some great shorter animated Christmas shows; Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. My wife and I are big movie fans anyway and at Christmas time we try to watch as many Christmas movies as we can.

While watching one of these movies recently I was aware once again of how most all of them are the same basic story repeated. Yet I watch them over and over. I know in the beginning how things are going to go. There is going to be those people that are or want to be in a relationship of some kind; friend, family or romantic. Then you have the trouble that happens. It might be a series of calamities or events that cause problems. Maybe there’s a person who is a selfish trouble maker or just isn’t the right fit. Then after the struggle everything works out and there you have it…a happy ending.

One of my personal favorite Christmas movies is the Polar Express. It has such a great story. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is about a young boy who is beginning to doubt the reality of Santa Clause. He’s woke up by a loud noise in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve and finds a train parked in front of his house. It’s the Polar Express. He boards the train and it takes him along with other kids to the North Pole to meet Santa. Along the way there are a bunch of obstacles to overcome. Through his diligence and the help of others he makes the trip successfully. After this journey he is reassured and believes.

I have come to the conclusion that there are a great many similarities between these Christmas shows and life as a Christian. Life is full of difficulties and situations that may or may not be direct results of things that we have done. Either way we have to deal with the situations that we find ourselves in. It is great to have the support of family and friends when going through difficulties. This is not always the case. Some people aren’t as fortunate in this area. Regardless Christ is a friend that we all can count on. Christmas is after all the celebration of He’s birth. Just like in these movies, as a Christian, my story will have a happy ending and I believe that yours can too. It does however, require that you believe.

If you haven’t seen it yet you should watch the Polar Express, live your live and get your ticket to ride and BELIEVE!

Trick or Treat…Is Halloween a Holiday or a Life Experience?

 

Halloween is a holiday that many people either really like or really don’t. For some it is an adrenaline filled experience of haunted houses and heart pounding excitement. For others it’s pull the blankets up over the head and hide until it’s over. Then there’s the whole fantasy filled dress up and pretend to be someone else for a little while. Oh and don’t forget all of the sweet, fun treats that can be had by going up to a door, knocking and asking.

As Halloween approaches it occurs to me that there are a lot of similarities between this holiday and everyday life, especially for those of us who are self-employed.

coxkoachpicture2Just like going into a haunted house, we know there are going to be things that are going to jump out and scare us. It makes our heart pound and our palms sweaty. Then it comes down to the decision of going ahead or not. Just like life choices that we consider, like starting a new business, entering into a relationship or which college to go to. These things can be scary, but think of the exciting possibilities.

We could however just cover up our heads and close our eyes to the world around us. Sure life can234215709_84d878750b_o be scary, but really, is that blanket going to protect us if something is really out there? There is so much life to be experienced if we are just willing to uncover our head and join in. This doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen. I just think rather than hiding by ourselves in the corner, it’s better to get out there and live.

Dressing up in a costume and pretending to be someone or something else can be fun too. It is an opportunity to step out of reality for a little while, to get out of the daily grind of everyday responsibilities. It is okay to role play, to step out of your comfort zone or to expand your boundaries. You just want to be careful to be honest and true to who you really are. It can get really hot in that costume if you leave it on too long.

8143286420_a708665b1f_oThat brings us to the treats part, my favorite part (I do have a bit of a sweet tooth). How cool is it that all you have to do, to get candy and other goodies is to just go up to someone’s door, ring the bell and they will give them to you? This is how most people are… they are willing to share some of what they have with you. If we need some help, we just have to ask. Sure there are going to be some whose porch lights are off, but way more are on than off. In Matthew 7:7 in the Bible it says “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” God’s porch light is always on and He has some great treats.

Life is a little like Halloween, but don’t be so afraid that you miss out on the exciting fun.

Flexibly Rigid

 

 

 

The Importance of an Action Plan with Some Margin

 

 

I am an organizer and planner by nature. I like having a clear direction. A system in place to expedite those wonderfully crafted plans. But you know what happens…’life happens’. Once you’ve begun executing those plans, something that you hadn’t included in that masterfully 12140602074_d97538a8fe_odesigned, already fully packed day comes along and just messes up the whole thing.

There are so many things that I want to get done. I struggle through the process of what to do first, what’s most important today, which thing should be at the top of the list.

Just because I’m a planner doesn’t mean that I can’t be flexible, because I can, sometimes maybe too much. It has always been pretty easy for me to make adjustments when something unexpected happens. The problem with this is, getting derailed by distractions makes it hard to stay on task. Then of course that plan, that wonderfully crafted plan, is all messed up. For years I have worked to be better at balancing the plan and flexibility.

You may be on the other side of this coin and have the gift of doing. The ability to make a decision and move on it. You find it frustrating when the unexpected happens and you struggle to deal with it.

The important thing is to understand yourself. What character, personality and gifts you have so you can be prepared in your own way to handle the unexpected.

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Recently I had a day that provides a good example of this. I had scheduled to finish the punch list of one project so that I could move the tool trailer from this project to the next. This next project involved another contractor so the plan was also coordinated with his schedule. Before I even got started doing any work, while backing up to hook up the trailer, I noticed a brake hose on my truck leaking. Of course this was a Friday so my mechanic wouldn’t be available to work on it tomorrow. I called him and he said that if I could get it to him now he could fix it today. So I consider my options…get the truck to the mechanic and not move the trailer or borrow a truck and go ahead with the punch list and move the trailer. I decided to take the truck to get fixed. As it worked out I had already scheduled the truck to go to the mechanic on Monday to have some other things done, so while the truck was at the mechanics he went ahead and did the work that was scheduled for Monday. This allowed me to do the work Monday that I had planned for Friday.

 

I think that there is a Master Planner at work and it is important for our plans to fit with His; to determine what our priorities are before that scheduling fiasco happens; to figure out who we are and what we want, so we are ready when the unexpected happens. This doesn’t mean that everything will go perfectly, but as we search for clarity and work through each schedule disruption we will get a little closer to being who we were designed to be.

How to Get Your Puzzle Pieces to Fit

 

Easing the stress of being too busy         

 

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This morning as I was posting in my journal I started thinking about all of the things that I didn’t get done yesterday. Then I began to think about how many times I have posted this same thing over and over. It sure seems that I spend way too much time feeling overwhelmed and behind. I really want to get more done! Then I thought about all of the times that I’ve had this same conversation with other people. “How is your day going? Man I am so far behind I don’t think I will ever get caught up. I sure wish there were more hours in the day.” I have heard these or similar comments more times than I can count. Our lives can feel like a 20,000-piece jigsaw puzzle was dumped out in front of us with no picture of what it is supposed to look like when it’s done.

So how can we get all of these pieces to fit…or can we? This is the big question. It would be nice to know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. This puzzle can be tough and frustrating. I think it is especially difficult for those of us who are ‘recovering perfectionists’. We want all of the pieces to fit just right. To know ahead of time exactly where each piece is supposed to go. This particular puzzle, called life, doesn’t work like that.

 

Here are some reasons we struggle with our puzzle and some ideas to help us get our pieces to fit.

We pick up too many pieces by over scheduling. There are so many pieces that we want to put in the puzzle. Some more important than others. We start out by picking up all of the pieces we can. More pieces than we could possibly put in the puzzle today and then what do we do…try to pick up a few more. I know for me, if I don’t start the day with more pieces than I will be able to use, I naturally slow down. I put in less pieces than I would otherwise. What I have to remember is that every day I am going to have pieces left over and that’s okay. The key is to be intentional. Start with the corner pieces. Put in the most important pieces first.

The puzzle isn’t going together as fast as we want. Sometimes (most times) things just take longer than we think. We think, hey it won’t take more than an hour or two to put all of these pieces in. Then after working on this for a while, we realize we were trying to force pieces to fit in the wrong place. So we take a deep breath and start again. This time putting them where they belong. Maybe we didn’t allow enough time to do it. We thought we could put in a piece every minute to only find out that it took longer than that. Oh, and don’t even get me started on interruptions and distractions. It can really slow things down when somebody throws their pieces in the middle of ours. We need to do as much planning and preparation as we can before we start, but remember to not over plan. Spread the pieces out, find the edge pieces and get started.

With so many pieces in front of us we lose our focus. After we have put all of the edge pieces in place we are feeling pretty good. Then we look at all of the pieces that are left and aren’t sure where to start. We look at these pieces and then at those…which ones should we do first? This is when we just need to pick a piece. It doesn’t matter which one. Just pick one. Then start looking for one that looks like it will connect to it. If it doesn’t then try the next one and the next one. Keep going one piece at a time until you find a piece that fits. Then do it again and again. Before you realize it you look up and there are a bunch of pieces hooked together and a picture beginning to take shape. We need to remember that we can only put one piece in at a time. Concentrate on that one. If it doesn’t fit, then pick up a different piece and focus on it.

Life is a puzzle. What really makes this puzzle fun and exciting is that while we are putting our puzzle together other people are putting theirs together and their puzzle is connected to ours.

 

What struggles have you had or tricks have you found while working on your puzzle?

A Life Changing Wakeup Call

A Board up Side the Head, Now That’ll Get Your Attention

 

In December of 2012, I got just such a wakeup call. I was literally hit in the head with a board. It was a pretty big board too (a 14’ long 2×12 plank). We were installing wafer board boxing to the second floor wall of an addition. I was standing on the plank approximately 8’ above the ground when it broke. Luckily I don’t remember any of the ordeal from the time I was measuring until I woke up in the hospital three days later. Based on what I was told by the guys that were there as I fell, I hit my head on one of the ladders, then on the concrete slab and then the board hit me in the head. It sure is good that I have a hard head. Seriously I was really fortunate that I came away from this accident with only a concussion.

Here are four positives that came out of it.

Change of focus – I have always been a workaholic ever since I was young. I love working and the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting things done. However, there are some tradeoffs when our work takes precedence over everything else. This accident forced me to slow down for a little bit. While recovering I had some time (like I had a choice) to look around and see things other than my work. It reminded me that there is more to life than just work and I need to remember that.

 

An appreciation of life – As I reflected on the accident I realized how valuable this life we have been given is. It is so easy to get in the daily routine and grind of life. If you are like me, it is easy to overfill our lives. We have a fixed amount of time and we schedule way more than we can do. Regardless of what we fill our schedule up with, even important things, like working in the church or other worthy causes. Even God rested from his work. When he created our world he rested on the seventh day. If this is His plan, then we should try to do the same.

 

Greater awareness – While slowed down and contemplating my situation I became aware of how blessed I am to have the family and friends that I do. I know that not everyone’s situation is the same. I am more blessed than many. The comfort and support I received made my recovery both possible and more likely. I know that we can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends. A good church is a great place to find great friends. Regardless of your situation you can choose to make it better.

 

Delegating and planning – One thing that became evident pretty quickly was how production slowed, practically stopped, while I was unable to work. This is a common place that many small businesses find themselves. Many small trades businesses only have a few people working. Maybe only one. They started out with some tools and a pickup. There is nothing wrong with this plan until something happens and you can’t go to work. It is hard enough to keep a business operating day to day without something like this happening. I have always been a fan of systems and planning. This pushed me to review my business model and consider some changes. It became clear that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I needed to take some intentional actions and do better at sharing the load.

It is a daily struggle to keep life in balance. Do not let one thing have too much attention. I try to remember this every day, because I don’t want smacked again.

 

Writing a Blog…What the Heck Am I Thinking?

Helping You with SOLUTION BUILDING

 

Having spent most of my adult life working in the construction industry I have experienced the difficulties and struggles that come with it. I’ve seen unhappy customers and contractors who didn’t understand why. I’ve seen way too many building projects run over budget or behind schedule. I’ve seen contractors scrambling to make ends meet and customers who think everything costs too much.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I think that building a home, a business or a life, are like construction. You need to determine what you want and why you want it. Start with a good design. Have a blueprint and know how to read it. Make sure that you have a good foundation. Be flexible and willing to accept changes as they come along. Understand that there are going to be problems and be prepared to deal with them. If you can be clear about the goals in the beginning and work with a good team, you can build something great.

This is my hope for this blog site.

By nature I am a planner and a thinker. I’m always thinking and then talking about what I’m thinking. This is how I process my thoughts. I think out loud. This blog is a place for me to do that. It will give me the opportunity to get feedback from you as well. It will be like virtual brainstorming. This sharing should help all of us build better.

I’m going to write with two separate, but intertwined, focuses. One for the building industry and one for the building customer. There will be things that we can all learn from both. The goal is that all of these will lead to building better. I plan to post two new blogs weekly, one for each focus. In addition to these two there will be a third topic mixed in periodically. It will be more random, with a foundational life lesson built in.

The business blog will share business systems, business ideas, personal experiences, construction lessons, etc.:

 

  • Sales and Marketing
    • Proposals and contracts
    • Customer relations
  • Production and Operations
    • Communication documents and systems
    • Production documents
  • Administration and Finance
    • Contracts and change orders
    • Cash flow
    • Invoicing
    • Bill paying
  • New and different ways of operating a business
  • Examples of things that worked and things that didn’t
  • Discussion of specific products and applications

 

The customer blog will focus on looking for and finding solutions for building projects by sharing how to work with contractors, construction ideas, personal experiences, product education, etc.:

 

  • What to expect from a contractor
  • Improved communication
  • Project budgets
  • Realistic project timelines
  • Products and how they work (or don’t)

 

For years I have been asked by other contractors and customers, how I do this or why I do that or what I think the best way is to do something. I’m always glad to answer these questions, but there is a limit to how much I can do this and still operate a construction company. My hope is that this blog site will allow me to share with, and help, a lot more people with SOLUTION BUILDING.

Riding on a Runaway Train

Getting Control of Your Busy Life

 

For years I have used the example of a runaway train as a comparison to my busy, on the go, over scheduled, out of control life. It’s like I am riding on a speeding train of which I’m supposed to be in control. The problem is that instead of being seated comfortably in the engine at the front, I am barely hanging onto the ladder on the back of the caboose trying to not fall off. The train keeps speeding along, with no way for me to get control from the caboose. I start pulling my way forward, one train car at a time. First one, then a second, then a third. Look at me I’m making some real progress here. It won’t be long now and I will have this train back under control. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the train hits a bump. I lose my grip and catch the caboose as it goes by. Now I get to start clawing my way back toward the front all over again. How am I ever going to get this crazy train, called life, under control? If you’ve ever felt like this, then here are some ideas that might help.

You need to have a plan –This is where getting control starts. How are you going to make it to the engine? The key is to not quit. Don’t ever let go of your train unless you’re dead. As long as you are still alive you can do something about your situation. You need to be intentional about how you want your train to operate.

            Review the past – Look back at what has worked and what hasn’t. What was it that caused you to lose your grip from the train? Determining this will help you to know how to hold on as you move forward next time.

            Figure out what your purpose is – God has given each of us specific talents that fit who we are created to be. It is up to us to find out what they are and put them to good use. This determines who we are and what kind of train we have. Is it a freight train, a passenger train or maybe something different?

            Don’t overload your train – Once you have determined what kind of train you’re on you can decide what kind of cars should have. Most likely there are some that will need to be disconnected and left behind. Overloading our train is a very common problem. Most of us think we have a ‘super train’ that can pull as many cars as we hook to it. It’s okay if we don’t pull them all. They will fit in someone else’s train better, or are just a waste of good train fuel. Who knows maybe you will need to add some different ones. The important thing is to know how many are too many and which ones don’t belong.

            Help from other trains – Sometimes when our trains are overloaded there are others that can help us with our load. Maybe they can give us a push, a pull or take some of our cars. It’s okay to get help. Our train isn’t the only one. If we get our load right, then we are better prepared to help other trains when they need it.

In this world there is no such thing as a perfect train. We will never have complete control or a ride without any bumps. What is important is to not give up or quit. Keep working to make your train better. To be aware and observant of what our train should be. Work every day to make your train the best train it can be and remember, ENJOY THE RIDE!