A Successful Life Is More Than Just a Big Pile of Stuff

Where Your Heart is…That’s Where You’ll Find Your Treasure

Success looks different to each of us. We need to remember that success is so much more than just accumulating things. Not that there is anything wrong with having nice stuff.

Real success comes from where our focus is. Is it on the stuff or fulfilling our God given purpose?

We need to be careful to not get sucked into the commercialism of the world.

If we’re honest with ourselves we’re spoiled. Things that we call problems, really aren’t problems…they’re inconveniences. Things like:

  • I have company coming over and my house is a mess
  • My walk-in closet isn’t big enough
  • I can’t get my Wi-Fi to reach everywhere in my house
  • My air conditioning in my truck quit and its hot outside

Compared to a hundred years ago or someone living in a 3rd world country…these aren’t problems, they’re inconveniences.

We live in an overwhelmingly marketed to world. Advertising is all about creating the want of stuff. Desire is contagious. We need to be careful to not be sucked into desiring the wrong things.

Stuff in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s about where your focus is.

In Matthew 6:19-21 we’re told to be careful where we’re storing up treasures. Earthly treasures don’t last forever while heavenly ones do.

Jesus tells us in Luke 12:13-21 about a man whose farm produced such a big crop that he didn’t have enough room to store it all. The man decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. This would allow him to eat, drink and enjoy himself for years to come. This didn’t work so well…that night the man died.

This is what happens when people store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God.

I used to struggle with this Scripture. It seemed to me to be saying that we shouldn’t work hard or be productive or save for the future.

This isn’t what it’s saying. It is sayingit’s not all about me.

If we focus our energy into fulfilling our God given mission, we will be successful…whatever that looks like for each of us.

How Do You Know If Your Servant’s Heart is Focused in the Right Place?

It’s Pretty Simple Really…It’s All About What Your Focus Is On

If you have siblings or children, you know how things typically progress with each new child. With the first there is a level of inexperience that leads to caution and overzealous instruction. With each following, things seem to relax.

A woman with five siblings (three sisters and two brothers) told a story about one night talking with her mother. They were talking about how the mother had changed from the first kid to the last. Her mother agreed that she had mellowed a lot. “When your oldest sister coughed or sneezed, I called the ambulance. When your youngest brother swallowed a dime, I just told him it was coming out of his allowance.”

Experience is a good teacher.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. Luke 10:38-42 In this story Martha welcomes Jesus and His disciples into her home. Doing this kicks her servant’s heart into full swing. Hosting people is a lot of work.

While Martha was working to get things ready…Mary went in and sat down with Jesus and the disciples and was listening to Jesus. This upset Martha.

We all know people who excel at hosting. Some of this comes naturally, some is from experience.

A few weeks ago, we had my wife’s family in for the weekend. Debby fixed enough food for three meals a day for twenty-five. (There were only six of us) It’s not that any of us needed that much to eat…it was about her showing her love for them. It’s what her grandma would have done.

Serving others is a good thing…if we don’t lose sight of why we’re doing it.

Mary and Martha were different. All of us are different. These differences lead us to do different things. What’s important to one person isn’t to another.

We don’t know exactly why Martha or Mary were doing what they were in that moment. What we do know, is that in a few days after Jesus was with them, He would be dead.

This is why it is critical that we do what we do with our focus in the right place.

Serving others for the wrong reasons is no better than not serving them.

We need to be careful to focus on the right thing at the right time. Three things we know about focus –

  1. Our time is limited, the demands are endless – We can choose where we spend our time. Don’t let demands have control.
  2. Focusing on the right thing is living with no regret – We don’t know the future so focus on the most important thing now.
  3. You will never have enough time for everything, focus on the right thing – There will always be too much to do and we can’t do it all. We can choose what to neglect.

Make sure to focus on Jesus and what He wants. If we do this…we will be serving in the right way.

How Do I Find Focus When Dealing with Unplanned Chaos?

The Unplanned Part Is What I Struggle with the Most

I like having a well-planned and organized life. Our level of control in a world with so many moving parts is minimal.

Last week I wrote about how when life happens it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do. The importance of being flexibly rigid when the unplanned happens.

The focus of last week’s post was what I’m going to do about repairing or replacing my truck after being rear ended. When processing this situation last week, I felt confident that we would repair.

In that post I had a list of things that would affect my decision.

The answer to one of those questions has changed everything.

I expected two options from the insurance company. One to pay me and take the truck…I would buy another truck.

Second was pay me, I keep the truck and repair it. This was my preference and my plan…until I got their offer.

The price difference was staggering. I still haven’t figured out how they arrived at these amounts.

  • $18,449.00 – they take the truck
  • $8,832.17 – I keep the truck and repair it

That’s almost a $10,000 difference. It seems clear what the best choice is.

The problem now…the unplanned chaos.

With me being a planner and liking things organized…this is a problem. Before hearing from the insurance company yesterday, I had a clear plan of how I was going to move forward.

Everything changed after that call.

Since that call, I’ve struggled to stay focused on the things that I normally would and should be focused on.

For example, this morning it took me twice as long to do my daily Bible reading. My mind kept wondering…what am I going to do about a truck. This afternoon I was taking an escrow payment to the title company and walked several buildings past theirs…I was thinking about trucks. I get sidetracked when starting a new task, because…I’m off in truck land.

Then there is the time needed to search for a truck. As particular as I am about my vehicles this isn’t a simple process.

Of course, with the way things are currently, used truck prices are crazy….am I going to be able to afford it? Not to mention that good clean used trucks are hard to find.

One of the things on my list today was to write this week’s solution. I started working on it yesterday afternoon, but was having trouble focusing (I kept thinking about the truck). This morning I kicked around some other ideas, but I was having trouble focusing (I kept getting sidetracked thinking about a truck).

That’s when I decided to just write about it.

My hope is to accomplish a couple of things with this. First, that it will help me work through this problem toward a solution. Second, I will at least get this weekly solution written.

In addition, maybe it will help you if you’re working through a similar situation.

Life is going to give us times of chaos. It’s up to you to work through it however works best for you.

You have control over your thoughts and actions. Take control!

I will keep you posted on the truck situation as it unfolds.

Focus and Determination Beat Brains and Intellect Every Time

We Need to be More Like Squirrels

Most of us struggle with getting and staying focused. We are easily distracted and now more than ever we are surrounded by constant distractions.

Why Squirrels Get to Rock an “S” On Their Chest comes from “You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader” by Mark Sanborn does a great job of putting this in perspective.

Bill bought a new house on the edge of a lush, wooded area. Bill liked to feed birds, so Bill put a feeder up in his backyard. But before the sun even set that evening, squirrels were swinging off the bird feeder and chasing the birds away. Bill realized that he had to do something or the birds would soon be too scared to come near the feeder.

For the next two weeks he declared war on the squirrels. Bill wasn’t a mean guy and wouldn’t do anything to hurt the squirrels, but he was willing to use any peaceful means necessary to keep them out of his bird feeder.

He tried greasing the post, but that didn’t work. Stumped, Bill visited his local hardware store and bought a “squirrel-proof bird feeder”, an odd-looking feeder with wire mesh wrapped around it. The label said it was guaranteed, so Bill took it home and put it in his backyard.

By sunset squirrels were once again swinging off the bird feeder.

Bill was really upset, and the next day he took the feeder back to the hardware store. He asked to see the manager, demanding a full refund.

“Calm down,” the store manager told him. “I could have told you when you bought it that there is no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder.”

Bill looked at him in disbelief. You mean we can land a man on the moon and send instantaneous messages via satellite to anywhere around the world, but our best and brightest scientists and engineers can’t design and manufacture a bird feeder that can outsmart an animal with the brain the size of a pea?

“Yep,” said the retailer.

“Why not?” Bill persisted.

“Let me ask you something sir,” the man replied. “How much time on average have you spent in the last two weeks trying to keep the squirrels out of your bird feeder?”

Bill thought it over for a moment and responded, “Maybe ten to fifteen minutes a day.”

“And how much time do you think the squirrels spend each day trying to get in?”

The answer, Bill learned, is almost every waking squirrel moment; squirrels spend 98 percent of their waking hours looking for food. In fact, they are unique in the animal kingdom in that they would rather eat than procreate; they prefer foraging to fooling around. This just goes to show the kind of focus the squirrel brings to its mission.

The moral of this story: 

Focus and determination beat brains and intellect every time.

You don’t necessarily have to be smarter or better educated to succeed. Your power lies in your ability to focus on doing what is important. If you focus on the right things, and work at them often, you will achieve exceptional results.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

Benjamin Franklin

Just think what we could accomplish if we had the focus of a squirrel.

In Philippians 3:4-14, Paul speaks to the importance of working toward the goal. Running and struggling to take hold of the prize. Forgetting what is behind and fighting for what is ahead.

Determine what your purpose is. Commit to it and make it your priority. Focus on it like a squirrel would.

So Now We’ve Determined It’s More About the Action Than the Question

It’s Time to Do the ONE THING that is the Most Important

Doing the “One Thing” sounds great, but how do we do it?

This would be so much easier if somebody else would just tell us what to do. Not to mention, it would give us someone to blame if it was the wrong thing. The problem with letting someone else tells you what you should do is that it will be more about fulfilling their dreams…not yours.

We make determining the “One Thing” more difficult than it needs to be.

Making things more difficult is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. What if I do the wrong thing, was a question that I asked a lot. This would keep me from doing anything.

We need to do something…even if it’s not the perfect thing.

I will explain this with something I heard Dave Ramsey say referring to the Debt Snowball process. People often are scared about making paying small payments to debtors, but may be necessary to get out of debt. To put it in perspective he said, “What’s the worst thing that can happen…because they can’t kill you.” (This is assuming you don’t owe money to the mob)

The same thing is true for making a wrong decision when trying to determine what to do first.

Doing something is better than doing nothing!

I’ve referred to the book, The One Thing, over the past several weeks as I’ve been implementing its suggestions into my life plan. The main point of this book is that you can only do one thing at a time. So, it becomes imperative that you get clear on what’s most important for you to accomplish and take actions that will move you toward that.

I’ve determined that my one thing is –

Build God’s Kingdom by helping people find solutions for building their dreams through better business systems, quality construction projects and life lessons.

I do this by having core values that align with this purpose. Next, I need to make sure that the different areas of my life and my big someday dreams support it. Lastly, I need to decide…

Which one of the millions of bricks that it’s going to take to build this Kingdom I’m going to lay now?

Last week I shared my big long-term dreams and told you that this week we would go deeper.

To do this let’s take one of my big someday dreams and use it as an example.

Big someday dream (6-year goal – 2027) –

  • Remodel and renovate our existing home that was built my Great grandfather in 1916 and has been our family through three generations. This project will consist of a two-story addition with a basement added to the existing home and remodeling the existing home to the level of new, giving us more space to live and entertain while honoring and building a family legacy.

One year goal (end of 2022) –

  • Have preliminary floor plan and design agreed upon including rough sketched drawings and preliminary budget

Monthly goal (end of February) –

  • Have two preliminary lists of things to be included in the project, one from me and one from Debby

Weekly goal (by Sat. 2/5/22) –

  • Have lists started

Daily goal (1/29/22) –

  • Explain to Debby what is needed from her list and give her a deadline
  • Start my list

Right now –

  • Make a note on my to do list so that I don’t forget

Now go through this process for all your big someday dreams. In my case this is seventeen dreams. Some of the dreams will be a higher priority as they relate to your “one thing” or your present situation.

Once all my dreams have gone through this process, I can look at the RIGHT NOWs for each one and decide which is the highest priority RIGHT NOW and do that thing RIGHT NOW.

After that thing is done, I do the next most important one…always determined by what is most important RIGHT NOW to accomplish my ONE THING.

None of your dreams will ever be fulfilled if you don’t make a DECISION and take ACTION.

What You Treasure the Most is Where Your Focus Will Be

Lack of Clarity About This Comes with a High Price Tag

Most of us have heard the story about the rich man unwilling to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. Mark 10:17-27 This story often leads people to a misunderstanding of what God is asking of us. It’s not that God is against us being wealthy.

It’s about what’s most important to us.

This man’s focus was on his worldly wealth, not God. He had kept all the rules and regulations. But Jesus knew where his heart was. That’s why He tested him with this.

There are plenty of examples of wealthy people doing God’s work that aren’t asked to give up their worldly possessions.

It’s about where our focus is. Is it on the world or God?

Having spent our lives in the world it only makes sense that the world would be our point of reference.

Being rich is so much more than just monetary. Rich is also having a high value or quality. Being well supplied or endowed. This sounds a lot like something God would want us to have and would give us. He has given each of us a high value and qualities. It’s up to us to be focused and spend them wisely.

Having possessions isn’t limited to worldly possessions. Possessions are things possessed. We have been given so much more than just worldly things. We can possess skills, abilities, talents, insight, understanding, thoughts, ideas, etc. It’s our responsibility to use these possessions in the way the Giver intended.

The cost to being unclear about what we should be focused on first and foremost is expensive…just ask the rich young ruler.

We live in a time where we have more things clamoring for our attention than any other time in history. So many of these noisy things just pull our focus away from what’s matters most.

Like talking pants.

Everybody needs pants that tell them when they aren’t zipped up. Right? How novel. It is easy to be pulled away from the things most important. Don’t get me wrong…there are a lot of really fun and interesting gadgets and gizmos out there, and there’s nothing wrong with gadgets and gizmos. We just need to be clear about what our focus is on.

We can choose where our focus will be.

What will you focus on?

Why It’s Important to Have Our Focus in the Right Place

The Beauty of a Mountain Top Experience is Outside of Ourselves

I don’t know about you, but I find mountains to be some of the most beautiful things there is. What is it about these big rocks that make them so appealing? Maybe it is inherently part of who we are?

I think being on top of a mountain gets us closer to God.

Mountains are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. Mountains were a significant part in God’s dealings with people.

Mark 9:2-9 used in Pastor Lee’s message this week is one of these. This story of Jesus and three of His disciples is often referred to at the Mount of Transfiguration.

While on the mountain the disciples experienced the changing of Jesus’ appearance as well as the unexpected showing up of Moses and Elijah. In the midst of these miraculous events, Peter misses the point and offers to build three shelters. Really…did he think they needed someplace to stay?

Too often we don’t think about things before we open our mouths.

We need to step back and get a clear picture so we know what’s really going on. We need to be quiet, look and listen. If our focus is on the mountain rather than what’s happening on it, we can miss the point.

A man once testified in one of D. L. Moody’s meetings that he had lived “on the Mount of Transfiguration” for five years. “How many souls did you lead to Christ last year?” Moody bluntly asked him. “Well,” the man hesitated, “I don’t know.” “Have you saved any?” Moody persisted. “I don’t know that I have,” the man admitted. “Well,” said Moody, “we don’t want that kind of mountaintop experience. When a man gets up so high that he cannot reach down and save poor sinners, there is something wrong.”

Mountaintop Experience

A “mountain-top experience” is a moment of transcendence or epiphany.

A true mountain-top experience requires our focus to be outward not inward. It needs to be about what we can do for others, not what we get out of it for ourselves.

When the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria became tired of his life and the pressures of being a monarch, he asked the local monastery if he could spend the rest of his life there.

The prior of the monastery told the king, “Your Majesty, the pledge here is one of obedience. This will be hard for you because you have been a king.

“I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.”

“Then I will tell you what to do,” said the prior. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.”

When King Henry died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.”

We need to be obedient and…

Focus on the place where God has put us and serve faithfully from there.

Deciding What Your Big Rocks Are

What Should I do First?

This past week as I was writing in my journal, I was considering what the day’s priorities were. What were the most important things to focus on today, if I’m going to achieve my goals? As I thought I wrote…

What are the big rocks that I need to put in the jar first?

I read about this time/priority analogy several years ago in Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I hadn’t thought about this for some time and I don’t know why I thought of it then. I assume it’s due to the recent attention being giving to accomplishing my goals for the coming year.

Here’s how this story goes:

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Dr. Steven R. Covey, First Things First

I love this big rock example of prioritizing our actions. Too often we approach time as though there’s no limit. My time management budget certainly makes it clear that this is not the case. (currently I’m over my time limit for the year, by 746 hours)

As I study this time management spreadsheet it gives me a much clearer picture of where my time is getting spent and a way to determine what rocks should be put in first and what ones should be left out. There are so many great things to choose from but if I’m going to be the most productive, I need focused intensity on the big rocks that help me to achieve my goals.  

What are the big rocks in your life?

Growing in your faith? Spending more time with your family? Serving your customers better? Paying off debt? Taking better care of yourself physically and mentally? Helping with community projects?

Here are three short video examples of how putting the big rocks in first matters. The first explains this perspective well.

Put the Big Rocks in First

Time Management & the Jar of Life

Jar of Life

Writing It Down Makes It More Real


You’ll Hit What You Aim at Every Time

You need a clear vision of where you want to go, or you will just drift through life going nowhere in particular.

In Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s book, Living Forward, they propose a plan for being intentional and stopping the drift. They say drifting usually happens for one or more of the following reasons:

  • We’re unaware – We simply don’t know what’s happening
  • We’re distracted – We aren’t focused on the goals
  • We’re overwhelmed – We take on more than we should
  • We’re deceived – We are often unconscious about our beliefs compared to reality

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Zig Ziglar

The question of how to organize and plan has come up several times over the past several weeks. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I wasn’t aware of how intentional I had become about avoiding the drift in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I started the discussion about getting control of your life. Then I wrote about one of the tools I use for this. I had planned to go into another tool this week (maybe next week) but have decided instead to discuss more about the importance of intentional organization.

I’d forgotten how frustrating it was when I didn’t have a clear plan for where I wanted to go or how I was going to get there.

Most people don’t go to the level of detail with their scheduling as I do and that’s okay. What I’ve been trying to figure out is why many of these same people are frustrated and feel that their lives are out of control. Through several discussions I concluded all scheduling is basically the same.

The difference is in the level if intentionality. 

In Ray Edward’s podcast about starting an online business this week, he talks about the three things you must do in order to succeed while avoiding stress and overwhelm. These same things must be done to succeed in life as well.

  • Intention – Know what you want, why you want it, and have a plan for getting it.
  • Focus – Identify the essential activities for getting there and schedule them.
  • Margin – Give yourself time for rest, recreation and reflection.

This sounds a lot like how I schedule my life and my days.

There are studies that show when writing goals down they are more likely to be accomplished. The same thing is true when writing things down on task lists and calendars. You must decide what you want and then take the necessary actions if you are to accomplish it.

Writing things down keeps me accountable to myself.

I Need to Focus on What I Know How to Do

And I Don’t Know How to Do Everything

You’ve probably heard it said, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” I have to remind myself of this often. I get started doing something a certain way and it’s hard to change directions.

We are creatures of habit.

My tendency is to try and do everything myself. I think this is a combination of who I am and my upbringing. Growing up on a farm if it needed done…we did it. This isn’t all bad, these things also contribute to my ability to think outside the box and find solutions.

The problem is, there’s not enough time to do everything. I need to be more focused on the things I do well. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be learning new things. What it does means is that we need to be intentional about what we invest our time doing.

Focus is hard, especially when there’s no revenue.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how frustrating it is, to be doing something and not be achieving the expected results. This frustration increases when you’re sure it’s the thing you’re supposed to be doing. I’ve tried several different things to get my message out to construction companies and customers who desperately need it. CRICKETS

For years I’ve been faithfully writing and publishing Weekly Solutions. I estimate I’ve spent upwards of 2000 hours researching, writing, editing, publishing, etc. Even at a small hourly rate of $35/hour that comes up to $70,000.00. That’s a pretty big investment to have generated no revenue.

Another part of my farm upbringing was frugality. I don’t like spending money on things if I can’t see a clear return. This coupled with my “I can do this” attitude. I struggle with the idea of employing help. Looking at the numbers above, hiring would’ve probably had a better return on investment.

If I want things to change, I need to do something different.

The frustration led me to do several things different this year. I joined Kingdom Builders Mastermind hosted by Ray Edwards. In my cautious world this is a sizable investment. It’s been an investment worth every penny.

Through this group I’ve become connected with others who have experience and skills that I don’t. One such person is StoryBrand Certified Guide, Bryan Switalski with Clarity Consulting. We discussed the possibilities that could be achieved in my hiring him to help me with my digital marketing, clarifying my message and getting that message to those who need it.

My naivete with the digital marketing world is evident when you consider the amount of time invested and lack of accomplishment. I was a little unsure of moving forward with this due to the cost. We discussed options and ways to break the big project into smaller ones.

After looking at the cost of the time I had invested, considering what other things I could have been doing with that time it looks like a good investment to me. Oh, not to mention earlier posts I wrote about this very thing as it relates to construction and the value of a professional and whether or not to hire. I really should take my own advice.

So, if I don’t want to be considered insane, I need to make some changes.

Bryan and I are meeting next week to get started. There are some new and exciting things coming. Something that would be helpful is if you or any contractors you know would share with us your “construction proposal frustrations” in the comments below.