It's My Life Inc.

In Honor of My Father

In honor of my father’s passing, this posting is the transcript from his 2009 Advent homily.

There is a new program on television this year called GLEE.  It is written by a couple of Prospect High school graduates and follows the life of a swing chorus.  A lot of the storylines and characters come from actual events at Prospect. A couple of weeks ago, the cast was talking about a homeless man who slept in the Mt. Prospect bus stand or in front of the library.  They called him “Patches”.  If you have lived in Mt. Prospect for any length of time, you would know that he really existed.  It amazed me that the writers would remember him after about 20 years.  He was an insignificant person but a human being created by God for whatever task God had for him.

In today’s Gospel, we have Mary, a relatively insignificant person.  She was a young girl from a small village.  The way she responded to the angel, Gabriel, and even to her cousin, Elizabeth shows us that even Mary considered herself insignificant.  By no means did she suffer from low self-esteem.  She was just simply humble, knowing that she was from a poor family in a poor town.  Mary teaches us a lesson: being from insignificant families in insignificant places does not make us insignificant.  We are reminded that the idea of significance does not come from where you live or who your family is but our significance comes from God.  All human life is significant, the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans, they are all significant in God’s eyes.  Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin made clear that she recognized that Mary, her young cousin was significant even though she came from humble means.  Regardless how insignificant Mary felt she was, the angel Gabriel came to her.  Mary accepted Gabriel’s word even though this was an inconvenience for her, being young and single.  She took a chance on God and agreed to go wherever he led her.  We also know that her yes was not a once and for all event, but would have to be renewed many times for centuries, for all eternity.

The readings this Sunday, especially the Gospel story of Elizabeth and Mary, teach us something of God’s way of working.  It seems that God has a habit, really a constant practice of choosing the weak and making them strong for carrying out His purpose.  Moses tried to hide from his mission because he didn’t feel capable of carrying it out.  Jeremiah cursed and swore at God, demanding to know why someone as inadequate as himself had to deliver such unpopular messages to a hostile people.  When we turn to Mary, we find someone who didn’t have any reluctance in responding to God’s call, but then again, she was just a young peasant girl from a drab town, Nazareth.

My fatherGod always prefers to make himself known and work through people who lack importance or status according to present day standards.  If you look around, God always chooses people who have qualities of simplicity, and a positive lack of worldly sophistication or grandeur to revel himself to us.  The attitude of all the main people in the story of God coming to earth shows the fact that if we don’t learn that kind of simplicity, we’ll miss the vital message that God is always trying to communicate to us.  In fact, we have to divest ourselves of the desire to be superior or to look down on other people if we want to be sensitive to God’s presence and open to his purpose.  We are also challenged to take a look at our own mission in life.  God created us and put us in this world for a purpose.  We may not be famous and as well known as world leaders or entertainers however God has a design for us.  Each blade of grass, each flower, each grain of sand on the beach has a purpose.  How much more are each one of us who are created in the likeness and image of God?

The difference between Mary and us is not that she was chosen and we are not.  No, it is that we often decide not to take the risk and give ourselves entirely to God.  We choose not to surrender our freedom or our will to him.  But perhaps today we can hear once again that we are highly favored, just like Mary.  God sees us as precious in His sight.  He longs to have a relationship with us that is loving and complete.  He wants us to experience joy, if we will but take a chance and say as Mary did, “let it be done to me as you say.”

It's My Life Inc.

Lifestyle Business

Recently on Davette Harvey’s The Entrepreneur Zone, I provided the basics of business strategy.  Hopefully the listeners received glimpses of insight within our discussion, but my aha came afterward.  Davette and I were discussing the concept of holistic business strategy or business strategy that does not just cover business needs and goals but the goals of one’s personal life.  That is when Davette told me how she enjoyed having me on the show because I served lifestyle businesses.   Lifestyle business was not a term I had heard before but I quickly learned that it is in fact who I serve.

Some entrepreneurs begin their businesses to make millions.  Some do it to bring their product concept to market.  Some do it to serve others through their unique skills.  But the people I love to work with start their businesses to have the life they desire.  They no longer want to work by terms that are not their own.  They want to create the rules.  They want to define their work day.  They want to determine what success looks like to them.  And most importantly, they want to create a business that allows them to live life fully.  It is no longer working for a living, but living through one’s working.  As Davette said, “my work is play and my play is work.”  Work and business is not compartmentalized into a segment of the day and neither is one’s life.

How many of us feel like we are playing a role at work?  How often do we feel like we are changing hats to go into our personal life?  How often do we feel we need to hide part of our personality or stifle some of what makes us happy to retain our jobs?  Why can’t our personal and professional lives be one?  We spend too many hours of our lives working not to make those hours satisfying to our souls too.

They can be.  The first step is for you to define what you want.  Read this again:  define what you want.  So often we believe we need to fit into the structures of existing businesses.  Why?  Why can’t we pitch the existing mores of the business world and create our own?    Take some time and write down what your business day would look like.  Where would you live?  When would you wake up in the morning?  Who wakes up next to you?  What do you do first – read the paper, exercise, or check your emails?  What do you do next?  What is the step by step progress of your work day if you could define it anyway you would like?  Be as descriptive as you can.  Really feel, see, hear, taste and smell what that day is like.  If you are starting your own business, ensure that this perfect work day is reflected in your business plan.  Create the business plan around the life you want to create.  If you work for someone else, how much of your perfect day can you have in your current position?  What needs to change to make your day as close as possible to perfect for you?

Share with us your personal lifestyle business description.

It's My Life Inc.

Vision

This July I am offering a course for small businesses. The Business Strategy 101 course is based off the key premise that every good company has a plan. A business plan is a vision for where the company is going and how it is going to get there. Every good business book writes that in order to start a new business it is important to first have a plan. What is the good or service to be sold? To whom are you selling? How much will be charged? What start-up capital is needed? Where and how will the business be run? When there are issues or when there seem to be an overwhelming amount of to do’s the business plan helps us to stay focused on our goal. To succeed in the fierce world of commerce it is important to map out and stick to a business plan.

But then I got to thinking. How many of us are living our lives without out a plan? How many of us wake up in the morning feeling unfulfilled? How many of us feel there should be something more or different that we should be doing, something we should have? We can’t define what it is but we know we don’t have it now. How many of us don’t have a life plan?

Too often we live our lives like a boat without a rudder out to sea. We drift this way and that. Sometimes we land on an island that is nice and we stay there a while. All too often we bump into island after island that provides nothing to our being, our soul, or our happiness. We allow the waves and the wind, fads and family to dictate where we go and what we do. We feel disappointed that we have not landed on the perfect island . . . but we also do not set a course to get there.

In business and in life one has to know where one is going to get there. Before you get in the car and start driving it is important to know if you are going to Los Angeles or New York. If you just started to drive, where would you end up?But that is just how many of us live our lives. We are driving around without a map and without a destination. We struggle through rain, snow, and potholed roads and we think that these struggles are keeping us from happiness. But in truth, the fact that we do not have a destination is what is holding us back.

Whether you are a company or an individual to reach your goals you first need to define them. First you need a vision.

There are some people who have trouble determining what their vision. What do they want? What do they really, really want? Not the fleeting things like a 2010 Prius or Paris Hilton’s new perfume. Not even a new romance or job. Those are all things in the social sphere. The media and entertainment industry constantly bombard us with things that they want us to desire; possessions, status, prosperity, sex, and the perfect body. But what are the deep down desires in our personal sphere, in our individual soul? Only deep inside one self can the true answers lie.

To truly know what you want go into your core, listen to your heart, feel your spirit, and get in touch with your true self. The first step to do this is by Doing Nothing which I often talk about. Each day grant yourself at least 15 minutes to unplug from the outside stimuli and be with yourself. Relax or meditate and just be comfortable by yourself and within yourself. Turn off your to do’s and incessant monkey chatter brain. Just be. Turn off your logical mind and listen to your gut.

Recent research printed in Science magazine and Kellogg School of Management “highlights the value of unconscious thought, suggesting that when it comes to complex decisions, many of our best choices are made in the absence of attentive deliberation.” The concept is that so much that we do during the day does not require conscious thought. When we get out of bed in the morning we do not consciously tell every leg and back muscle how and when to perform. We do not analyze each step of the process. We don’t think about the advantageous and disadvantageous of putting the right leg on the floor before the left. We just do it. The body just does it through the instruction of the unconscious mind.

This research went on to prove that when there are simple decisions to make like choosing between four cars based on just a handful of aspects, using the conscious mind the best answer was more often provided. However when the choosing was more complex, say rating cars based on more than ten aspects, people who went with their gut, with their unconscious mind, were more successful. So who is to say that using our conscious mind is the best way to determine what our life plan should be?

Determining your life plan is a very complex decision. There are an unfathomable number of options, so as you work through your life plan pay close attention to your gut. Don’t get caught up in the mind’s analysis. What feels right to you deep down inside? There lies your true life plan and the key to your happiness. Then place a rudder on your boat and head in that direction.

It is amazing what can be accomplished once you have a vision of your life plan. Take some time to meditate on where you are going and what the perfect life would look like to you. Then share with us here the vision for your future.

Quote and research source: http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/index.php/Kellogg/article/too_conscious_to_decide