The Practice of Meditation

Meditate on Kayak

Last week, I wrote about the importance of solitude – and then I was able to go practice it on Monday, Memorial Day, as I went for a lone kayak on the lake and ended up in a quiet corner for almost an hour. It was peaceful to sit still and be mindful of the sights and sounds of nature. I took the time to reflect, meditate, and pray – and felt so rejuvenated after. The feature image for this post is a photo from my kayak outing.  

A beneficial activity to go with solitude is the practice of meditation. I’m relatively new to meditation, so I will provide you with helpful advice and comments from my experience.  

Release Meditation Technique 

This technique was developed (or probably adapted) by author/speaker Brendon Burchard. I have enjoyed learning from his books and YouTube channel, so I decided to give this technique a try. For the past few weeks, I have been working on developing this practice – but (being honest) I need to improve my consistency and length of meditation. It is a work in progress – but, as he says, the most important thing is to start trying and steadily improve until it is a habit.  

I always benefit from breaking away from work/life for a bit and forcing myself to be quiet and meditate. I know that it can be challenging since we are already so busy – how in the world can I spare 10-20 minutes to just sit and “accomplish nothing.” The secret… is that you accomplish more and you are happier during the rest of your time when you take time out to be in solitude and meditate. 

Brendon Burchard’s Method Explained

Brendon explains the benefits and method of the technique in the below link. There is also a helpful video where he talks through the method and then actually coaches you through a meditation session.  

Link: https://www.success.com/the-easiest-meditation-technique-youll-ever-try/ 

Brendon has you repeat the word “release” – but personally, I sometimes choose other words that are more meaningful to me. Words such as “Jesus” or “alive” bring more spiritual depth to the session. As a Christian, I also always start it with a prayer and invitation for the Spirit to speak or make the time meaningful.  

Music for Meditation

If I’m able to, sometimes I also play ambient music in the background while I meditate. A few of my recent favorites are below. You can probably find them on streaming services. (I use Amazon Prime Music) 

  • Sigur Ros – Liminal Sleep 
  • Future of Forestry – Union 
  • Lambert – Sweet Apocalypse 

Religious/Spiritual Meditation Practices 

Entire books have been written on this topic – but I wanted to mention a couple things on this topic before I close this post. 

Christian meditation is not mindlessness or “emptying of the self.” It is active contemplation that includes Scriptural reflection and prayer. It also can involve active listening for Christians who believe that God can speak with them. We often cloud our mind with so much noise that God’s voice or at least His guiding “nudge” does not break through.  

I have Hindu and Muslim friends who have different meditation practices. If you come from another faith background – please comment and share your insights with this community. 

Application Questions:  

  1. If you have engaged in meditation – reflect on how it has been beneficial for you. Please share! 
  1. If you have not, will you take Brendon’s (and my) challenge to give it a serious attempt for at least 10 days?  

Photo: By Daniel David on his Samsung phone on May 25, 2020 on Lake Athens – in Texas.

Thinking Leaders – Solitude for your Mind to Work

Mountain Solitude

Today I would like to discuss the fourth and final leadership principle in the last chapter of The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. I find these principles to be very helpful and practical in my personal season of life – but also for the season we’re in as a nation. We need to develop as leaders to come out of this pandemic with more strength than we had before because the challenges will be that much bigger! 

Principle 4: Take time out to confer with yourself and tap your supreme thinking power. 

Many of us, myself included, have the problem of crowding our minds with busy schedules and distractions. If we’re always jumping from one thing to the next or allowing (or inviting?) screens and noise to fill our eyes and ears, then we never have time to think. Perhaps we believe that thinking is a waste of time. Or perhaps we are subconsciously afraid of our own thoughts and to feel alone in our minds. However, I think that many people simply haven’t been taught or encouraged to have a habit of intentionally stepping into solitude to think and meditate.  

Without spending time in thought, we become increasingly shallower and lack stability and firmness of purpose. We need to step away and think through big life decisions, consider our identity and purpose, and even to draw small(er) conclusions for work and relationships. 

My experience today:

Before writing this today, I decided to spend some time thinking and meditating – in order to practice what I was about to preach. BUT I WASTED some of that precious time by being distracted by something on my phone. I recognize that I need to break away from the distractions in order to be successful in this habit! 

Advice from Dr. Schwartz

David Schwartz provides very helpful advice as he supports his claim that “successful leaders tap their superpowers through being alone.” And he challenges us by saying that, “You can, too!” 

He reminds us that the great spiritual leaders – “Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Gandhi” – spent much of their time alone in solitude. There is also the example that many of the evil masterminds of the last century spent time in prison before enacting their destructive plans (Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Marx). These examples, and many others, demonstrate to us that we have a powerful tool at our disposal (our mind) – but we must tap into it more often in order to reap the benefits it can provide.  

Okay! I get it. But HOW?

(glad you asked – here are some ideas) 

  1. Schwartz says to “resolve now to set aside some time each day (at least thirty minutes) to be completely by yourself.”  
    1. This could be directed – with a specific topic or problem in mind. 
    2. Or it could be undirected – and you simply allow your mind go where it wishes and you chase ideas to their conclusion.  
    3. This could be one block of time or split between different times – say the beginning and end of the work day.  
    4. It would be beneficial to journal your ideas and conclusions.
  1. Take a solitude day or weekend once a quarter (or year).
    1.  I found great benefit in removing distractions and being in solitude for an entire day on a few occasions. I had a plan for the time and resolved to make it productive – and it was great! 
  1. Meditation and Self-affirmation 
    1. These are practices I am stepping into more recently.  
    2. Too much to be said here – so I will provide more in a near future post. 

Questions: 

  1. Is this a practice that you would benefit from? Will you start today? 
  1. If you have practiced “solitude for the mind” before, please share your ideas and tips on the topic.  

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Thinking Leaders – Stand for Progress!

Non-progress in India

Previously, I wrote on the first two leadership principles in the last chapter of The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. They were to “trade minds with the people you want to influence” and to ask yourself “What is the human way to handle this?” This week I want to discuss the third principle on “how to think like a leader.” 

Principle 3:  Think Progress, Believe in Progress, Push for Progress. 

Experience with non-progress:

I have had the privilege of traveling in India on three occasions over the past decade. On each of those trips, I was able to experience the life of Indian people in a very rural context (small villages, back woods, dirt roads). One of the aspects of these people and towns that struck me over and over was the fact that so many of them were using tools and methods that their ancestors would have used over a century ago. They were content to keep using short, homemade brooms that caused their backs and knees to hurt. Some used wooden, ox-driven carts to carry hay for their water buffaloes while the younger generation zips around on small motorcycles or plays games on their iPhones. Everywhere I looked, I saw examples of people who were not progress minded – and just continued doing what they had always been doing.  

Turning this personal:

But then I think about myself. Am I always progress-minded? Do I believe that I can and should improve? That there is opportunity for progress in our company or my family? I am recognizing that I need to “think progress” – or I might drift on the status-quo and be stagnant like all those people I encountered in India.  

Guidance from Dr. Schwartz:

David Schwartz provides helpful guidance as he said, “there are two special things you can do to develop your progressive outlook:  

  1. Think improvement in everything you do. 
  1. Think high standards in everything you do.” 

He tells a story of a teacher he had one year that did not believe in progress. She didn’t seem to care about the students or really believe that they could improve. She was not respected and the students ran over her all year long. Not much progress because there wasn’t a belief in progress. The teacher he had the next year (with the exact same set of students) set the tone from day one that she loved the students, believed in progress, and expected excellence from each of them. She received respect all year long – and progress was made. She “thought” improvement and had high standards.  

We are challenged to remember that the team, group, or family you lead will “adjust themselves to the standards you set” (and example you provide). They want to know if you think progress and what level of progress you expect of them.  

Helpful quotes to remember:

“Check the example you set. Use this old but ever-accurate quatrain as a guide: 

What kind of world (company/group/family) 
would this world be, 
If everyone in it
were just like me?”  

“The simplest way to get high-level performance is to be sure the master copy is worth duplicating.” 

Wow! That quote is good. I just wrote that down in the back of my planner!  

Application Questions:

Are you a progressive thinker? Or do you drift in the status-quo?  

  •  I know that it is a mix for your spheres in life – so think about progress opportunity in each life domain.  

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Thinking Leaders – Trade Minds and Be Human

Skiers following a leader

I just finished The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. Great book for you to put on your reading list. Yes… it is a “self-help” book – but it was written in 1959 and has sold millions of copies – so it is time tested and still standing! I found it to be very relevant and had many topics that were personally encouraging or challenging. I really liked the final chapter so I decided that I will discuss it with you through three messages (so I don’t write one that is way too long!)  

The closing chapter is titled “How to Think Like a Leader” and provides four leadership principles to consider as you engage in any form of leadership. We’ll dissect and discuss the first two today and attack the other two in the following weeks.  

Principle 1 – Trade minds with the people you want to influence 

This principle is really about seeing other people as significant individuals who have their own hopes, fears, interests, values, etc. They are not an object and they are not exactly like you or me. We cannot put people in cookie-cutter boxes and expect to be a driving influencer for them. We have to “keep this question in mind: ‘What would I think of this if I exchanged places with the other person?’” We will have more success in leading others, selling something, or gaining approval if we first “think of the interests of the people we want to influence.”  

He tells a story of a young lady who failed in retail procurement because she always purchased clothes that she liked for the store. Turns out, her taste in clothes and expectation of price was not even close to that of the store’s typical customer – so the clothes didn’t sell and she lost her job.  

Schwartz also provides some helpful situational questions to ask yourself. Here are a couple: 

  • The way I give orders – “Would I like to carry out orders if they were given to me the way I give them to others?” 
  • Preparing a speech – “Considering the background and interests of the audience, what would I think of this remark?” 

Application Question: What area of your life would benefit from implementing this principle? How would you do it? 

Principle 2 – Think: What Is the Human Way to Handle This? 

He starts off saying that there are three approaches to leadership situation – as the Dictator (who never involves subordinates in decisions), as the mechanical “rule-book-operator” (who is a manager by the book, no questions necessary), or as what he calls “Being Human.”  

The leader who takes the “be human” approach makes his actions say, “You are a human being. I respect you. I’m here to help you in every way I can.” Your approach in all circumstances shows that “you put people first” – because you’re all human and can address situations as humans would.  

Schwartz tells an impactful story about a business leader who saw every one of his employees as being “under his protection” and would go out of his way to serve his staff. When he needed to let an employee go who was not well suited for the position, instead of just kicking them out, he made connections and assisted the person in finding another job so they were able to transition directly without unemployment. Now that’s a high standard worth emulating! 

“Practice praising people. Rub people the right way. Be human.”  Or I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it – “be a good infection” in your relationship with others.  

Both of these principles have a striking similarity to the Golden Rule spoken by Jesus – “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” (or “treat others the way you want to be treated.)  

Application Question:  With whom can you “be human” today? What would change in your relationship? 

 

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Developing a Life Plan

Life Pathway

I started a bit of a journey last year through a process of developing my “Life Plan.” I listened to a book called “Living Forward” by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. They teach about how to avoid the common problem of drifting through life without a plan or driving purpose. They challenge you to honestly evaluate your current situation and develop a vision for what kind of person you want to become and the legacy you hope to leave with others. I went through this exercise on my own, so I wanted to share parts of the process with you in hopes that it encourages or helps you. 

A summary of Living Forward by Michael Hyatt

  • Step 1 – complete an online assessment. 
  • Step 2 – write your Eulogy and Legacy statements. 
  • Step 3 – choosing and prioritizing your Life Accounts 
  • Step 4 – developing an Action Plan for each Life Account. 

Resources/Downloads – http://www.livingforwardbook.com/resources/ 

Step 1: Assessment

The first step in the process (besides reading the book) is to complete an online assessment to get you thinking about what they call “life accounts.” The assessment is a really helpful guide that helps you think about your passion and progress levels for each life account. I encourage you to complete the following assessment. It will take about 15 minutes. 

Living Forward Assessment – https://www.livingforwardassessment.com/ 

Michael Hyatt also wrote a book called “My Best Year Ever” and he created a shorter assessment for that book. So… if you’re thinking that you absolutely won’t do the first one – please do this one. 

https://bestyearever.me/

Step 2: Eulogy and Legacy

Step 2 in the Life Plan process is to write your Eulogy and Legacy statements.  

Eulogy

This is a tough but revealing exercise. The idea is that you should write your eulogy or the speeches that would be given at your funeral if you were to die today. Who would be there and what would they say?  

  • Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest about what you believe they would say about you – good and bad. This is the gut-check of where you stand today with your relationships.  
  • Don’t be too detailed with the list of who is there and who speaks. My list includes my wife, kids, parents, brothers, colleagues (that’s you!), friends, and mentees/students.  
  • My eulogy section is about 1.5 pages but could have been much longer.  

Legacy

In this section, you are answering the question – “How do I want to be remembered?” 

  • Write it in the first person (your point of view) and start each section with something like “I want (person/group) to know that…” or “…to remember me as.”  
  • The people or groups should be similar to your funeral groups. Mine are God, wife, kids, parents, colleagues, friends, mentees/students. 
  • Again – don’t be too lengthy. Otherwise, this could turn into an entire book! My legacy statement is about one page. 
  • The purpose of this exercise is to provide a vision for who you want to become and how you want to foster the important relationships in your life.  

Step 3: Establish Life Accounts

Step 3 is about Life Accounts. The idea is that you have different segments or categories of your life that require attention and can be prioritized and planned out. There is a “balance” in the account to gauge how healthy the account is, what progress is occurring, and what are your goals/vision for the future. The assessment in Step 1 already helped you think in that direction.  

So – you need to list out your life accounts and prioritize them. Below is my list – which generally followed the suggestions from the book, but I applied my own twists. Some of the accounts are difficult to find the right priority order – but in the end it doesn’t matter much – so just run with what makes sense. 

What matters most? 

  1. My Faith – God’s will, His truth, and my relationship with Jesus Christ. 
  2. Being a witness and disciple-maker through all of the following priorities. 
  3. My physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being 
  4. My wife 
  5. My children 
  6. Extended family – parents, brothers, cousins, etc. 
  7. My vocation  
  8. Church and Ministry – outside of my vocation 
  9. Friends 
  10. Finances 
  11. Hobbies 

It might feel “selfish” to place yourself at the top of the list. We often hear the phrase that you should “put yourself last.” However, a wise man I know has told me multiple times – “The best thing you can offer your wife and kids is a healthy, well-adjusted, spiritually mature Daniel.” If I literally put myself last – then I would not be a very good husband, dad, friend, or employee. All my other priorities would suffer if I don’t take care of myself – my faith, mind, and body.  

Step 4: Life Plan Goals

This is the hardest and longest part of the process. You get to evaluate each of your Life Accounts and answer the question: “How can I get from here to where I want to be?” 

Here is the structure you should apply to each Life Account and a little bit of coaching for each section.  

Account 1: [Write your first account heading.] 

  • Purpose Statement: 
    • Short and to the point. What is your purpose or mission in this life account?  
    • Start with “My purpose is to…” or “My purpose in {life account} is…” 
  • Envisioned Future: 
    • What do you want for this life account?  
    • Write it as if you have arrived in that ideal future. Make it an “I am…” statement.  
    • Who are you in that future? What have you accomplished? What is your character? 
  • Inspiring Quote: 
    • They say this is optional – but I can see how it is helpful.  
    • Might be a Bible verse or a motivational speaker or from a favorite book. 
  • Current Reality: 
    • Reality check on where you currently are in this life account. The good, bad, and the ugly! 
    • Make it a concise bullet list – don’t want to write a book here! 
  • Specific Commitments: 
    • What are your short term and long term goals in this account? 
    • Make them SMART goals if you can – and keep the count limited or at least not too many overlapping goals.  

Once you fill this in – which will require multiple hours to complete – your challenge now is to read & revise it on a consistent basis. And to put the goals/commitments into practice. Finding someone to hold you accountable to following through is key to this.  

Photo: Taken by Daniel David in New Hampshire in the fall. We went to see the fall leaves and do some hiking with friends.