My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Turning From Nowhere Man Into Somewhere Man

It has been a couple weeks since writing here as I have been busy with the College classes I teach. So with a few of the classes I teach just being finished as they were half semester courses called Flex classes I thought I would share an activity that I do with my College Success classes. It is where I have the students reflect on the song, Nowhere Man, by the Beatles. Then I have them write a letter to Nowhere Man pretending he is a student on campus who is failing because he is going nowhere. Their purpose is to give suggestions and ideas to get him moving to Somewhereland. Many students enjoy doing this and I have been surprised over the years how many young people enjoy the Beatle’s music still. Let’s see what we can learn from the song.

Nowhere Man , Lennon & McCartney (Click on the Title for a video)

He's a real nowhere Man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

Doesn't have a point of view, Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man, just listen, You don't know what you're missin',
All the world's at your command.

He's as blind as he can be, Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?

Nowhere Man, don't worry, Take your time, don't hurry,
Leave it all 'till somebody else lends you a hand.

Doesn't have a point of view, Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere man please listen, you don't know what your missin'
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command

He's a real Nowhere Man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

What I have enjoyed about the song is that it reminds me of the importance of choosing a life of purpose. If we want to go somewhere in life we need to intentionally choose to make plans so we can go somewhere not nowhere. It helps to take time to understand our point of view and have a firm understanding of who we are, and what we want out of life. Too many are missing out on all life has to offer as they don’t take the time to think over where they want to go. It is very true “Isn’t ‘he a bit like you and me?”. If we are honest we all have desert times where we don’t know and sit in nowhere land. We need to think is that where we want to stay?

“He’s as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see”. As we sit around staring at the plastic rectangles we carry around with us, or sit in the comfort of home staring at the larger plastic rectangles that entertain us to death, we become as blind as Nowhere Man. I am glad to see more calls in research and news reports to encourage parents to watch the amount of time they allow their children stare blindly at the little plastic entertainment rectangles of technology. At the same time how about the parents? It upsets me to see children at restaurants or outside playing and the parent instead of interacting with the children are staring at the little plastic entertainment rectangles of technology. Do they really have to be staring at the phone and texting that much? Do they understand the children learn from their actions? Don’t they understand what they are missin’? Don’t we understand what we are missin’? That is one point the Beatles are getting across in the song. The idea relates well to my book Living More Than OK and this blog. Do we want to come to the end our life journey only to see what we have missed?

Reflection: Think over the words to the song and reflect on your life. Are you moving towards Somewhereland? Are you blind to the purpose and opportunities in your life? How can you make better choices with your time to make the most of it? Is technology controlling you in mindless entertainment or do you use your time wisely on the internet to read life fulfilling blogs such as this? (Sorry just had to add that in!)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Soothing Stress Relief Through Music

When I recently spoke with my College Success course students about anxiety and stress, I brought up the subject of music as a stress reliever. I enjoy music immensely and believe in the power of music to calm and energize. Several of the students shared how music helps them to focus their minds on their studies so they can concentrate better. Other students shared how before tests there are certain songs that help motivate them to do their best.

Music helps to create moods that can aid in improving our emotions for relaxation or excitement. At times I have made the mistake of playing soft relaxing music prior to my 8 am lectures and students tell me to toss on some rock or country music to wake them up. Music can have a powerful effect on us. I want to share a couple of my favorite music choices when I am stressed out that help calm me down so you can think over how to use music as one way to deal with your life stress times.

First of all is a jazz musician I have mentioned many times in the past and in my book, Living More Than OK. Her name is Keiko Matsui. She is a smooth jazz pianist and composer of her music. She has songs that energize as well as songs that calm and heal the soul. Even her upbeat songs I can enjoy while I am relaxing while reading a book or simply trying to calm down from the worries of the day. I primarily listen to her cd’s yet sometimes if I have my computer on I enjoy some of the creative videos that have been created for her songs. Check out this example of a video based on her song Deep Blue:

Keiko Matsui song Deep Blue

Then one musician/composer I bring up each semester to my students when speaking about beating stress is Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. He is a chiropractor in his primary career path who has also had a passion for studying the healing qualities of sound and music. He is an expert in the field of acoustic pacing frequencies that he adapts into his musical compositions. His music is relaxing as the basic tempos match the breathing patterns in mindfulness meditation. So one reason I listen to his music is to slow down my breathing and to remind myself to take deep slow breathes. This type of music is helpful in de-stressing and lowering blood pressure. I have tested it out for myself when my blood pressure was high after listening to his music for 15 minutes or so, I have checked my blood pressure and it has gone down. Dr. Thompson’s music comes across as rather spacey so the first time listening it may take time to be used to it but the effects of relaxing of the body is noticed by most students when I try it in classes for them to listen to his compositions. Try listening to a sample of his music from Youtube:

Sleep Flow Dreaming by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson

Of course in speaking to students about relaxing music I bring up Classical Baroque music as well. Don Campbell in his book, The Mozart Effect, points to research after research that has shown the health benefits of classical music on the body, mind, emotions, and spirit of people. I do make use of my classical cds as well in relaxing while I am working in my office. It helps in being more productive with busy work if I have music such as classical music playing. I tell my students you do not have to break the bank of buying classical music as Youtube has collections of classical music for concentration and studying. Here is a sample here:

Study Music for Concentration:

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas about using music to conquer stress or improve your concentration. I hope you tried out the samples given here. Think through your favorite music and reflect on how it helps in your life and your moods.

Reflection: Listen fully to one of the three music samples above and reflect on how it made you feel. What is your favorite music style or favorite musicians? How does your music help you in your life?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sharing The Beauty of Creativity

From Ruma's blog

I enjoy taking photographs but do not consider myself that good at it. I am often enamored by photos taken by professionals as they capture the true artistic skill with their cameras. With their talent they brighten our lives by sharing the beauty of the world they capture with their camera lens. The creativity revealed in their photography can help us in appreciating the world around us in new ways.

One blog site I have enjoyed for the past couple years because of the beautiful photos that are listed there is Calligraphy in the Landscape:
The blog is put together by Ruma, who is from Japan. The blog by Ruma provides a visual tour of Japan using amazing photographs to capture the beauty of the country. The photos are amazing to sit and view. Most are nature photos which show the beauty of creation. Ruma also provides positive thoughts that encourage the soul. These thoughts or poems fit well with the photo that is being displayed. Since I list the weblink to Ruma’s blog I encourage you to go view some of the photos and reflect meditatively on some of the writings there. Two of the pictures I list here come from Ruma’s blog.

From Ruma's blog

I enjoy the cloud picture the most as it reminds me of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Ever since I have visited their website, it gives me an appreciation and reminder to relax and enjoy the beauty found in the skies. There is something peaceful and relaxing about looking up at the blue skies and the clouds.

Thinking over photography as art because of the beauty it captures reminds me of the power of art to enjoy and to heal. As Rollo May in his book, My Quest For Beauty states, “Good art wounds as well as delights. It must, because our defenses against the truth are wound so tightly around us. But as art chips away at our defenses, it also opens us to healing potentialities that transcend intellectual games and ego-preserving strategies.” There is healing potential in photography. I hope you experience some healing as you enjoy Ruma’s website.

Photo I took with my camera

Reflection: What are your favorite types of photos? As you looked over Ruma’s blog site which photo and saying touched you the most?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Learning to Thrive in Life

The Christian music group, Casting Crowns, is one my of wife’s favorites. Their latest CD is entitled Thrive. The title song relates well with what I write about in my book, Living More Than OK, and in this blog. Merriam Webster defines thrive as “to grow or develop successfully : to flourish or succeed”. That thought makes me immediately think of Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish, where he describes how concepts within positive psychology can aid in our humanity so as to develop to fully flourish and enjoy life.

Let’s see what we can learn from the song to be thriving in our lives. First look over the lyrics and take time to listen to the song by clicking on the title:

Thrive by Casting Crowns ( click on title to view the music video)

Here in this worn and weary land Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water We never will run dry
So living water flowing through God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls With one desire
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Into Your word we're digging deep To know our Father's heart
Into the world we're reaching out To show them who You are
So living water flowing through God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls With one desire
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High, Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Hey! We were made to Thrive

Mark Hall and Matthew West the song writers look at life from a Christian worldview which is the same viewpoint I look at life from. The ideas though can relate to all people I believe. We all have times where we are living in a worn and weary land. Matter of fact recently I have been feeling that way on many days. It can also be argued that as a country we have been facing worn and weary times, economically, socially, and war-wise with the Middle East turmoil. What is pointed out in the song is that is not the way we were meant to live our lives. Our purpose in life is not to just survive. Being purpose driven we thirst for more than just survival mode.

Just as the definition of thrive states, we need to look at ways to grow. The song starts out with the vision of a tree planted by water so it has a continual source of growth. Throughout the Psalms in the Bible is the idea of thirsting after God. For example in Psalm 42:1 & 2 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” As well in Psalm 63:1 “O God, thou art my God; earnestly will I seek thee: My soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee, In a dry and weary land, where no water is.” From a spiritual point of view the answer is looking outside of ourselves and connecting with God. Tapping into the Spirit’s power source we do not have to run and hide from life. We can move beyond our ordinary lives and thrive as we are meant to be.

The repeated line at the end, “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible”, speaks to joy, faith, love and endless possibilities. For me this looks back to the initial line where the lyrics say:

“Where many a dream has died”. If we are open to God’s work and power in our lives dreams can be renewed. We can shine in the worn and weary land being lights of joy and love to those around us. God can open new possibilities that are blocked when we settle for living in survival mode instead of thriving mode.

Reflection: What does “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible” mean to you? What worn and weary land are you facing right now? How can you move more towards a thriving life?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Living More Than OK Look at One Nation

As a family we recently finished reading Dr. Ben Carson and Candy Carson’s latest book, One Nation. After several weeks after dinner we would sit in the living room and our daughter read the chapters to us. This was an enjoyable way to work through the book so as a family we could think through the ideas of Dr. Carson and his wife. We had the privilege to meet Dr. Carson and his wife at a San Angelo, Texas book signing a couple of months ago. His wife is delightful as we had about a 15 minute discussion with her that evening at the store concerning the state of affairs in our country.

The first part of the book covers and looks at the roots of problems that are causing America to decline. Topic such as the economy, political correctness, bigotry, and of course health care from a doctor’s perspective to name some of the problems mentioned. The discussion of the problems are well reasoned out. With each problem discussion he provides action steps for readers to consider in helping to correct the problems at the end of each chapter.

After focusing on real problems the country is facing he moves on to discuss more in-depth and overarching solutions to help America regain the greatness it once had in the past. Topics here are such as learning to have mutual respect even when disagreeing. Political correctness implies everyone must all believe and say the same talking points. Respect doesn’t mean we all have to agree on everything. He speaks of learning to compromise which relates well with having a civil and honorable respect for each other. He rightly brings out that both sides in Washington cannot get anything done as they all are focused on doing it “my way” -- then nothing gets done.

In his brother’s keeper chapter he brings out that we need to move beyond the government nanny state to having we Americans, truly care for those less fortunate across the land. Allow the people in their communities to come up with ways to move from the dependency mentality to compassionately aiding their neighbors to be more responsible and rise up to being charitable and compassionate. He makes an important point that a spirit of charity disappears in a Socialist state where an impersonal governments gives handouts paid for by tax payers.

from foter

My favorite section is that America needs to build a more informed populace. He begins that chapter with a verse from Proverbs 14:15 “Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.” I emphasize the same thinking in my book, Living More Than OK, in the essay on Critical Thinking. His chapter emphasizes the importance of education and having an educated populace. To solve the problems we face as a nation we need to have an emphasis on lifelong learning.

Throughout the book he uses his life story as to how a well-rounded education helped him to succeed in life. He points out that it not only helps in financial terms but enjoying life to the full. In other words education and a mindset of learning helps us to keep spiraling up to abundant living. An important part of this process he rightly mentions is the reading of books. He encourages the use of local libraries to read books on a broad array of topics. Of course being a Bookhead I had to say amen to that as my daughter was reading that section of his chapter 11. Dr. Carson’s experience again shows the importance of libraries and reading from when his mother had him and his brother when they were young read two books a week . Being poor they did not have cash to buy books so they made use of the local library. I am glad he continues to promote libraries in his books.

With a public that continues to grow in their learning and knowledge we may be able to turn this Titanic of country around. I must say Dr. Carson and Candy are more positive than I am at present on the issue of the country making a comeback. His final chapters look at the need for vision, renewed understanding on the roots of morality, and the need for positive role models. Many are discussing Dr. Carson as a presidential candidate in 2016. He wisely remains hesitant. He would be a breath of fresh air with his common sense wisdom. His running may help the dialogue of real solutions rise in the discussions that are needed. Part of me still wonders if it is too late with too many Americans not wanting to learn, or to be responsible. It is so much more comfortable for too many voters to sit and take handouts of goodies from the government. Time will tell. I will keep writing about individual personal growth and see what happens in 2016.

Reflections -- What do you think of the current state of our nation? How can an attitude of lifelong learning help in improving your life and maybe America? If you have not read Dr. Carson and Candy Carson’s book do so and encourage others as well to read it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amazing Grace in the Develop of Our Life

The popular Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, is noted for being the most recorded hymn with Wikipedia stating about 7,000 recordings. In hearing the song do we think over the concept of grace and the impact it can have on one’s life? The song dovetails in my mind to one of my favorite passages of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches. Ephesians 2:8-10 reads: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Grace is a major concept in the Christian belief system. It uniquely separates Christianity from other religions. Where other religious systems are focused on man bettering themselves to reach out to God for favor; grace is God looking down towards the brokenness of mankind in love and presenting the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of His resurrection as the way to be in right relationship to God.

Is the initial work of grace in repairing our relationship to God where Amazing Grace ends? That thought is answered in a book, Resisting Grace, (click on book title to purchase the book) by Jon Ido Warden. (click on Jon's name to read his blog) He paints a more elaborate picture of the Amazing Grace of God and how Grace engages with the Christian believer’s complete life journey. I must say one initial reason I was interested in this book as I know the author from my days in Chicago in my undergraduate work at Moody Bible Institute. We lived on the same dorm floor, the famous “9th Floor” of Culbertson Hall. I remember him as a reflective thinker back then so it does not surprise me that he became a Counselor and a writer of a reflective book such as this.
Another reason I found the book an interesting read comes from my Christian Worldview so I was intrigued by his in-depth look at the Grace of God. In his words he describes the book. “This book is about the process of grace. Grace changes us, freeing us from our fears and self-protective mechanisms and develops in us the ability to live freely, fully, and gladly. God does all the work to bring about the change” (page 9). This connects with the scripture I shared at the beginning from Ephesians chapter 2. Salvation from the Christian point of view is a gift from God. God reaches down to human kind in our brokenness to heal and repair. Jon points to the analogies in the Old Testament that describe the sin nature we all carry as being like our being a broken cistern or clay pots that were made for a purpose of holding water but due to the cracks do not serve their purpose. I remember in the beginning of my Counseling program we had to describe our view of human nature. I wrote about the same analogy that Jon speaks of that we are “cracked pots”. I thought of it as it relates to the concept of someone being a crackpot as defined as an eccentric or foolish person with problems. I felt at that time and still do that part of the process of Counseling is moving broken people from being “Cracked pots” to “Masterpieces of pottery” appreciating the beauty and purpose of their lives.

As a Christian, I believe in line with the book, Resisting Grace, that the healing best works with God as the Master Potter, recreating the “Cracked pots” to being “Masterpieces”. I see that process being described in Jon’s book. I appreciate how he follows through how grace relates to all aspects and stages of our life. Just as verse 10 of Ephesians 2 brings out that the work of grace in our lives is God’s handiwork in each believer who is open to the gift of grace. The purpose of God’s grace in the life is to empower the Christ follower to do good works. The good works is not the instrument of salvation but instead it is the result and response of what God has done in our lives. Sad to say many non-Christians point to the lack of good works in the lives of Christians.

Jon ends each chapter with reflective thoughts and questions so it is a book to work through slowly and savor the information he is presenting about grace. One favorite part of the book is from a Counseling perspective, as I noticed many of the reflections and information connects to aspects of psychology and Jon sharing stories of his Counseling practice. One example is his mention of the Johari Window (page 101). The Johari window is a helpful self-understanding concept tool. In the one box is the Known self or also known as the Public self. It is how we are seen by others. It may be a true picture or many wears masks in public. Another box is the Hidden or Private self which is where we keep our secrets from others. This is the person we are in private. The Blind self are the blind spots which are positive or negative traits others may see in us but we often do not see. Then the last box is the Unknown self which Jon describes as the “Only God knows” box. This is the area of our lives where we and others may not understand why we feel or do things. Jon shows how God interacts in all the quadrants of our lives as we are open to His act of grace to fully allow God to be in charge of our lives. That as he states is truly freeing. Some think that Christians are not free but true freedom is resting with an open spirit to what God has in store for our lives.

Of course our human nature of resisting God comes to play in the dance with grace. Even as I wrote the previous paragraph and read Jon’s book I understood why he titled the book, Resisting Grace, as the inner tension of the sin nature wants to go my own way instead of God’s way. That is the root of the problem -- the broken pot is saying, “Why doesn’t someone use me to hold water?”, as it is blind to the open cracks where the water would be wasted by pouring out on the ground. We need that humble surrender to the Creator who can with our openness to the gift of grace refashion our lives to the Masterpieces He wants us to be.

This book is primarily for a Christian who is wanting to understand the process of Amazing Grace in his or her life. Yet I can see where it would be helpful to a truth-seeker who is exploring and wanting to understand what Christianity is all about. Jon aptly and fully paints a word picture of the importance of the unique aspect of grace that sets Christianity apart.

Reflection: What were your thoughts of the scripture passage, Ephesians 2:8-10 listed at the beginning? Look at the picture of the Johari Window – what do you learn about yourself by thinking and reflecting on the four quadrants of your life? Do you see God’s interaction in your life?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Career Passion In The Hundred Foot Journey

From Barnes and Noble website

My wife, daughter and I went last weekend to see the movie, The Hundred Foot Journey. We thoroughly enjoyed it and from the laughter in the theater most everyone did. The cinematography alone inspired us to want to visit small country towns in France. The story opened up a view of the initial clash of two cultures, Indian and French then the unfolding of how although different they learned from each other. The characters were full of a wide range of emotions from of course humor as was noted but also jealousy, prejudice, appreciation, and happiness.

The movie is based on the book by the same name written by Richard C. Morais. The story looks at a family who had a successful Indian restaurant in their homeland that was burned down during political upheaval. The mother of the family tragically dies in the fire. The father leads the family to Europe to settle. By happenstance of car problems they wind up in a small town in France. Then further happenstance and what the father feels is the mother’s spirit guidance, he purchases an old beaten down restaurant for sale with the desire to turn it into an Indian Restaurant with his son as the main chef. The problem is the location is right across from a well-respected French restaurant in the village.
from foter

The movie focuses in on the humorous tension between the father and the owner of the French restaurant, whose husband died so she is a widow who pours all her energies into the French restaurant. The Indian son who learned all he knew of Indian cooking from his mother becomes intrigued by French cooking and desires to expand his talent and knowledge by working at the French Restaurant under the culinary tutelage of the French owner. That increases the tension between his father and the owner of the restaurant.

That is all I will say of the story as this is not a review and my daughter says I always say too much about movies ruining them for others. Kind of like the Geico Maxwell the pig clip, (if you have not seen it click on the link - ), that appears in movie theaters during the ads and spoils the movie endings for those standing before him.

The angle I want to view the movie from is from the career angle. Probably since much of my work over the years has been helping college students on career issues this stood out to me. We see in the movie Hassan who is the Father’s son and chief cook at the Indian restaurant has a natural talent for cooking that was cultivated by his mother in the original restaurant. In considering careers we need to consider and understand the natural talents that we have. Explore your skills and how they relate to the work you do. Some people are stuck in jobs where there is a talent and skill mismatch. Explore on the internet jobs that relate to your skills you are strong in. There are many free skill assessments on the internet.

from foter

Hassan’s attitude about his culinary work captured my attention. He carried a humility about his skills. This allowed for his curiosity and desire to improve to flourish. He could have settled on making his father’s Indian restaurant become more popular in the small town and vicinity. That would have given him a good life most likely. Yet his inner desire to learn and grow as a chef allows him to take the risk to join the team at the French restaurant. In doing so he helps that restaurant improve as well as continues the growth of his culinary skills. In our careers we need that same curiosity to keep growing and learning. This attitude aids in helping conquer boredom in the workplace as well as opening up new opportunities. Our attitude shapes the passion in our work also and you definitely see career passion alive in this movie.

The movie as mentioned earlier brings out happenstance events or as I mentioned last week, life chaos, that affected how Hassan’s opportunities in the town advanced. If the brakes had not failed they would have not found themselves living in that town. If the racial prejudice event had not occurred a major turning point in the French restaurant owner’s life may not have happened. Granted this movie is fiction but the chaotic events are very true to life and fit well with what Dr. Jim Bright brings out in his chaos theory of careers. How do we make the most of the chaos events that come into our lives?

Then one final thought from the movie comes from the final segment of the movie. In keeping with my promise not to spoil the movie I will only mention that a change occurs for Hassan that allows him to reflect over his life values. In the end you see him connecting his career and other aspects of his life to his personal values. In our career journeys to have the most fulfillment in our work time we need to explore our values and see how they connect with the work we are doing. How do those values balance the various aspects of our lives such as work, family. and leisure? For most of us our career journey is longer than 100 feet. It is well worth exploring how well our career journey has gone and how work adds to our life experience.

Reflection: If you have not seen it yet, go see The Hundred Foot Journey as well as read the book. Reflect over your natural talents and skills – how do you use them in your workplace? How curious are you about your career area? Are there areas where you can grow and continue to learn? How do your personal values relate to how you do your work?