Recently a good friend of mine was questioning about how to know God’s will for his life and in particular his business. If you’re like me and my friend, you’ve likely also wondered just what is God’s will for your life. There have been many times when God’s will has seemed elusive to me, even when I’ve tried to earnestly seek and find it.
So is there a way to really know what God has in store for you and me?
I believe so and it involves two components. To be clear, I am not suggesting these two components are the only requirements, but they are integral to discovering God’s will for you and me.
The first is the foundation for knowing God’s will, and it forms the basis for even communicating with God. It is an intimate, familial relationship. To know God as our Father, we must first be His child. And contrary to the popular myth, we are not all children of God simply by the mere fact that we are part of humanity.
Rather, we become a child of God through a conscious step and decision. We must acknowledge our need of Him, our absolute brokenness, that we have violated His laws, and that the only way to secure a relationship with God is through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, who died in your place and mine, as the penalty for our wrongdoings or sins. And three days after his death, Jesus rose again and seeks a personal relationship with us.
As we admit our utter need of Christ’s redemption, believe in Jesus as our Savior, and confess our sins to God, we then become one of God’s children. Only then do we have a basis to approach our Creator to know His will for our life.
Many a person who has done this though, still struggles with knowing God’s will. Why is this? I believe it is because we have focused our search on the wrong object.
If you needed to know how to use a complex software system and you had the opportunity to either try to figure it out on your own or you could actually spend quality time with the designer of the program, which would you choose? I’d choose time with the designer every time. As I spend time with him, I can inquire of the designer, find out the secrets to the software system, and get the scoop on how it works.
In Matthew 6:33 we are told to “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”
In the context of the chapter, we understand that “these things” are the common issues of life we all deal with, from needs to dreams, and health to wealth.
We are clearly told to stop focusing our attention on all “these things” and to rather place our priority on seeking God, getting to know Him, investing in our relationship with Him. As we get to know not only the Designer of the universe, but also the One who designed your life and mine, God’s will for you and me will come into focus.
This is the secret of life that too often creates a conundrum for us. To know the purpose of our life we must seek and know the Author of life, God Himself. And as we do that, His will and purpose for you and me will be known.
When we struggle to find God’s will for our lives we often find that peace also eludes us. This dilemma reminds me of the bumper sticker that says:
No God. No Peace. Know God. Know Peace.
So if you are struggling to know God’s will for your life, I trust you first secure a relationship with God and through that relationship, I pray you will seek Him with all your heart. Only then will “all these things be added unto you.“
This last week I had the opportunity to view the newly released Hollywood movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Having followed the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, I was eager to view the movie. The film tells the true story of four Americans killed, including our Ambassador, during an attack by Islamic jihadists at a US compound in Libya, as a security team struggled to defend the lives of several dozen Americans.
While there were several scenes and lines that stood out to me in the film, one in particular is the subject of my post today. The main characters in the story, Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, were retired Navy Seals and long time friends.
In the relevant scene, the two are sitting on the rooftop of one of the building in the compound they are defending, following an intense battle in which they and their small team had just survived one of what was to be several waves of attacks from dozens of heavily armed Islamists. As Jack recounts his frustration with having left his wife and children behind in the US to sign up for another stint on the security team, he expresses his bewilderment at what drives him to continue to return to the battlefield. In response Tyrone explains that, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire.”
If one isn’t paying attention in the movie, it would be easy to miss this line that succinctly explains the behavior of these Navy Seal warriors. But the line, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire” is also a statement that bears examining for possible application to our lives.
No matter where you are in life, the concept of retirement is one that has crossed your mind. In our culture, it’s commonly accepted that all who work will eventually retire and begin a life of leisure. Typically the word retirement is tied to two variables: age and economics. And it generally looks like this. A person will work 40-50 years, create sufficient assets and related income, so that when they are 60-70 years of age, they can “retire” and live happily ever after.
The “happily ever after” can change from one person to the next, but for most it ranges from moving to Florida, playing golf several times a week, traveling, or a host of other R&R type activities.
But this “conventional” approach would seem at odds with the point Tyrone was making to Jack, that warriors just don’t know how to retire because it isn’t something that is taught, or perhaps more importantly, even contemplated. While becoming a warrior involves training and know-how, to be an effective warrior it also requires a certain type of spirit or mental attitude that never quits. A warrior understands that there is always another mission and his skills and know-how are not expendable; rather, they are desperately needed by others.
When thinking of your own circumstances, I’d like to challenge you to consider what you will do with your life once you are no longer gainfully employed. Many eagerly await that day, believing that punching out that last time will be the start of all things new and better, anticipating that the grass is greener on the other side.
But I’d suggest that if we are working today to simply stop working tomorrow, we are overlooking one of life’s greatest purposes. Despite our 21st century way of thinking, the world hasn’t always considered that when one reaches a certain age or economic status, he can then simply turn his attention inward, seeking to devote much of his waking hours at that point to his own fancies and pleasure.
To the contrary, I would suggest that at the point one leaves the office for the last time, it is then that one’s experience, wisdom and perhaps even passion have likely reached a crescendo. And if we believe the truth that “to whom much is given, much is required” then we will be compelled to share the wisdom and life experiences we have gained with others in need. Those “others” could be a young man who is just beginning his family and career, or a woman who is facing a difficult midlife challenge, or even an organization that is in desperate need of our expertise.
I have a friend who is an honorably discharged twenty-three year combat veteran of the US Army who beautifully exemplifies the idea that warriors don’t retire. Rather than head for the golf course or sandy beaches, Bob in his post-retirement years launched a new non-profit organization with a two-fold, synergistic mission: “To support military veterans by training and employing them in schools as classroom volunteers, tutors and mentors.” And today, Bob and his colleagues are making a huge difference in the lives of veterans and school children in my community.
So what about you? No matter whether you are in the first half of your career, or approaching those final years in your job or business, it’s never too early, or too late to be thinking about and planning for life after employment. I encourage you to seriously consider how you will invest into the lives of others in a way that will have deep and lasting impact for good… because “warriors aren’t trained to retire.”
As this year winds down, many achievers and leaders begin to think about big picture issues. What did they accomplish this last year? What are their goals for the coming year, both personal and professional? What are their strategies to achieve those goals? But one area that oftentimes we forget to evaluate is just what kind of legacy are we leaving behind for those we love and care about?
While this is a word we are familiar with, we oftentimes spend very little time focused on it. What is it that we want to leave behind once our days come to an end? Perhaps the reason our legacy oftentimes gets such little attention is that too often we act as if our days are unlimited, or at least we don’t see them coming to an end anytime soon.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we can think back over the last year or two and we can name at least one person and perhaps several friends and/or family, who were with us then but have now passed on. And it’s likely we can also identify young friends who believed they had many more years to live. Yet they too have passed on.
Our days are numbered. For some, that will mean that 2016 will be the year in which their days wind down. For others, it will be further into the future. But for all of us, that final day is sure to come.
Now my intent is not to be morbid or to cause us any discomfort. Rather it is to simply recognize the obvious and to plan for the day after our final day. You see, the day after our final day on earth will be the day our legacy will be revealed. But the days leading up to that final day will be the days in which our legacy is created.
In order to create a legacy, though, there are several steps one must consider.
To create suggests intentionality. It infers that there is a plan with a desired outcome. Intentionality is a trait that is found in the most successful leaders of our day. And so it stands to reason that when it comes to our own legacy, we must give thought to what it is we desire to leave behind. What are the qualities, attributes, and values we desire to communicate to our loved ones and sphere of influence that will impact them in a manner that will outlive our life? We must identify those values and then begin to make choices that prioritize and advance them.
It’s a mistake to think that one must be older in life to focus one’s attention on their legacy. The truth is one is never too young to begin to establish their legacy and we never know when our legacy will be permanently etched. I recently read of Sergeant Dennis Weichel, a 29-year-old soldier with the Rhode Island National Guard, who gave his life to save a young Afghan girl. He was described as “the living embodiment of the Army’s core values: courageous, selfless and loyal.” In his short 29 years, Sergeant Weichel established a legacy that most of us would be honored to leave behind.
Re-chart your Legacy, if needed
While it’s true that now is the time to start one’s legacy, it’s also true that it’s never too late to re-chart one’s legacy. Too often in life we find ourselves down a road that we never intended to travel, yet one choice after another leads us to a destination we regret. Thankfully, so long as we are breathing, we have the opportunity to reverse course and re-chart a new destination. And as we do, we can begin to redefine our legacy.
I’m reminded of the criminal on the cross who hung next to Jesus on that seminal day for all of mankind. We have no background on the two criminals who hung there with Jesus. But we do know the ultimate outcome of both. And literally billions of people since that day know of the decision made by the one criminal who addressed Jesus with these words: “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” While no doubt this man’s past was one of shame and failure, with that one final choice, his legacy was established not only for the rest of recorded time but more importantly for all of eternity.
If your past is checkered and one you would rather forget, refocus your attention on the here and now. Make a decision today to change your legacy and begin on a new path of victory and success.
Find Legacy Role Models
Oftentimes the best way to achieve success is to find someone else who is succeeding and duplicate what they have done. Similarly, there is no shortage of men and women who have passed on but who left behind glowing legacies for us to follow and duplicate. I think of one such man, my father-in-law, Terry Morgan. Terry passed away nearly ten years ago and was someone who, from the world’s standards of financial abundance, would never be written up in any business journals. However, as Lori and I celebrated his life in the days following his passing, we were not only amazed but encouraged beyond words as person after person approached us and shared with us how Terry had impacted their lives. His consistent service to others because of his love for God, had such a broad impact on so many that there is no question that Terry left a glorious legacy, eternal in nature. And I’m certain that Terry has served as a role model for many he impacted.
As we wrap up this year and begin to think of the new one, let’s not overlook the importance of our legacies and what it is we want them to be. I trust the above steps will assist you as you seek to establish a legacy that will shine years into the future and influence many for good.
No doubt you’re familiar with the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” The concept suggests that it’s more important to have the right connections than having the right information or knowledge. Such a statement asserts that when it comes to getting ahead, your own learning and application of that knowledge is of lesser importance than simply knowing and/or befriending certain people.
Personally, I take issue with this connection-oriented approach to life that deemphasizes many other critical qualities. While I won’t deny that having connections and developing friendships can at times open doors, in my view this is a very sketchy and unpredictable way to live one’s life.
Recently I read a story that suggests there is a greater attribute than friendship that will determine whether you will achieve success in life. The story goes like this:
Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.”
The friend answers from his bed, “Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.”
But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need.
As you think about this story, what is clear is that the friendship between the two neighbors did not hold that much sway. What ultimately opened the door for the fellow who had no food was his persistence.
According to Webster, persistence is the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.
There are few qualities more important than persistence for an entrepreneur or for life in general. At times persistence can require that one should continue on the same path since the problem is not the effort, strategy or idea itself but rather timing may be the real issue. However, it could be that the business concept may be valid but the strategy, pricing or message may need to be tweaked or revised.
I can think back to a time in my company when we had a large number of properties that we had recently built and we were in the process of seeking to increase their occupancy. Some of the properties experienced a relatively quick fill-up while others dragged on and on. With an average of a $4 million investment to open each property (and some as high as $12 million), there was no option for simply abandoning our effort when our business plans did not play out according to our projections. Rather, we had to continuously persist in finding solutions for those properties that were struggling.
At times it required a pricing change. Other times it required a new marketing strategy. Still other instances required changes in personnel. And seeking the wisdom and counsel of outsiders or counselors who approached solutions from a completely different vantage point played an important part as well.
At the end of the day though, it was critical to persist in our efforts. Failure was not an option. And with millions of dollars in negative cash flow annually, it was incumbent upon us to persist in finding the answers quickly.
So what about you? Are you facing some continuous road blocks as you pursue your dream or tackle an objective you have for your business? If so, I’d encourage you to consider this quote from Matt Biondi, an eleven-time Olympic medalist and world record holder:
“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary success”.
Next time you are tempted to throw in the towel, remember that you may be on the verge of extraordinary success… and persistence can be your secret weapon and make all the difference.
What is freedom to you? More importantly though, is freedom yours? Is the freedom you dream of something you are living every day?
Is your dream that of financial freedom?
Do you dream of a thriving business?
Are strong interpersonal relationships with the ones you love something you seek?
Do you dream of traveling when and where you desire?
Is a new house, fast car, or some other financial reward a dream?
Have you wondered how to become debt free?
Is a strong spiritual foundation something you seek?
Are there other personal goals to which you aspire?
If so, read on to find out how to move beyond merely dreaming of freedom to actually achieving it. Defining our Terms
Defining our Terms
The dictionary defines the verb “awake” as “to stop sleeping, wake from sleep.” While we typically think of the word in the sense of sleeping, it is also used when referring to someone being alert, active, roused, or attentive.
The word “freedom” is defined as “the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Freedom is often used in the context of a nation’s citizens as in the rights that are offered or guaranteed by a state. However, in the context of one’s personal freedom, the concept is not only not guaranteed but, in fact, may not even be a reality for many people.
Land of the Free? Really?
How is that possible? How can one live in a country that offers freedom yet they themselves are not free? Sadly, it is not only possible but it is the norm. Many, many Americans are not free. Really?
But let’s ask a personal question. Are you free? I mean, do you have “the power to act as you want without hindrance or restraint?” Perhaps you have the potential power but are you using it to achieve the end result which is freedom?
Are you free from debt? Are you free from a job you dread? Is your business wearing you down and failing to achieve the results you seek? Are relationships a struggle for you? Do you continue to dream of a particular financial reward but it’s merely a poster on a wall? Does the month last longer than your paycheck? Are you stuck in a rut that there seems no way out?If you are not engaged in doing or achieving what you truly want then what is the hindrance? What is the restraint? What is holding you back?
If you are not engaged in doing or achieving what you truly want then what is the hindrance? What is the restraint? What is holding you back?
Whatever your desire is, if you have thought about it, if you have considered it, then I would suggest that “it” is your dream. It is something you have contemplated. You have imagined. You have envisioned yourself doing, being or achieving it.
But, why is your dream not fulfilled? Why has it not materialized? Why is that dream still stuck in your mind? What has kept it from escaping your mind and growing into reality?I would suggest the key explanation for your dream not materializing into reality is that it is just that – a dream. It has moved no further. A dream is a great thing to have, but in order to live out a dream it must not be restrained or hindered. Perhaps the hindrance is that you are asleep. No, not actually asleep but asleep in terms of not reaching for your dream. Your dream is merely a thought. No more. No less.
I would suggest the key explanation for your dream not materializing into reality is that it is just that – a dream. It has moved no further. A dream is a great thing to have, but in order to live out a dream it must not be restrained or hindered. Perhaps the hindrance is that you are asleep. No, not actually asleep but asleep in terms of not reaching for your dream. Your dream is merely a thought. No more. No less.To attain the freedom you desire you must be awake. You cannot just dream. You must put a plan together to reach that dream. It must move beyond a mere desire in your mind to an action that occurs. You must be awake or “roused” to achieve that dream and set a goal. Remember, a goal is a dream with a time frame on it. (Use the quote in bold to highlight in a box with a Twitter option.)
Awake to Freedom
To attain the freedom you desire you must be awake. You cannot just dream. You must put a plan together to reach that dream. It must move beyond a mere desire in your mind to an action that occurs. You must be awake or “roused” to achieve that dream and set a goal. Remember, a goal is a dream with a time frame on it. (Use the quote in bold to highlight in a box with a Twitter option).
I have personally experienced the reality of moving from a dream to actual reality. And ultimately that resulted in great personal freedom. In fact, for the last decade I have enjoyed that freedom.
There are specific steps I have personally taken to achieve many of the freedoms that were listed above. But that’s not the most important truth here. The truth that I trust you will come to believe is that you too can achieve your personal dreams.
But to do so you must move beyond the dream stage. You must Awake to Freedom. Are you ready? Let’s talk to get started.
So what does freedom look like to you? Is it being debt free, more time in your life to focus on strengthening relationships, fun travel, a fast car, giving more back to your church? Let me know what your thinking by sharing your thoughts below.
When was the last time you went to a restaurant? Do you remember what you had to eat? Does the waiter come to mind? Was the service outstanding? Did you enjoy the experience?
What about the napkin? Do you remember what color it was? Was it paper or cloth? Did it change your life in any way? Did the napkin have any value or bring any wealth to you?
Well, I can distinctly remember THE napkin from a meal in 1996. I don’t remember the meal. I don’t even remember the waiter. But the napkin, that I do remember. Why? Because on that napkin I wrote out the dream that would become the business plan that would create a $100 million enterprise in less than 10 years.
As my business partner and I dreamt about the possibilities and sketched out that initial plan and draft budget, we had no idea of the dramatic highs and the challenging lows we would encounter over those next 10 years. But we had a dream and the rudimentary beginnings of an enterprise, and for that day and at that time, that was enough. Committing our dream to that napkin was not only symbolic, it was our start.
Fast forward 10 years, following many endless days and sleepless nights, and we would come to realize that the white paper napkin was the first step. It was a first step in a challenging but rewarding journey that would ultimately result in the sale of our company — at a value of more than $100 million.
And so, the old saying that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” was validated in our lives. Or in this instance, a $100 million company can often begin on the back of a napkin.
So the next time you’re tempted to wad up your dream and just pitch it in the trash don’t do it. Resist that urge. Hold on to that dream. Write it down. Share it with someone you trust. And then begin systematically and methodically working daily to bring that dream to reality. And if you need a reminder, go down to your closest restaurant (the Golden Arches will even do), grab a napkin and start your journey. You’ll be glad you did.
Stay tuned for the upcoming book entitled by the same name: “The $100 Million Napkin.” The book will recount the success principles that I learned and applied over the ten years while building the business that was ultimately sold to the largest public company in the industry.