Monday, October 01, 2012

Excellence vs. Mediocrity

Today at church, our Bishop reminded the congregation of one of the pursuit of excellence.  He related how a young Heber J. Grant (later destined to head the church) determined to become a good ball player by throwing a ball over and over daily against a neighbor's barn until he was the best.  He also turned his 'chicken scratches' hand writing into artful penmanship worth a notable income in his day.  He had trained his voice, which he had been told could only be comfortably taught to sing from a distance of 40 miles away, to carry a beautiful tune that would later be a delight to hear for many.  Heber J. Grant made all these accomplishments from mediocre (or bad) to great by simple discipline and practice.

Emerson's statement on practice became a life motto for Brother Grant:  "That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved."  Of course, the dangerous part of this concept is the idea that we often choose NOT to travel "the road less traveled", and therefore miss out on "all the difference" greater discipline might have offered.


As I contemplated the thoughts shared by my bishop, I was brought to reflect upon a similar sermon delivered by a dear friend of mine, Steve Bray--a college roommate, actually.  It would have been Fall of 1999. . .about 13 years ago.  He referenced an extraordinary talk given by another head of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley, wherein we BYU students were asked to strive a little more diligently to attain real excellence in our lives.

My good friend, Steve, also referenced another source that I now struggle to find.  The bottom line of his thought was that mediocrity does not really consist of much different than those who achieve greatness. Those who achieve greatness simply wake up a few minutes earlier, read a few pages more, or practice a few extra minutes over the effort and interest invested by the mediocre.  Lacking Steve's exact references, enjoy some of the following:

 Some days after my friend Steve's sermon, I found myself reflecting upon it as I began walking home from campus.  I lived down the hill from where the main campus buildings were, and I remember walking along a planter box next to the sidewalk that began the descent down the hill.  I stepped up onto the concrete wall of the planter that was only a few inches higher than the sidewalk I had been on.  I walked forward lost in thought for several steps until I came to the end of the planter box.  At this point, the gradual descent of the sidewalk placed me a solid 10 or 12 feet above where I would have been, had I continued on the same path.

This simple walk--a 3 or 4 inch difference in height some 40 paces back, and a continued level walk made an enormous comparative difference in my altitude.  Had I decided to get on the same plane that 40 paces later, it would have been a difficult climb:  10-12 feet up solid concrete.

Now some 13 years after that moment, I still remember some of the exact thoughts expressed in a talk I heard a friend give.  . . .and I wonder what plane I stand on now.  :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I have been thinking a lot about how our perspective shapes our decisions... And consequently the total outcomes of our lives.

The thought I'm considering tonight is this:  how greatly does the angle from which we view certain problems change the solutions we might employ?  When I consider work/life balance questions from the perspective of a father, it's easy to make arrangements necessary to fulfill my family's needs.  The same question from my role as an employer has me concerned for company growth, efficiency, and employee success (and their work life balance concerns).  From the employee perspective, I consider the needs of the employer.

The key with perspective is that (at least in art) it relates to an ultimate vanishing point.  In other words, the artist asks:  if I were to draw a set of lines demonstrating the angle from which the subject is being pictured, where would those lines converge into a single vanishing point?  From this, the artist can tell exactly where related lines and objects should appear in order to maintain consistency in the work.

I think decisions in our lives have a similar effect on outcomes in our life.  When we choose a strategic set of metaphorical lines around which we build consistency for the decisions we make, then creating dependable outcomes from our choices becomes easy.  When we continually shift views from one perspective to another, we turn our lives into an Ansel-Adams-like mess where we are often confused about what is up or down, or what is inside or out.

Wile "thinking outside the box" is helpful for creative solutions, and undoubtedly we all have various roles where seemingly conflicting perspectives may make for difficult decisions, I think there are perspective lines that could be drawn that encompass all of the roles we might assume in life.  Such a totally encompassing perspective would need to create a directional vanishing point as to point a vivid direction that gives a meaningful place for each decision we may make.

I believe in such a perspective.  I call it eternal perspective.  It stems primarily from my belief that the spirit of man is immortal--that it existed before this mortal life, and will continue to exist hereafter.  From this perspective, the vanishing point for each role I play is complimented by an overarching framework--an Eternal perspective.  This perspective tells me the ultimate vanishing point of the entire picture that is my life gives shape to the direction in which my choices build whatever character I create.  

In this sense--from a view of this eternal perspective (along with the ever present question: what does this decision mean to the eternal nature of my character and soul?)--almost every decision becomes rather simple to make.  Of course "simple" is never to be confused with "easy".  Knowing the right thing, however, is the first step to doing the right thing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to get your husband to eat salad!

Struggling to get your husband to eat salad for dinner?  Here is a sure-fire four-step process to change all that in an instant!
First:  make sure meal time is right after a good workout, so he's good and hungry.

Second:  make sure there's no quick and easy dinner he can sneak while you're taking your son to violin practice.  (i.e. Be sure your husband's supply of microwave burritos and/or corn-dogs is completely depleted.)

Third*:  invent some random rice-y like grain substance and call it something silly like Quinoa (apparently pronounced "kinwa"), then cook it till it's mushy, mix in some mayonnaise or something, then put it in a casserole pan with some boiled broccoli peppered throughout.  Add some cheese to make him think it's food, and cook it in the oven until the cheese is melted and the edges turn brown . . . or browner, I guess, since the boiled "bird seed" (a.k.a. quinoa) is brown to begin with.

Fourth:  serve the Quinoa casserole next to a big salad. . .

Voilla!!!   Husband politely eating plenty of salad for dinner, with little comment on the "simulated" main dish.

* Note:  this plan may not work if your husband is a big fan of rice, or rice-y grains, mushy stuff, broccoli, and/or casseroles.

. . .thanks for all your wonderful efforts, baby!  I love you AND almost ALL your dinners!  :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Utah GOP Elections Survey

I will be serving as a Utah state delegate for our GOP convention April 21st.  I'm interested in GOP preferences for the candidates we'll be electing.  For my own use, I hope anyone interested in Utah GOP candidates will take a moment to fill out the following survey.

Click here to take survey



Saturday, February 11, 2012

An interesting thing happened to me today.  I believe I got a sense of genuine inspiration and direction for something I should specifically focus on in my life.  This specific type of inspiration is truly quite rare in my life.  It was one of those moments where the universe conspired--as it were--to deliver a message to me by design to point my life in a certain direction.

Here's what happened:  Today, my wife texted me from a conference she's attending to tell me about a cool speech on about achieving effectiveness in leadership.  I don't always take the time to review such recommendations, but I did this time--almost immediately after she recommended it.  So, there I was watching this speech on leadership by Simon Sinek.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it:

Throughout the speech, Sinek encourages the audience to approach leadership from an inside-out perspective--namely, to let the core of what you believe and who you are dictate the means and results of your leadership.  As an illustration of this point, Sinek refers to Martin Luther King as one who was often found saying, "I believe".  Sinek's exact statement about King was this:  "He didn't go around telling people what needed to change in America.  He went around and told people what he believed.  'I believe. I believe.  I believe,' he told people."

At the precise moment Sinek completed the above quote, the speech was automatically paused by an alert message I had set in my calendar to remind me to read a daily affirmation I have created.  Interestingly, the affirmation starts with the statement:  I believe in my ideas. . . The words "I believe. . ." were displayed on my screen over the paused speech at exactly the moment the speaker had repeated those words multiple times.

To HEAR the words "I believe. . ." repeated by Sinek at a moment where I had turned to think carefully about what my MLK-like mission might be, then to read the words "I believe. . ." on my daily affirmation at exactly the same moment was truly remarkable. 

In fact, I had an interest in determining exactly HOW remarkable a "coincidence" such as this might be.  I therefore endeavored to calculate the odds of such an occurrence.  I found that my chances of randomly playing that speech within the course of any given year at such a moment as to coincide precisely with the alert for my daily affirmation (which was set for exactly 10:00am today) were 1 in 31,536,000.  These are the odds as factored for only the timing of the speech and the alert aligning so precisely within the course of any given year.  This is only ONE of several other variables.  My alert being set for a different moment in the day, an opening other than 'I believe' on my affirmation, my wife's attendance at the conference, her choice to text me the speech, my choice to listen to it, etc. etc. Each of these variables have their own set of odds of occurring.  Conservatively, the chances of all 6 variables aligning (and I'm certain 6 is NOT inclusive of all affecting factors) to produce the effect I experienced in that specific moment today are more than 23 trillion, 623 billion to 1.

What I am saying is this:  I don't believe in coincidences; I believe in inspiration.  I believe I received direction today on the most important things for me to consider at this moment in my life.  I believe as the author, Paulo Coelho, articulated in one my favorite books, The Alchemist, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."  Today I wanted clarity of vision towards my purposes, and "the universe" reached out and handed it to me.

Thanks for the inspiration, universe.  ;)