15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.


Compulsory Farm Service

There are some people that believe that we should require compulsory military service in the U.S. before you can become a citizen. While I admire the men and women of our armed forces past and present, and I would not hesitate to serve myself if it were required of me, I’ve always felt that a good alternative would be to require citizens to work on a farm for two years.

First, because farmers are some of the hardest working people in the world (read this Hillbilly’s Letter Home from the Army). And second, because it would help to reintroduce some laws of nature that many people raised in the Age of the Internet have never learned: The Laws of the Harvest.

I know the concept of a harvest may need to be explained to the youngsters out there. Here are some general principles behind farming.

1. When you plant corn in the ground, you receive back corn. In other words, you get back, what you put out. This is known as the Law of Reciprocity.

This is a practically universal teaching of every world religion. The golden rule, you reap what you sow, what comes around goes around, karma is a mafia princess (paraphrased). From a purely selfish standpoint, it would be a good idea not to be a jerk. People will treat you like a jerk. If you speak in a way that is energetic, empowering, and optimistic you will live a life that is full of energy, power, and optimism. It’s better to speak words of honey not of bile in case you need to eat those words later.

2. You receive more corn out of the ground, than you plant into the ground. Or, you get back more of what you put in. This is the Law of Increasing Returns.

How viable would our system of agriculture be if for every ear of corn you planted, you received back exactly one ear of corn. Why bother planting it? Just eat the one you have. Fortunately, the earth was designed to provide abundantly. A single kernel of corn has the potential to yield hundreds of millions of ears of corn.

And so does a single act of kindness. Or a single harsh statement. Or a single lie. Or a single blessing. Our words and actions when sown out in the world have the power to multiply and increase in power a thousandfold. Being a little bit of a jerk can sometimes result in you being run over by a busload of jerks.

3. Once you plant the corn, you need to wait for it to grow. You cannot keep digging up your kernels to check on them. You plant seeds, you water them, but you also must wait for nature to allow them to develop a life of it’s own. This is The Law of Delayed Gratification.

You can’t expect to reap rewards without putting out seeds of effort first. That would be like expecting your fireplace to provide you heat before you give it wood. It doesn’t work with inanimate objects and it doesn’t work with people either. Try telling your boss that you will work harder after he gives you a raise.

Also, we need to understand that a harvest completes on its own schedule, not on ours. I may have already spent some time complaining about the microwave mentality that people have these days. But anything worthwhile requires nurturing. Raising children, forming a relationship, developing a talent. Be willing to put forth the effort, even if you don’t see the results immediately. Have faith, that the laws of nature will not make an exception just for you.

These are basic lessons about life and nature, sorely missing in today’s education standards, all because of our lack of agrarian society. (Full disclosure: I’ve never worked on a farm and probably couldn’t handle the physical labor, but the philosophy of the farm I am totally down with).

What other laws of man and nature can be learned on a farm?

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Rock Beats Scissors and Consistency Beats Inspiration

rock_paper_scissorsI’ve been slow to update my blog over the last few weeks and I figured out the reason why. It’s because I haven’t been using the same method in blogging that I used to write my book. Specifically, just writing consistently for 15 minutes every day.

Even though my blog posts are not usually very long, they do typically take me longer than 15 minutes to write. In trying to update my blog 2 or 3 times a week, I’ve been trying to block out enough time to write each post from beginning to end. And since that takes me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, I would avoid starting a new post until I could dedicate a complete hour to writing.

So I would procrastinate. Yes, even people that dedicate a portion of their first book to the subject of overcoming procrastination will sometimes backslide.

So, here I am, drawing a line and starting over. This time focusing on consistency. Writing a little bit every day; even if I don’t hit that publish button every day. Consistent and persistent effort is valuable for a number of reasons summarized below in bullet points (one of my favorite way to make points).

  • Consistency creates momentum. Doing a little bit every day is much easier than starting and stopping every few days. It cuts down on the amount of time it takes you to warm up and start each time.
  • Consistency increases creativity. Being creative (somewhat important for a writer) is much more a result of ongoing disciplined effort than of instant inspiration. Read my guest post at prowritingaid.com.
  • Consistency increases confidence. It provides you with a steady stream of small victories. You don’t need to always swing for a home run, be willing to drive for a few yards on each possession. (I like to mix sports metaphors).
  • Consistency creates habits. And habit is an incredibly powerful force in your life. If you create a habit that you choose for yourself, then you are taking control of your destiny.

So be consistent. 15 minutes of work a day will always be more productive than 8 straight hours of work every month.

What would be a positive habit that you could develop for yourself on 15 minutes a day?

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Be the 5%, Do the 5%

  • Overall, about 5% of people work in management and 95% work in labor.
  • In the typical church, 5% of the congregation account for nearly 95% of the tithes and volunteer hours.
  • Roughly 5% of Americans are entrepreneurs while 95% are employees.
  • Only 5% of people ever set life goals for themselves (and fewer than that ever write their goals down).
  • Only about 5% of people in the U.S., the most prosperous country in the world, describe themselves as “successful.”

I want to focus on that last point for now, and encourage you to be one of those 5%. The self-proclaimed successful people in life. Decide for yourself, right this moment, “I am going to be one of the 5%.”

The way to do that, is to do the 5%.

“What does that mean?” I hear you cry.

In church this morning the pastor explained the 5% rule:

  • 85% of what you do in your life could be done by anyone.
  • 10% of what you do requires some kind of training or expertise (probably your job stuff)
  • 5% of what you do in your life can only be done by you.

What did he include in that 5% category? Developing your faith, your marriage, your family, and your own personal growth.

When I say that you should do the 5%, I mean that you should expend your mental energy and creativity on the important things. Invest your time and effort into those things that only you can do. You will have a much more rewarding life, and become more successful not by the world’s standard of success, but by your own standard.

Develop a stronger faith, marriage, family, and self. Live with the 5%

What are some of the 85% things in your life that you can get rid of to make room for the 5%?

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Instant Gratification Kills Discipline

Regarding my last article on Stanford and Marshmallows, there was a fairly unscientific follow-up study done of the 4 to 6 year old children that were tempted with the promise of marshmallows. Those that demonstrated the ability as a child to defer gratification, later in life were described as “adolescents who were significantly more competent,” and had higher SAT scores.

I doubt this surprises anyone. After all, the ability to delay gratification is indicative of discipline. Short term thinking is the hallmark of a child. Longterm thinking is a sign of maturity and discipline.

Unfortunately, self-discipline is a rare commodity these days. There are several culprits you could blame for Americans being lazy and undisciplined. Certainly our wealth makes us much lazier than the old days when me and my boys would have to trap, shoot, and kill our own food. In this world of instant coffee, spray-on tans, microwave dinners and movies on demand, we have been conditioned to believe that we can have anything that we want right now.

But I think the main factor, not just in making Americans lazy, but also threatening our very freedom is the villain known as credit.

In the old days, when you wanted a new luxury item like a brand new automobile, you would set aside some money on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Then when you had saved up enough money for that automobile, you would buy it and drive it home.

Enter the world of credit. There was a time when credit was a personal arrangement between a merchant and the customer. Banks commercialized credit making it available to virtually everyone. Suddenly people could play now and pay later. Sure, I can’t afford the car, but I can afford the payment, therefore I can have it now (and instantly lose $10,000 in future earnings).

The reason so many people are struggling with debt and finances is because they are paying today for stuff that they bought months and years ago. We’ve been scarfing down marshmallows without paying the cost (that is a metaphor, although if it were actually the case it would explain why many Americans are fat in addition to lazy).

If you are struggling with finances, here is a helpful video that should help you.



The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

A few years back magazines, businesses and psychiatrists were all abuzz about the concept of “Emotional Quotient.” Whereas “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ measures a persons memory, logic, and problem-solving skills; Emotional Quotient or EQ was supposed to be a more advanced indicator of how likely a person was to actually succeed in life.

Years later, it is now called Emotional Intelligence (EI) and I can’t even find an agreed-upon definition of it.

One aspect of EI (or EQ), is self-regulation (depending on who you talk to I guess). Here is an experiment performed with children that was supposed to measure one aspect of their EQ (aka EI).

Each child is given a marshmallow.
They are told that the marshmallow is theirs, that they can eat it right away if they want to and that there is nothing wrong with that.
However, if they waited until the adult came back, and they still had their marshmallow, then they would be given a whole plate of marshmallows.

I never got to watch the experiment (and apparently this was a rerun of an experiment originally performed in Stanford in 1972). But the video was described to me by a doctor (well, a guy who quit during his residency). But it sounds like an episode of Kids Say the Funniest Things, hosted by Bill Cosby.

Some of them wolfed it down the instant the adult left. Some agonized over whether or not they should eat it. Some sat in the corner and would not look at it to remove any temptation to eat the marshmallow.

I don’t know about EQ, EI, or any ground-breaking paradigms of success psychology. But this to me sounds like a test of an ancient and simple idea: that of delayed gratification.

If you have the ability to turn down an immediate small reward, in exchange for a greater future reward, you are probably more poised for success than those who can’t or won’t. You have greater discipline, greater impulse control.

Unfortunately, many adults are like a four year old child scarfing down a marshmallow the instant the adult leaves. In our world of instant everything, the ability to delay your short term desires probably seems not just unnecessary but undesirable.

Is delayed gratification a desirable trait in today’s world?

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Attack Satan With Scripture

swordWe as humans get weary. We get tempted. We are thoroughly corruptible. As C.S. Lewis described the world, we as Christians are in “enemy territory.” The world is full of Satan’s influence. The world can often reward people for deception. The world can sometimes glorify drunkenness, infidelity and violence. I am not a pastor, but here are some thoughts on how we as Christians can remain strong in God and defy the influence of the enemy.

In Ephesians 6, Paul begins his description of the “Armor of God.” Not physical armor, but spiritual armor. Armor that will help us to “…stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but… …against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:11-12, selected, NIV).

armorPaul itemizes the pieces that make up the full armor of God.

The belt of truth.
The breastplate of righteousness.
The gospel of peace.
The shield of faith.
The helmet of salvation.

This is armor. It protects us from wounds. It is metaphorical armor, as I am reasonably certain that these are not actual physical artifacts that were handed down to the Apostles. But by surrounding ourselves with truth; By being honest in our words and dealings and surrounding ourselves with truth in our lives, we protect ourselves spiritually from corruption. Righteousness, peace, faith are all qualities that bolster us from spiritual attack. Salvation is what identifies us as followers of Christ, those who are in the world but not of the world.

But each of these articles are only defensive. A Roman legion going into combat with only those implements would lose every time. The final piece of armor is not armor at all, but a weapon. The only offensive tool which we are given to battle against spiritual forces of evil.

“…the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”

All words have power. God spoke, “Let there be light,” and He pierced the darkness. We cannot speak with the voice of God, but we can speak the with the Word of God. This is the weapon that we can wield as a sword against the devil’s schemes. Yes our shield, and our breastplate, and our helmet protect against his overt assaults and his covert whispers. But sometimes it makes sense to strike back; To go on offense. Our sword is the word of God. And the word of God is given to us in the form of the Bible.

When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by the devil he did not ignore him, he resisted him. He resisted him not by turning the other cheek and being humble. He resisted him with words.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down (from the highest point of the temple).” Jesus answered him, “…’Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” (Mat 4:3-10, selected, NIV).

Jesus teaches us how we can rebuke Satan, not just with words but with the written Word of God. Jesus is using scripture to stab back at Satan. He went Old Testament on him!

“…to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8:3, NIV)
“Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.” (Deut 6:13)
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.” (Deut 6:16)

As an author, when I read a book, I highlight passages and write down quotes that I feel are important, or that I could probably use later. I encourage you, as you study and meditate on the Bible, to do the same thing. Take specific notes. Write down passages and scripture that you can use against a particular weakness or temptation. When you feel like you are under attack spiritually, attack Satan back with scripture.

Do not wallow and say this must be the will of God. God’s will is in his Word.

When you are tempted to lie for your own benefit, say “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Pro 11:3, NIV)

When you are tempted to cheat in some way, say “Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.” (Pro 16:11, NIV)

When you are driven to anger, say “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” (Pro 16:32, NIV)

When you are afraid, say “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6, NIV)

When you are tempted by pornography, say “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mat 5:28 NIV)

As you do your daily devotionals, you will continue to reinforce your armor. But also, be aware that we are soldiers in enemy territory. So continue to add to your arsenal. Hone the sword of your spirit. When you are under attack, your armor and your shield may extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy, but in God’s name strike back at Satan.