15 Minutes

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

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Why We Don’t Set Goals


Having this app track my jogging route with a moving red line makes me want to fight Nazis.

The first chapter of my first book is all about goals. How to set goals, how to keep your goals updated and relevant and in front of you all the time. A whole slew of reasons on why it makes sense to have goals. They keep you enthusiastic, they keep you focused. If you think and dwell on your goal you are drawn towards it.

I think everyone understands the concept that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. I’m sure most people have heard of the case studies comparing classmates that set goals absolutely obliterating the accomplishments of those that didn’t set goals. Yet there are still very few people that actually set precise, specific goals for their lives. If they do have a goal then it is a vague, indistinct goal.

I’m guilty of this. Even very recently, despite the fact that I wrote a chapter on this very subject.

I finally healed from various injuries enough to start running a few months ago, and I’ve been semi-regular at it since then. But I never set an actual precise, specific goal. Just kind of getting out the door to “get in shape.” Which is of course better than sitting at home with a bowl of ice cream, but with the vague, indistinct goal of “get in shape” it’s easy to lose focus, lose enthusiasm, and skip the occasional day. Or week.

I was advised (thank you, Cinda) to set some kind of running goal, like to enter an upcoming 5K race. But I never did. I dragged my feet (which probably accounts for my slow jogging speed) and just sort of slogged through my workouts. I didn’t set a goal because:

  • I didn’t feel that I knew enough about fitness to set a running goal. Which is dumb because I have access to a personal trainer and I could have asked.
  • I was lazy. Which is also dumb because I was expending the energy to go outside and run but not willing to exert the mental effort to figure out a goal.

So, ignorance and laziness were my two reasons.

Last night however, as I was leaving my front door and turning on my running app trying to get a good GPS signal… My phone app threw down a challenge! It invited me to accept the Echo 50K Challenge.

The Challenge: “Track 50 kilometers with Runkeeper over the course of a month. They can be runs or walks, they just need to be GPS tracked!”
The Reward: “Get $20 off any Magellan Echo watch and three free months of Runkeeper Elite for completing!”monk

Now, I have no interest in a watch of any kind (because it hampers my kung-fu skills), but I thought that it was a cool idea to force people to move 50 kilometers to qualify for a discount on anything, so I hit “accept challenge.”

And just like that, my little free app tricked me into having a goal. A precise, specific goal. 50 KM in 1 month. And after consulting with a Canadian, I learned that kilometers are way shorter than miles!

So, to readdress those two lame excuses from before.

Ignorance is no excuse for not setting a goal. Make up some arbitrary number and make that your goal. If it’s too easy, you’ll know to set the bar higher next month. If it’s a statistical impossibility that you didn’t realize is utterly impossible, you’ll still be much better off striving towards perfection than ambling aimlessly.

Laziness is no excuse for not setting a goal. If anything, having a goal will empower and energize you. It gives you something to always strive towards. It’s what makes video games so addicting, because you are constantly trying to reach the next level or unlock the next badge. Not having the goal actually just adds to your burden.

A funny thing happened as I began running. The Runkeeper App sounds off every 5 minutes with your distance and pace. I usually keep my phone in my pocket with the volume turned way down, but at the 10 minute mark I managed to hear it say “distance 0.0 miles.” I fished my phone out of my pocket and sure enough, even though it showed I had a good GPS signal, for whatever reason it wasn’t counting the distance I had just run.

I had set a goal just ten minutes prior, and already adversity was conspiring against me! Which made me think of another reason that people don’t set goals: Fear. Fear of not attaining your goal, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish. Sometimes just the fear of standing out. How many times have you talked about some dream, goal or vision for your life to a group of “friends” and had them just belittle you for it? Remember, having goals is a rare thing, and being rare necessitates being different. Being different means facing opposition. And sometimes obstacles will be placed in your path to test your resolve.

Ignorance and laziness are dumb reasons that I had. Fear is not a dumb reason. Fear is a very real, potentially damaging force in our psyches. Fortunately it can be cured by a simple step: Action (which is coincidentally the second chapter in my first book, it’s almost as if my book has life lessons that are applicable to my daily life).

I’ll write next week on the subject of overcoming fear (look at me setting more goals), but in the meantime I want to encourage you to set a goal. Set a goal this week for something that you’ve never done before. And if you’re afraid to start, tune in next week for a blog post on overcoming fear.

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Do You Believe in Life After Birth?

Bored-people-at-meetingWatch people at work today.

How often do you see someone look at the clock?

How often does someone say “I wish it was time for lunch?” They mentally check out for an hour and virtually fast-forward to their break.

Or maybe they said I wish it was quitting time? They just mentally discard the second half of their day.

If you offered someone the opportunity to fast forward their life to the weekend, would they do it?

If you offered a child the opportunity to fast forward through a month of their life to get to their birthday, would they?

Two months to get to Christmas?

How many people are squandering away their lives by not living now, but living in the future? Cramming 3 or 4 days of joy into every year?

zombieEvery moment spent being bored, every moment spent wishing time would skip ahead, is a moment where you are not really living. You are one of the walking dead. One of those masses of people living a life of quiet desperation that Emerson wrote about.

What’s the solution? How do you breathe life back into your life?


Purpose will add life to your living. (Tweet that)

If you are living your life towards some purpose, you are living for something greater than yourself.

If you have a purpose, you are focused on big thinking and big ideas rather than on tedium and boring details.

If you are striving towards a purpose, than even the most mundane, trivial job becomes a means to finance your purpose.

If you are on purpose, you are no longer drifting aimlessly and instead are focused on achieving or becoming something greater.

With a life of purpose, you no longer have wasted moments. Every moment is moving you towards your life purpose.

If you are bored, if you are weary, if you are just staring at the clock waiting for the drudgery to end; determine a grand and glorious purpose for your life.

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Let’s Start With Something Easy

purposeIn Napolean Hill’s classic tome, Think and Grow Rich, he lists the thirty major causes of failure. I want to spend a little bit of blog to address just one of those thirty, because I feel it is the one that holds most people back in life (even though it is only listed as #2 on the list).

2. Lack of a well-defined purpose in life. There is no hope of success for the person who does not have a central purpose, or definite goal at which to aim. Ninety-eight out of every hundred of those whom I analyzed, had no such aim.”

I like the word purpose. You can have a purpose-driven life and know that you are achieving a great work. Someone can walk with purpose into a room and you know that they are about to do something important, or possibly violent. It’s also a word that if you read it about a dozen times it starts to sound really funny. Try it.

If you are not living your life with purpose, by default you are living by accident.

And few people become a success accidentally.

Like, about 2%.

If you want to separate yourself from that group labeled as failures, then the first and best thing you can do is determine a purpose for your life. That single change will increase your probability of being a success by 50 times.

And we haven’t talked one bit about work, or talent, or discipline, or character. Someone could have an abundance of each of those, and yet never rise up to any level of success simply because they have no direction, or vision, or purpose.

You may have a great work ethic inherited from your parents, but never have more than a mediocre income because you are content to let someone else call your shots. You may have great talent in art or music and never produce a thing because it was never a dream of yours to have the spotlight. You may have incredible discipline and never use it to achieve something that a lesser man would never be able to accomplish. You could have exemplary character and never leave a lasting impression on a single other soul.

Without having a definite major purpose in your life, you may be wasting not just your own potential but the potential of dozens, hundreds or thousands of others that you could have influenced.

So before you pass through another day, before you spend another twenty four hours investing your life into fulfilling someone else’s purpose (possibly your boss), ask yourself “What is the central purpose of my life?”

If you don’t have an immediate answer, then you have a 98% chance of failing.

The good news is, you can decide in an instant that your life has a purpose. You can determine what your purpose is in the next few minutes, and that will drive you closer to success than any amount of hard work, talent, discipline or character will. I’m not saying you don’t need those things, just that without purpose, they’ll end up being applied towards some other purpose besides yours.

There are people born with incredible gifts that will never achieve anything worthwhile because they never had purpose in their lives.

Question: What’s the central purpose of your life?

Question 2 (if you answered: “I don’t know?): Would you like to have a purpose in your life? (Y/N)

If you answered Y, then leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation on your life’s purpose.

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Halftime Report: How Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Going?

clockIt’s July 1st! The perfect time to take an assessment of how we are doing on our New Year’s resolutions. Did you make any at all? If you did, you have already separated yourself from 25% of the population. Do you still remember what they were? If so, you are probably ahead of another 25% of the population. If you can tell me today what your New Year’s resolution was for 2013, then you are ahead of the average person in the US even if you haven’t even started on them yet.

Before you pat yourself on the back too hard though, keep in mind:

  1. 51% is still a failing grade, and
  2. I just made up those numbers anyway

A lot of authors and speakers talk about looking forward towards your goals (I’m one of them). But we should also take some time to reflect on our past and on our journey. We can often get caught up in the busy-ness of being busy. When that happens we can get off-track and realize that our habits are no longer moving us towards our goal.

A personal trainer friend of mine became so focused on exercise that he neglected proper rest and recovery time. He would push himself to the point of injury (sprain, pulled muscle, stress fracture, etc…), then not allow proper time to heal before pushing himself again. He broke out of that habit when he realized that he had lost sight of his goal in the pursuit of the process. His goal was not to exercise, his goal was good physical health.

There is a young start-up company that I’ve been following on Twitter for quite a while now called Cirion Group. Here is a very simple tweet that they posted that made me stop and think:

“What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned this month?”

Even though I consider myself a lifelong student of personal growth, I didn’t have an answer to that question. That month I had read five books, listened to and attended several lectures. But that simple question stymied me and I told them as much. Here’s the rest of that exchange:

@ciriongroup To be honest, I’m a little disappointed I don’t have an answer to this off the top of my head…

@Matt_S_Law it’s an easy thing to overlook. It’s a great question to add to your calendar/reminder each month

The human creature is designed to achieve, the brain is designed as a goal-seeking mechanism, and we are happiest when we are in the process of fulfilling a worthwhile purpose. But it is easy to forget the “Why” of our activities when we get too focused on the “How.”

So I’m calling a brief time-out for everyone at the halfway point of this year to ask: How are your New Year’s resolutions going?

If you never made one, make one now.
If you haven’t started, then start now.
If you’ve kicked at it on occasion, make a definite commitment of time and energy towards achieving it now.
If you are that rare person that has been striving towards it non-stop since January 1st, then take a day off and ask yourself a few questions:

  • How is my progress? Am I seeing results or am I just doing a lot of activity that is not actually accomplishing anything?
  • How is my motivation? Am I still visualizing my goal on a daily basis? Is my daily activity drudgery or is it inspiration for me?
  • How is my life? Am I neglecting an important part of my life? My business, my family, my health?

Whatever your vision, goals and habit that you have or have not incorporated into your life prior to today, pause for a moment. Take some time to reflect. Take some time to replenish. Take some time to refocus. Do not lose sight of your vision amidst your daily activity; whether that is activity relevant to your goal or activity that is irrelevant to your goal.

So, one more time: How are your New Year’s resolutions going?

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Make The Ending Glorious

I can’t remember where I read this story. The author was reflecting back to childhood, to his or her piano lessons. The instructor spent roughly 50% of their time on the finale of a piece in preparation for a recital. When asked about this, the instructor said, “It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes during your performance. If you make the ending glorious, the audience will remember that.”

I compare that story to some oral presentations and speeches I gave in college and I can see where I went wrong. I spent most of my time learning and preparing the beginning. Same with some dramatic pieces I did working in theater. But with a strong opening and a weak ending, the result is usually a disappointed audience, an unimpressive argument or a failed debate.

I also think about that story when I hear people talking about “the good old days.” I think about that story when old friends get together and always talk about the same events over and over. I am amazed at the number of people that think that the best days of their life are already behind them. I am especially saddened when I hear those same complaints from kids just out of college.

I’ve also heard that my generation (Gen X) is the first generation of Americans that the majority do not believe that their children will enjoy a better standard of living than they did.

What happened? Why the defeated attitude in this country? I’ve heard it said, and repeated it often, that you don’t start getting old until your memories are greater than your dreams.

And we live in a society that despises the dreamers.

So, my message of the day is: It is not too late to make your ending glorious. To finish strong. To strive. To achieve. To dream. Make it your resolution; your mission; your most sacred promise; that you will make your ending glorious.

Looking at my life prior to publishing my first book, nobody would believe that I would be qualified to teach on success or personal growth. The reason I went forward anyway is simple: I know that my future is bigger than my past.

I’m in the process of ending gloriously. Every day I am improving my life in some way. When it’s all said and done, I know that I will have left something behind that will outlive me, and I will hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Dare to dream of a great life. Dare to live a life of purpose and significance rather than eking out an existence day by day. Dare to expect excellence in yourself rather than just get by with mediocrity. Dare to rekindle the passion in your past dreams that you’ve given up on. Dare to pursue a new dream no matter what your age or what your present circumstances look like. Dare to conceive, believe, and achieve an ending that will be glorious.


Passion Overcomes Complacency

A human being will not take positive steps to improve their life for one simple reason: it is easier not to. All improvement requires change, and all change meets resistance. The only time there will be a change in the status quo is when desire overcomes fear and laziness.

Today, I’m writing specifically for those people that have a vague idea that they would like to improve their life in some way, but have not yet taken proactive steps toward that idea. Either because they are scared to attempt it, or not motivated to try. These are five steps to develop a passion to overcome complacency.

1. Have a goal. When you create your goal, be specific. Not: Lose weight, make more money; instead: lose fifteen pounds, earn an extra $1000/month. Not: Be more social; rather: meet two new interesting acquaintances. Little goals are fine. Start small. Everything worthwhile begins with small improvements, and the idea of a “quantum leap” to success is largely a myth.

2. Write it down. And keep it posted someplace where you see it every day. More than one spot is fine as well. The bathroom mirror is a good spot, because it is usually the first place you see yourself in the morning. So is your car dashboard if you drive every day. Your refrigerator door if you eat every day. Keep a copy in your purse or wallet.

3. Think about it all the time. Visualize yourself having already achieved your goal. Experience the emotional satisfaction in having achieved it. If you have to set aside an alarm clock to remind you to think about your goal for fifteen minutes every day, do it. All I’m asking you to do is daydream; even the most fearful and lazy person could do this step.

4. Self-Talk about it. First you should talk about it with yourself. When you are looking at your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning, you should say to yourself “I will lose fifteen pounds,” “I will earn an extra $1000 a month.” But the next step is the most crucial and the one which will eliminate most people from progressing any further.

5. Talk about it with people that matter. This is the first step that involves anything resembling risk, because someone may tease you. If your passion to achieve your goal is not greater than your fear of being teased, then your future is sabotaged right here. That’s why you should only talk about your dreams and goals with “people that matter.” Who are those people? People that can help you and people that will encourage you. Avoid negative people like lepers. If someone has an attitude that you don’t want to catch, stop associating with them. Period. Does that sound harsh? Perhaps, but why would you want to hang out with someone that belittles your dreams? Small people want everyone around them to lose so that they can remain comfortably losers themselves.

I stole this quote from a businessman named Bob Kummer:

“The Bible states that Samson killed a thousand enemy soldiers with the jawbone of an ass. Every day, hundreds of people have their dreams stolen from them by that very same weapon.”

These are baby steps for developing a passion towards positive change. The more you think about it and talk about it, the more your goal begins to focus into a crystal clear image. When it begins to move from your head to your heart, you will develop a desire to achieve it; and when that desire–your passion–is great enough, it will give you the courage to overcome fear and the urgency to overcome laziness.

All achievement is accomplished twice. First in the mind, second in the body. So talking and thinking and imagining your way to success is not a waste of time. It is in fact a vital first step. Once you’ve gotten this far, you are literally halfway towards fulfilling your goal (and further than any of those negative “friends” have ever gotten).

Next post, an Action Plan to convert your goal into reality.

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My Wife Is…


My wife is loving.

She is strong in those areas that I am weak.

She is outgoing, affectionate and compassionate.

She is playful, with a contagious enthusiasm for life.

She loves to make people smile.

She loves to hug and cuddle.

She loves to play and laugh.

She is energetic and active.

She is loyal and giving.

She is a natural lover of people.

She wants to be an incredible mom and pour her blessings upon her children.

She loves God and loves to bless other people.

She is generous with her time, her money and her praise.

She sees good in everyone and sees every person as a wonderful child of God.

And I cannot wait to meet her.


Fixing The Man, cont.

ImageLast post I told the story about Fixing the World by Putting the Man Back Together (I’ll wait while you click on that link or scroll down to refresh your memory).

While a six year old may know instinctively how to put together a photo of a man, most men don’t know how to put themselves back together. So, how do you do it? Perhaps there is an answer in that same story. I’ll propose an alternative moral, which is: “to put the man back together, sometimes you need a map.”

First, what do I mean by being “broken?”

Henry David Thoreau said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Ben Franklin said “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” I think living only a third of your life counts as being “broken.”

Second, how do men get broken?

When there is a disconnect between what we want and what we have, there is discomfort. Discomfort is fine. We can live with discomfort. But, when we begin to lose hope over ever achieving those things that we want, discomfort often becomes despair. Enough despair can lead to death.

What we want varies greatly from person to person. Small things like security, a good job, a decent softball team to be part of. Important things like a fulfilling marriage and a growing family. Great things like Olympic aspirations or Nobel prizes.

All of us start with dreams. Many of us give them up, surrendering them to the nightmare. Once we lose hope, we stop truly living. We’re just marking days on a calendar and rushing towards death. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Pro 13:12)

Let’s map out a path to put yourself back together.

1. Recognize that you are lost.

You can’t fix a problem unless you admit there is a problem. Men are quick to deny problems, to justify their current state, to deny, deny, deny. Once we lose hope, we no longer look forward or upward. Our only option is to make excuses and hope that after enough repetition we believe them ourselves. If you have the courage to admit that you are living in quiet desperation, then you can begin to pick up the pieces.

2. Find out where you are.

If you are currently suffering from discomfort or despair or depression, take the time to figure out the source. Most of the time it will be from unfulfilled dreams or from lack of any goals to begin with. This may be hard to recognize, because men tend to place the blame for their own disappointments on the people around them. When a man loses hope of ever achieving some aspiration, his wife will be the first one to suffer for it. Often she will become a source of blame; not for preventing him from reaching his goals, but because she is convenient. A man without any hope for a brighter future will be quick to blame his unhappiness on his wife’s inability to cook, clean, or gratify him sexually. Man up. 95% of your problems are caused by you.

3. Know where you want to go.

Most people are familiar with this exchange of dialogue from Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where–
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go

ImageReassess your life’s direction. Develop some worthwhile purpose or pursuit for your life. Once you can do this, you are already on a path to healing. One definition of success that is shared by many authors of success principle books is “the progressive realization of a worthwhile dream or goal.” Notice, you do not become a success upon the attainment of a dream or goal, you become a success through progression; by simply beginning the journey and continuing the journey.

4. Find a guide.

The easiest way to achieve anything is to find someone that has already done it, then ask them to show you how. A friend that has overcome a marriage problem can coach you on your relationship. A friend that is out of debt can help you to work out a budget and financial plan. But when searching for a guide, be sure not to fall into this trap:

5. Don’t get directions from people that are lost.

You may notice that it is always broke, divorced people that are the quickest to offer their opinions on some of the above topics. Always check the fruit on the tree.

Full disclosure: I am not married, so don’t ask me for specific advice on relationships. But while I’m on the subject, what are your strengths? In what area, would you be able to act as a guide for someone else?

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Visioneering, Part III: Pour the Foundation


I have horrible eyesight. Without my contact lenses I can’t read the giant “E” on the chart. Seriously. Fortunately even terribly near-sighted people can still have incredible vision in the sense of  “a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation: visions of wealth and glory.” (dictionary.com, definition 5).

Helen Keller (whose eyesight was considerably worse than mine) said that what is worse than being blind is having sight but having no vision. People are attracted to visionaries. Walt Disney was as successful and popular before Mickey Mouse was created as he was after Disneyland was built–because he saw the vision long before it was reality. When Disneyworld was being built, someone remarked to his widow, “If only Walt could have seen this before he died.” To which she answered, “He did.”

Why is vision important? Your vision is the foundation of your future. By having a vision in mind, you ensure that your daily actions and habits are in harmony with your long-range goals. If you have a vision to be a professional athlete (long-term vision) then that will influence your decision on whether or not to smoke that pack of cigarettes, chug a bottle of vodka, and eat a dozen bear claws (short-term pleasure).

Unfortunately most people do not have a personal vision in their lives. They meander through life without any meaning or purpose, and frankly get not only what they deserve, but exactly what they asked for from life. Ben Franklin said that most men die at age 25, sadly they are not buried until forty years later.

So develop a vision for your life and keep it constantly in your thoughts. How do you do this?

1. First of all, write it down.


Hey, it’s January. This is the time that most people make their New Week’s resolutions (yes, I meant to say new week not new year–“new weak” also would have been applicable to most). But most people never write them down, so writing down your personal vision for your life will put you one up over the competition.

2. Second, keep it somewhere that you see it every day. Whether it’s on your bathroom mirror (not good for me because first thing in the morning before I put my contact lenses in I can’t see a darn thing), on the refrigerator door (better), or on the home page of someone’s Facebook page that you’re obsessed with (no comment).

3. Third, talk about it all the time. Frankly this is the hardest one to do. Because most people do not have many positive people in their lives to share a vision with. If your friends and family try to squash your dreams and visions under the pretense of “keeping you grounded,”  then share with them how important your vision is. If they are flat-out negative and ridicule your vision, then the best (and hardest) thing for you to do, is to change your association and find people who are uplifting and encouraging and willing to share in your vision. They are not as hard to find as you might think. After all, people are attracted to visionaries. And if there’s nobody in your life right now that you can talk to; you talk to yourself and you talk to God.

With a vision constantly in your mind, it becomes clearer and more vivid each day. Your vision will energize you, keep you focused, and stabilize your emotions against setbacks. So have one; and if you don’t have one, get one! Otherwise some other person may have a vision for you to be a destitute, hopeless, failure for the rest of your life–and without a vision of your own, you get stuck with their vision for you.

Do you have a vision for your life, for your marriage, for your children? Would you like one?

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Your Fuzzy Vision Creates Foggy Followers


Last post I announced very publicly my vision to positively impact one million people. Still flush with resolve and excitement about pursuing this vision, I continued on to the next chapter of Visioneering entitled “Taking Inventory,” which is filled with important and vital steps that you should take before announcing your vision.


In fact the next two chapters were about HOW to publicly announcing your vision and why you should wait.

Oh well.

So maybe I’m not the greatest student. Still, I haven’t given up and I’m not taking my vision back (although you may recall I did reserve the right to revise it later). But I will be taking the time and care to make sure that I am crafting a vision that is clear and focused.

According to Stanley, all effective visions have four components:

  • The problem
  • The solution
  • The reason something must be done
  • The reason something must be done now

It is also important to ask yourself the question “why?” not just once but many, many times through the course of refining your vision. From Chapter 8 “Going Public, Part II:”

Repeatedly asking why forces the dialog to move from the realm of circumstance to one focused on values.

Try it. This actually works with any subject not just divine visions. Start off with the question “Why are you feeding your dog now?” and after enough why‘s you eventually will enter into the subject of compassion and responsibility and nurturing.

I actually have a lot of why material. In fact I have an entire book addressing the issue of why that I was planning to write for my fourth book (but maybe I’ll move it up in the queue to #3 now). But an effective vision statement needs to be concise enough to be compressed into a single sentence. Or a brief paragraph. An “elevator pitch” if you will. Being a part of someone’s vision shouldn’t involve reading his book first; that’s a pretty imposing barrier to visioncasting.

So even though I may have jumped the gun (see my post on Leap Before You Look), 2013 is still my year of Visioneering. I’ll still be posting vision updates here; I’ll still be moving forward; planning and praying and preparing. I will just be spending less time trumpeting and more time revising, refining and redefining. But when I do post on my vision, I’ll try to make sure that my message is clear, concise and (insert another adjective that starts with C here).