The Family & Intentional Leadership

Choices

My wife and I are big believers in “intentionality”. To define that, intentionality is being purposeful in taking actions to achieve an objective or vision. I have found that if I’m not guarded, there is so much that can happen in life by inertia. Just looking at the shelf at your local bookstore, you’ll find that many authors and self-help gurus are capitalizing on this dynamic.

But, it doesn’t take huge investments in self-help books or courses to be intentional, and it doesn’t take a lot to benefit from intentionality in your life. I’d like to share one key area where intentionality has been all but essential to success, essential to overcoming bad choices, and essential to living an above-average, joy-filled, positive life.

Love and Marriage

Marriage, and the underlying issue of “love”, are two of those essential, life-changing topics in life that Hollywood and pop-culture seem to be completely clueless about.If you watched any number of romantic movies, you’ll learn that there is a magical kiss that reveals whether someone is your “true love” or not. It’s a kiss or something to do with fate. Hogwash.

I don’t believe in the notion of “falling” in love, as if it was an accident or something you are helpless to. As men (I can only speak for my side of the gender aisle), we tend to allow cultural presupositions drive our thinking, which in turns drive our emotions and feelings. Hence, “falling” in love feels like something that happens to you, as opposed something you chose to believe in as a result of ideas you adopted. Here is how Wikipedia defines it: “a presupposition is an implicit assumption about the world or background belief relating to an utterance whose truth is taken for granted in discourse.”

I could go on and one about this, so I’ll just tell you that I have come to experience, see and believe that “love” is not a feeling. At least, not in it’s true definition when used in context of marriage. We often say, “I loved that movie” or “I just love Jon Acuff and queso”. But, those are just preferences or at best emotions. They can come and go. Love is a choice and commitment to the well-being of someone else. Love is sacrificial.

What is Love Anyway?

Here is what that classic book of wisdom and knowledge has to say about love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Of course, my love fails. All the time. But there is a model for the kind of love that never fails. You’ve probably seen the citation at a Football game, but here is what John 3:16 says, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I hope you’ve had the opportunity to learn about the perfect model for love, and if you haven’t, I encourage you to search for it.

Making Intentional Choices

I am fortune that I was raised to believe love is a choice, and that I didn’t have to fall for it. When I met my wife, I saw in her qualities I has seen in other women who were experiencing long, successful marriages. I saw in her qualities I had come to appreciate in my own life. So, despite not having any feelings or emotions for her, I decided to pursue a friendship, get to know her, and spend more time with her. In the words of a wise friend, “Don’t worry about the feelings. Once you start spending time with her, the feelings will come.” They did. Let’s just say I’m crazy about my wife.

I don’t know if this is unique or not, but when I dated my wife, I intentionally chose to never use the word “love” with her. I explained it to her, so she would not be worried about it. I told her love was a choice and that I wanted the romantic, intimate choice of loving another woman to be long-term. So, we dated for 1 year as I got to know her, and as I got to enjoy long conversations about life, and about our core values. And when I made the decision that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, I told her I loved her.

But, choosing to date my wife, and choosing to love her, and choosing to marry her was just the beginning. It set a healthy precedent for the many tough choices that come up every day in any marriage (or relationship for that matter). We choose to control our tempers, and engage in healthy conflict resolution. I have to choose to make her the focus of the relationship (it’s not about me). I choose to celebrate the everyday moments and to laugh after the tough days.

What About You?

So, if you’re single, you have two options: let life’s circumstances and events direct you to an eventual relationship and marriage, or you can consider that love is a choice, and as such, think about what choice would be best.

If you’re married, the choice has been made (regardless of how it happened). So, now you’re faced with two options: you can let the challenges, struggles and intense work that comes with all relationships determine the path you take, or you can accept that your choices will determine the success, fulfillment, joy, romance and happiness in your marriage.

Either way, it’s not going to be easy. But, if you take the intentional path, you won’t be wondering why things happen. You’ll be able to recover from your bad choices a lot better because you’ll be able to take ownership for them. And trust me, we all make bad choices.

Of course, not everything in life is under our control or subject to our choices. But I can choose to love. I can choose to forgive. I can choose to ask for forgiveness because she is of greater value than my pride.

What Are Key Areas of Intentionality For You

Share a comment and tell us your story of how an intentional choice made all the difference in your life?

Intentional New Year Planning: 2 Benefits

Leoncini: 3 Big Questions

It’s a new year, so it’s that time when people start thinking about what they hope and dream 2014 will look like. For years, my wife and I have struggled to find an approach to doing yearly family planning. As our family has grown, the challenges of “winging it” have become more significant.

So, last year, my wife and I started what I hope will be an ongoing yearly tradition of holding a 3-4 hour annual family strategy planning session.

I use the word strategy, because we don’t really just plan out the calendar or plan vacations, etc. We like to use the material provided in the Patrick Leoncini book, The Three Big Questions For A Frantic Family. While I don’t consider our family to be “frantic” (yet), having 4 boys, I know we’re well on our way to get there if we’re not intentional about organizing our family life.

What my wife and I did was to work through the worksheets Leoncini provides (available for download on the book website), answer the 3 big questions, and come up with our one big thing to focus on as a family for the next 6 months.

Mid-year 2013, my wife was expecting our 4th child, so our one big area of focus was getting ready for the arrival of our new baby. With that now behind us, the time has come to re-focus, and look ahead at the first half of 2014 and make sure we’re both focused on what really matters in our family life for this season.

I don’t really know what we’re going to be focused on in 2014, but whatever it is, here are two of the many benefits I get from having this focus:

Getting Better at Saying No

It makes it easier for me to say “no” to many things. When things don’t align with our priority for the next 6 months, my wife and I both have the clarity to quickly evaluate and know whether it is the right time to say “yes” to something else.

I have a bit of an ambitious streak, and I enjoy challenges and new things. In the past, I often struggled with finding myself with regular recurring commitments that would keep me out of the home on too many evenings. They key to maximizing the use of my gifts, strengths and natural bent is to channel them into the right area, and more importantly at the right time or season of my life.

Improving Communication With My Wife

Having a common framework by which we are making our individual decisions makes a huge difference in our relationship and in our day to day communication. When my wife feels the need to object to whatever new idea or project I want to get myself involved in, she can easily reference our previously decided commitment to an area of focus, and point out how my additional involvement in something else will interfere with that.

On the flip side, I don’t struggle at all with feeling burdened with the challenges we face, and actually find our process freeing for my personality. Having a framework, I am able to work within that to put more energy and focus into the things I care about the most.

I am also able to table the constant stream of desires, ideas, dreams, plans that tend to cross my brain on an ongoing basis. I no longer struggle with feeling like I am not “achieving” enough — I know what I need to do, and we’re achieving it!

How Do You Do It?

What about you? How do you and your family “plan” for a new year? How much details do you go into? Is it more of a calendar planning, or do you dig into more than that? I’d love to read about what other families do, and how other families handle the challenges of the chaotic 20th century living. #FirstWorldProblem

If you’d like to take a look at some of the sheets I use, you can learn more at http://www.tablegroup.com/books/frantic/ I highly recomend buying and reading through the book if you want to try this approach.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

500 Words a Day Challenge

Creativity Journal

Keeping on the theme of it being a new year, I’ve decided to join hundreds of other writers in a 31 day writing challenge. This is my first entry, and as I think about what I hope to get out of this stretching exercise, I can’t help but think about my 2013 stretching exercise (now an ongoing habit).

But, before I tell you about last year’s stretching exercise, I’ll let Jeff Goins (the instigator) describe the 2014 “500 Words” 31 day challenge.

My 500 Words is a 31-day challenge designed to help you develop a daily writing habit and become a better writer.

For the next 31 days, we’ll be writing 500 words a day. These won’t be great words, but they will be written. We’re not trying to reach perfection; we’re just trying to get more ideas out of our heads and onto paper.

And if you want to be part of this, we can keep each other company.

I’ve been writing for over 10 years, but the one thing I’ve been lacking is consistency. So, my hope and desire is that this exercise will improve my writing muscles. I am also looking forward to seeing if there is a theme or topic that rises above the rest for me to further focus on.

Last year, I started a new habit to foster and improve my creativity and new concept development skills. My hope is that kicking of a new habit of writing on a daily basis will afford me some of the same benefits I have gotten from doing my “creativity journaling”.

Last Year’s Stretching Exercise

Many people mistakenly think of creativity as something that just happens to some, but not to others. While some seem to have creativity in more generous amounts, I have come to experience and I believe that creativity is like a muscle — it can be developed and strengthened by just about anyone.

Now, not everyone “creates” in the same medium, but that’s ok. Not all artists are meant to be the same.  But, I digress.

In my case, I started carrying with me a small moleskin journal and a pencil. I make it a rule to always have it with me. I have also made it a rule that if an idea crosses my mind, I will take 1-2 minutes to at least jot down the idea and the basic concept. Here is the important part: all ideas must have originated in my mind.

So, when I think of an idea, I write down what I have. Then, and only then, do I go on Amazon or Google and do a quick search to see if my product concept, or app idea has been done already. Sometimes, someone has already beat me to the punch. So be it–that doesn’t take away that I saw an opportunity and had an idea to solve it.

The creativity exercise is having two effects on me:

Opening My Eyes to Opportunities

First, I am learning to keep my eye opens for user-experience problems or for product innovation opportunities. Good design and good innovation is really a new or better idea that solves for a problem.

Because I’m a digital marketer, I’ve been focusing my idea generation around mobile apps, but I have also documented new business concepts (products or services), some consumer products, and new article concepts.

Confidence and Leadership Skills

Second, having a regular habit of documenting ideas and striving to exercise my creative muscles has improved my confidence, which in turns is improving my leadership skills. When you develop a creativity habit, any problem you face turns into a creativity opportunity. Some will be vastly more challenging than others, of course. But, being able to shift your paradigm and look at business problems as inspirations for creative or innovative solutions is having a big impact on my stress levels at work, on my enjoyment of my day to day job, and on my relationships with co-workers.

In short, it is helping me become more solution-oriented overall. And, who knows what may happen in the future. If the right opportunity presents itself, or when the season is right, I just may go to my “Creativity Journal” and launch a new phase of my career with a jump into entrepreneurship.

31 day 500 Word Writing Challenge

This is going to be my first entry into the 31 day 500 word writing challenge. I look forward to the ideas, and more importantly, I look forward to impacting someone with the thoughts I share.

I consider myself a communicator first and foremost, and in today’s Internet driven world, the written work continues to have a growing importance in all aspects of life. And if a new eBook comes out of it, that would be just gravy. :-)

What about you? How do you express your creativity on a regular basis? What is your medium of preference? I’d love to hear what others do to foster and strengthen their creative juices.

Lessons on vision & innovation from Apple

Siri button

Fast Company writer, Kit Eaton, has a story out on Apple’s recent rumored acquisition of smart assistant app maker, Cue, and points us back to what has always been Apple’s vision for the future.

He boils down what he think this acquisition means for Siri’s future:

“…Apple has longer-term plans for Siri’s tech, Cue’s algorithms, and whatever other apps and hardware startups it buys in the near future. This is particularly true if it is also aligning its future Mac OS with the developments of iOS 8. What Apple may do is wind intelligent question-and-answer natural language systems through iOS on a deeper level, and build in more automatic “before you knew you needed it” technology, dissolving the idea of Siri as an extra to the OS. “

Now, prepare yourself to be blown away. Keep in mind this video is from 1987! Does your company or organization have this sort of vision? Can your organization innovate this far into the future?

Here are the two lessons on innovating that I take from this:

1) You don’t have to re-invent the wheel to radically innovate. You just need to have the forsight to put together the elements needed. There are reports that Steve Jobs was exposed to early applications of touch screen technology, and simply improved it and found practical consumer applications for it. As with most things, it’s not about who invents it, but rather who can present a solution to consumer challenges (known or unknown).

2) You have to dare to think beyond what is currently thought of as possible. Steve Jobs was great at this — thinking outside of what the accepted notions were about what consumers wanted or needed.

Bill Buxton reports on how Apple might have first gotten exposed to early research being done on multi-touch technology.

Multi-touch technologies have a long history.  To put it in perspective, my group at the University of Toronto was working on multi-touch in 1984 (Lee, Buxton & Smith, 1985), the same year that the first Macintosh computer was released, and we were not the first.  Furthermore, during the development of the iPhone, Apple was very much aware of the history of multi-touch, dating at least back to 1982, and the use of the pinch gesture, dating back to 1983.  This is clearly demonstrated by the bibliography of the PhD thesis of Wayne Westerman, co-founder of FingerWorks, a company that Apple acquired early in 2005, and now an Apple employee

Also, NPR has a great visual timeline on the history of touch screen technology. It’s worth checking out.

Related: 

 Acquisition story from cNet.

Wired: She’s Not Talking About It, But Siri Is Plotting World Domination