Traditions vs Crutches: what keeps you around might be holding you back

Elf On A Shelf Book And Doll

Elf On A Shelf Book And Doll (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)

Are we holding on to familiar places, experiences and even our hometown too tightly that we can’t grow as people? The answer, of course, is a solid, set in stone yes and no. I may raise more questions than answers with this post, but reality is that there is no real answer.  I am all about growing myself and growing my readers as people.  That is the essence of finding your “awesome”.  This question is best answered by taking a step back and making sure you take a good self-evaluation and understand yourself, question your motives, and challenge your own status quo.

 I love the Chevy Chase classic Christmas movie “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation”.  As far back as I can remember, we have watched it multiple times during the Christmas season and usually on a loop in the background on Christmas Day. It simply would not be Christmas without Clark Griswold locking himself in the attic watching old family films.  But really, would it?  Another great tradition for my family is the Mission Inn Festival of Lights.  This is a beautiful display of Christmas Decorations and vendors against the back drop of the historical Mission Inn in Riverside Ca. As I write this, I realize that my family has attended the Festival of lights 2 or 3 times.  I am 37 years old.  In the past five years, we have attended this event 2 or 3 times (I sincerely can’t remember), and I am willing to emotionally tie my Christmas holiday’s success to attending this event???
In these modern days, with very little worry over our next meal, we are eager to fulfill a different hunger .  We seek nostalgic experiences.  Marketers love this.  Most people within a normal psychological spectrum have a cluster of relatively harmless “hungers”.  We didn’t make it to the Fesitval of Lights last year, and we still enjoyed a wonderful holiday.  Rest assured, I am locking us in for attendance this year.  Two years missing in a row would be a travesty.
 Most normal, hardworking and ambitious people however, have 1 or 2 significant weaknesses that go well beyond family holiday traditions.  These are emotional ties to something that holds them back from further success.  
It may be fear of moving away from a hometown and the memories, thus limiting career advancement.  It may be holding too tightly to the past with regard to relationships and marriage such as comparing the new spouse to the previous,  causing personal problems that likely ripple through all aspects of life.  It could be a holding on to childhood emotional securities such as keeping parents and grandparents too close and not “cleave [ing] to his wife”, as God commands in Genesis 2:24.
It’s likely that most people deal with a bit of this in one form or another.  Some may have significant clinical issues well beyond this. That’s another post, another day.  I am reaching out to you stuck in the middle. Mediocrity is not as bad as failure, but it is not at all our goal of “awesome”.  Are you holding on to things that are holding you back from success?  It’s time to reevaluate yourself and your priorities.  Let’s get intentional about making a change.  
What traditions are absolute deal breakers for you?

No Man is An Island: A Guide to Intentional Christianity

One of the most uplifting and motivating minds of the last 30 plus years is Zig Ziglar. His methods, grounded in a deep faith and a spirit of charity have greatly impacted me as well as millions of others in sales and leadership alike. His stories draw you in, pull on your heart and push you toward the excitement of victory.  He is best known for his doctrine of success.

No Man is an Island - John Donne

No Man is an Island – John Donne (Photo credit: mark(s)elliott)

He says ” You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want”. Achieving awesomeness in life is not simply about productivity and execution.  There are a thousand different “takes” on balancing the key areas of life: work, faith, family, etc.  For the Christian, this must be more of a “centering”.

If God is not the center of our life, all the worldly success is useless.

 The anxiety of a wandering Christian is paralyzing, terrifying, and absolutely destructive toward the journey toward awesomeness.  Perhaps Ziglar was familiar with the 1955 Merton Classic No Man is an Island.  Tomas Merton, a Trapist Monk, known best for his autobiography The 7 Storey Mountain, writes on the virtues of contemplative prayer and the intentionality of the will.  Interesting and purely coincidental juxtaposition, I re-read this book a week after finishing Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  Miller, much less formal than Merton, shares a very real experience Merton wrote about over half a century earlier.  We can all relate to wanting to want to love God, but not always feeling it.  Merton articulates this challenge and posits a road to healing that we walk when we truly begin to face our relationship with God:

It is not enough to do the will of his because his will is unavoidable. Nor is it enough to will what he wills because we have to. We have to will his will because we love it.

Perhaps Merton’s theological version of fake it ’till you make it is best summed up in this thesis:

…since no man is an island, since we all depend on one another, I cannot work out God’s will in my own life unless I consciously help other men to work out His will in theirs.

Merton is laying out the opportunity for us to intentionally center ourselves on God.  First, he says we cannot simply run into God’s will. It doesn’t “count” if we accidentally do it.  The Feed America campaign at Target is nice, but doesn’t constitute an intentional act of God’s will on our part.  Also, going to Mass on Sunday because as Catholic’s we have to, is not enough.  To attain that desired relationship with God, we have to love the will of God.  Our intentions ultimately dictate our actions and our awesomeness. His second statement tells us how.  We must love others so much, that we consciously and intentionally help them find and achieve God’s will in there lives.  This is what Mother Teresa survived on for years in Calcutta. This is what drove Pope John Paul II out of bed for so many years through the pain of Parkinson’s. This is the new starting line on our spiritual journeys.  Helping others through our prayer and our physical actions.  Start here and God will lead the way.
Who are you going to help today?



I am a Rich Fool, Time to burn my Barn.

We love a good story.  These stories connect through emotion, humor, and related experiences.  Story telling is one of the common themes for the best blog articles on the internet.  Jesus Christ, was the greatest blogger of all time.  He currently has over infinity followers (although many are not engaged followers), and is still pushing great content. He tells a great story about a man seeking heaven.  In Mathew, chapter 19: 16-30, Jesus meets a young rich man who takes this opportunity to assure himself of eternal salvation.  Like many of us, this man feels like he is doing all the right things, but still lacks that assurance of salvation. “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  Jesus tells him to obey the commandments.  Here, he gives a quick run down of the ten commandments.  The young man, feeling a little better, yet still unsure replies, ” All of these I observed. What do I still lack?”  Jesus, not mincing words replies with the following words that are clear as day, yet so difficult to understand.  He says: if you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.  The man leaves, after hearing this.  He leaves in despair because he has many possessions.  Jesus, knowing human nature better than anyone, turns to his followers to clarify, ” Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells  another parable of a  rich fool. Luke 12: 16-21, Jesus tells his followers about a rich young man so with so many possessions, he cannot possibly need them all.  He tears down his barns and builds bigger and bigger barns to store his stuff. God calls him a fool…:”for tonight your life will be demanded of you…thus it will be the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God”.

barn collapsing (5)

barn collapsing (5) (Photo credit: Eric Willis (superic))

God is too smart to buy into simple box checking.  He is jealous and wants is all.  Trusting in him looks different for each one of us.  Living intentionally involves a lot of personal accountability.  Sometimes, the 5 am cup of coffee in front of the computer is real lonely.  This sense of “me against the world” or at least “me against my unaccomplished goals”, gives me a false sense of empowerment.  Am I the one doing the work?  I must remind myself that it is not I providing the inspirations, the drive, and tools.  God is providing, so that I can ultimately achieve the main goal, and that is living a charitable life of trust and love, where I share my God given talents and treasures with the world and ultimately get to heaven. What good post on intentionality would pose an opportunity such as eternal salvation without at least scratching the surface of instruction.  Here is a list of the first 3 things to rid myself of being a rich fool.  Take these and make them your own.
1.  Be intentional about prayer.  Yes, I am actually scheduling prayer time twice per day.  Hoping for inspiration to pray is not a good strategy for me.  This will come later, once prayer becomes a bigger part of my life.  Tailor this to your needs.  If you already pray a lot, schedule more time to pray.
2.  Read the Bible.  Start small and realistic.  I am starting with Mathew and reading about 10 minutes per night.  Find what works for you.  The Bible is God’s instruction manual for everything “awesome”.  If you are reading this at the expense of Bible time, your priorities are wrong.
3. Go do something charitable.  Don’t just read or write about it, do something.  Go to a soup kitchen, thrift shop, local church, etc.  Actions are way more impactful than thought.
Time for a barn burner.  What treasures are taking space in your heart? What one thing are you intentionally going to change TODAY to fix this?

Intentional Sinner

Things were easier when I couldn’t figure how to get things done.  I hadn’t discovered the power of the intentional life and could always put things off until tomorrow.  Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with the Lord.  I tell myself that everyday. I told myself this today as I slept in, read 30 pages of a fiction novel, watched 2 hours of baseball, about an hour of social media, and countless moments doing things without giving the Lord a second thought.  It’s certainly true that we can be conscious of God even in mundane everyday tasks, but that wasn’t the case for me.  It rarely is.  I’m fed up with being a mediocre Christian. I felt a tug on my soul today. Call it the Holy Spirit or call it indigestion, here is what the frustrated, not at all crazy, conversation with myself looked like:

Rembrandt – “The Return of the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt – “The Return of the Prodigal Son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know what to do to get where I wanna be, honestly, I don’t even know where I want to be.  What does the vision of my family look like when it comes to a Christian life? Are we trying to be holy and struggle for perfection or are we accepting of God’s grace and celebrating him and that grace? My joy in The Lord is like a troubled child who is happy, even joyous, to receive Christmas gifts and maybe even a hug from his dad. That’s not enough. God calls us to have a pure, unconditional love for him…unashamed joy. A connection. I see how happy my son is just to have a hug from me. That hug doesn’t “recharge his batteries”, it simply brings him joy.  I DON’T feel that connection with the Lord. I know the problem is ME and not The Lord. WHY am I not able to connect with him? I don’t trust, I don’t give, I don’t commit…
Personal accountability to our values must be the driving force of our personal mission. If you struggle to simply make the bed everyday and get anything done, this post probably doesn’t speak to you.  We have a lot of work ahead of us. You have an excuse.  If you feel in control and are able to accomplish goals, but miss the boat when it comes to your relationship with the Lord, then welcome to the club.

Author and professor Steve Brown says we are so busy trying to be holy, that we end up being bad.  We miss the point.  He shares his take in his book, 3 free sins,

that we as sinners are forgiven with  the blood from the cross.  This is where to start.  God’s love.  Incorporating more intentional faith into our lives is no different than waking up early to work on our blogs, books, paintings, or any other passion we enjoy.  The motivation to grow our relationship with God should dwarf our other endeavors.  Start with a vision. Build your plan to take you to your vision.  You GOT this!

How are you being intentional with your relationship with the Lord TODAY?
Rocco De Leo

God Doesn’t Care How You Finish

This is the season for the SAT test.  As I sipped my cofee Saturday morning waiting for my 17 year old daughter to finish getting ready for her second round with the SAT, I openned up Feedly to read Seth Godin’s post, Measuring without Measuring.  In his witty, and for the moment “timely” manner, he states that the SAT is the best measure to see how a person will do on the SAT.   In two weeks we will have results showing kids who showed up and “fell” into great scores, kids who showed tremendous effort and growth to get “average scores” and very smart kids who struggle through tests only to get bad scores.  What are we hoping to gain from making hundres of thousands of kids take this test?  Colleges want results. They want to stack the odds in their favor that accepting more freshman with higher SAT scores will provide better results (ie, grades, student involvement, graduation).  The measuring stick of our life is results.  This is not one of those egalitarian posts about giving every kid a trophy or the self esteem movement anyone in thier 30s can remember.  We must measure results because we are not God.  We get paid to deliver results.  God is all knowing and measures something greater because he is reading the entire story.  He measures intentions.  He knows your heart. He paid the price on Calvary 2000 years ago to guarentee the results. All he asks for is you to love him, to have faith like a child (Luke 18:17)

Praise God

Praise God (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

What God gives us that the rest of life doesn’t, is a place to put our heart where we are guarenteed success.

We can put our efforts on sales numbers, amount of blog posts, and the soccer score. Yet It doesn’t matter. The results don’t change the core of who we are. In a world that will accept results regardless of intentions, we will never accept intentions without results. Only God will do that. True purpose is aligning your results with your intentions. In other words, you are not only good at something, but you want to be good at it as well. As I push through the self doubt about my writing ( I am not good enough, not writing enough, etc. ) and my parenting (who am I to raise these kids?) and my work results (numbers are down again?), I am comforted by the true measure of who I am by my heart.  This fuels my ambition to take on the self doubt through intentionality and  consistently “showing up”.

Only you and God know your true heart.  What’s your intention with him?
Rocco De Leo

A Life Well Lived

As someone who values productivity and efficiency, I decided to get a head start on some future projects.   Here is a letter I am writing to address the many,  requests I assume I will get asking me how I became amazingly successful in achieving all my goals.

Worm's Head

Worm’s Head (Photo credit: Calidenism)

I want to get a head start on this since I’ll be busy fishing on Lake Tahoe, or surfing in Hawaii, or playing with great grandkids. Inspired by Eugene O’kelly‘s heart wrenching end of life memoir,  Chasing Daylight, I am sharing with you my perspective on my life,: a life well lived.

Family and Friends,
As I enter the sunset of my life, I am humbled to reflect upon the success I have in every aspect of my life. I have been seen by many as wise, entertaining, influential, and an all around awesome guy. My most coveted awards include “Best Dad Ever”,  “Best Grandpa Ever”, and “Husband of the Year”.  My personal life has been ever as successful as my professional life.  A corporate journey through success and innovation, as well as an award winning international speaker on topics ranging from relationships to productivity, my true professional joy has come from my many best selling fiction and non-fiction books.  Traveling the world sharing my stories has brought me close to the people, You!  Every day, I inspire people to live their dreams and live a life of love and adventure.  The best part of this all is that I have shared my life with a wonderful family. As I slowly fade from public figure to legend, I would be remise if I didn’t share the “secrets” to it all.  Here are 10 things to consider in living a life well lived.
1. Priorities in order:. God, wife, kids, myself, work, everyone else.
2. Do things to help others. Money and fame are side effects.
3. Surround yourself with trusted advisors who will keep you honest.
4. Happy family life equals happy work life.
6. Maintain Friendships and don’t keep score.
7. Wake up early and be passionate about every day.
8. Exercise with purpose. (I have ran at least 2 marathons per year since 2012).
9. Wake up early and don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
10.  Perfection has never been the goal.   Give maximum effort and the results will follow.
Rocco De Leo Ph.D.
President and CEO of DeLeo Enterprises International
May 29, 2060
How are you living well today?