Category Archives: 40 Life lessons to learn before you turn 40

46 lessons I learned this past year

This blog started with 40 life lessons I learned before the age of 40. Those blogs became the basis for the book.

Yearly, I spend some time reflecting on lessons learned. Some of these are obvious, others may require explanation. A few are derivatives from other leadership lessons.  And because we need graphics, i’ve thrown in some animal pictures to enjoy.

But without further explanation, here they are.

1 Accept people as they are, not as they were.

2 Empathy is not feeling what someone else feels but being with a friend and allowing them to feel deeply while remaining completely present in the moment.

3 The attitudes we pick up accidentally are frequently the most destructive. We took the wrong lesson away from the experience.

4 Memory is a malleable putty, shaped by access and our attitude when accessing it.

Taking a break by Charles Porter on

5 “Stuck” is another way of describing trauma.

6 Growth is disjointed. My daughters physical growth has been explosive, her emotional growth- steady. Don’t expect consistent growth in all areas.

7 God answers specific of prayers. I asked for a specific kind of car and I ask for a certain person to come pray for me. Both happened and were clear answers to prayer.

8 People who say “I just can’t do this anymore“ usually figure out a way to.

9 Having multi generational friendships is sweet.

10 I used to not know what I did not know. I’m increasingly realizing I don’t know what I do know that’s useful to others. Investing in others is figuring out what you do know and transferring that knowledge.

11 Self disclosure does not equal trust.

12 Grace is the balm that prevents the infection of unforgiveness.

13 Adults need to ask others to be their friend. If it works in preschool, it works in your 40s.

14 Tell your friends that you love them.

15 Tell your friends you’re proud of them.

16 Codependency only requires one person.

17 Being the dumbest person in the room should be a rich learning experience, not an intimidating one. 

18. Being the smartest person in the room (consistently) is dangerous to the soul and the path the arrogance.

19 Lose weight. Find it again. Lose it again. Important thing is to not give up.

20 Invest in your future, not your fears.

21 The first story is rarely the whole story.

Lion straight on by Charles Porter on

22 Don’t see the silver lining in the clouds. Ignore the clouds and see silver in the sky.

23 If you’re losing it might not be you. It might be how you were playing the game.

24 Even a 15-year-old referee has the power to issue a technical foul.

25 If “you fail, try, try and try again” is bad advice. If you fail “train, train, then try again.

26 Anticipating negative dynamics can often diffuse them.

27 Confidence comes from competence, (not false verbal affirmations.)

28 If anonymity your problem, humility is your answer.

29 influence is the new drug of society.

30 Excellence without maintenance fails.

31 Forgiveness only requires one person. Reconciliation requires two people, a process, and evidence of change.

32 If you want people to remember what you say write a song. If you want them remember what you did, kill Giants.

33 Our greatest moments are connections with mystery not solutions. Data is interesting, mystery is enlivening.

34 Crowd source wisdom for simple solutions. Data mine Elders for deep complex problems.

35 To preserve your legacy, insure the future, don’t enshrine the past.

36 Leaders don’t say “yeah I know.”  They say “tell me more.”

37 Ask for help. You might be amazed by those who feel honored to be asked.

38 Memories are not accurate mental records of our experiences. Memories are emotional pictures heavily filtered through interpretations of our experiences.

39 If you can’t figure out what to do, think back to last time you knew with certainty what to do, then start doing that again.

40 No one is too old for encouragement and affirmation.

41 The distance between who you are and what you say is your integrity gap. Closing that gap is the leader’s most important task.

42 Success does not cure insecurity.

43 A failure in one area of life doesn’t mean a teaching in another is wrong.

44 Anxiety is rooted in a lack of trust.

45 Learn what awful-izing is. Then don’t do it.

46 I didn’t think losing my hair would bother me. It does. 🙂

If you enjoyed these, as always the highest compliment to an author is to share with someone else.

43 Life Lessons from Bible characters.

Birthday’s are times for reflection for me. I want to continue to learn. Here’s 43 things I learned from Bible characters.

1. Joseph: Forgive by don’t forget. Reconciliation should only come when change has happened.
2. Jesus: Presence is the greatest gift you can give.
3. Jacob: Running from your problems only delays the inevitable confrontation
4. Adam. Sometimes you have to disagree with the whole world, even if that’s just your wife.
5. Cain: You are your brother’s keeper.
6. Noah: Legacy has impact on your children’s destiny. Noah-Ham-Canaan.
7. Abraham: Beware the patterns you establish. They will continue for generations. Both Good and Bad. (Altars and Favorite children)
8. Isaac. Keep investing in your life. Your future depends on it.
9. Joseph: Your dreams are usually about yourself. Big dreams are about others.
10. Sampson: Never flirt with evil.
11. Moses: you’re never too old to start something new.
12. Moses: God won’t allow lame excuses to keep us from his destiny for us.
13. Joshua: To be a great man, you must first be around great men. Walk where they walked, talk with who they talk. Live as they live
14. Caleb: You’re never too old to fight for what’s yours. But the older you get, the more you need those younger than you.
15. Ruth: A life of service to others is never a bad choice.
16. Naomi: Take care of those who take care of you. Set them up for success and you’ll be blessed too.
17. Deborah: Never let your position in society determine how well you serve.
18. Samuel: You can learn from corrupt old people.
19. Samuel: You are never too young to start speaking the things God shows you.
20. Saul: Sometimes the thing you didn’t want becomes the thing you hold on to the most. Everything we have is from God, hold it lightly.
21. David: Weep like a broken-hearted father, but lead even when you are in pain.
22. David: Never stop going to war. Ever. Or you’ll end up on a rooftop, not knowing you are destroying your family.
23. Solomon: God loves you. Regardless of your family history.
24. Solomon: Knowing right and doing right are two different things.
25. Jeroboam: Listen to older people. Your friends are usually idiots.
26. Manasseh: You’re never too old to turn it around.
27. Josiah: Don’t get cocky. Accept the space God has given you
28. Josiah: Don’t get into other people’s fights.
29. Isaiah: Never be too proud to obey God. History will look on you as a man of integrity even if you walk around naked for three years.
30. Solomon: just because you say it and its written down doesn’t make it true. (“All is meaningless”)
31. Andrew: if the only thing you ever do is bring people to Jesus, that’s enough.
32. James: Serving your family isn’t a bad thing.
33. Jesus: Even Jesus was obedient to parents who were sinners.
34. Paul: getting knocked on your butt is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you.
35. The high priest: truth can come even from angry, or evil sources (prophesy of one dying to save Israel).
36. Pilate: listen to your wife.
37. Jeremiah: If you whine, people will remember you as a whiner.
38. David: if you want people to remember what you say, write a song. If you want people to remember what you do, kill giants.
39. Joseph: your greatest legacy may be how you care for what is someone else’s.
40. Anananias: your greatest moment may come when you have to overcome your greatest fear
41. Timothy: You may not understand why and may have to trust someone else that they have your best at heart. (Being circumcised as an adult). Trust the right people.
42. John: you may think you are being clear, but if people don’t understand your metaphors, you’ll create confusion. (Book of Revelation)
43. Anna: Waiting is hard but worth it. Worship while you wait.

3 ways to help your friends who have a disabled child.

My son has DMD. He’s in a wheelchair. He’s 12. He can’t run, jump, or walk. He used to be able to. But DMD has taken that away.


His favorite class in school this year is English. He loves his teacher. She’s a superstar.
His second favorite class? P.E.
That’s right. The one class where he can’t do what the other kids do. The one class that could remind him of his disability.

And the one class that’s social. Where instead of starting at a blackboard, he can engage with others. He has made more friends in PE than in any other class. In PE, the other kids have figured out ways to include him in their activities.

I was thinking about that when my wife and I were talking about some of our experiences growing up, how adults other than our parents allowed us to participate in different events. My sister got to go to Austria with friends. I’ve never been. My cousin took my brother to see his first movie.

I sat down today and considered some of the families who have disabled kids. Many of my friends have asked “how can we help?” The honest answer is most families feel guilty asking for helping constantly, so I’ll give you some ideas. Please share yours as well.

1. Take the other kids and do things.

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes the siblings of disabled kids just aren’t able to participate as much in activities because the parents simply can’t “throw the kids in the car” and run around. Camping, hiking, fishing, bike rides, one way that you can help a family who has a disabled child is including their other kids in your activities. We make every effort to give our kids a normal childhood, but doctors visits, medical accessories, and the million other things that go along with have a wheelchair bound child mean that our 2 other kids don’t get to do some things that their peers get to do. Take them along.

2. Borrow their van.

Being in a wheelchair means transportation is an issue. But if you want to include a disabled child, just ask to borrow the wheelchair accessible vehicle. Those vehicles have insurance just like any other. Take the kid to the movies, to ball games, anywhere you might go that a wheelchair could go but getting there is the barrier.

3. Include.

Lots of people at family reunions just sit around talking. Kids with disabilities can still talk, can still experience, can still laugh. They may not be able to play baseball, but they can sit with grandma and talk during the game. Ask Joshua about super heroes and just sit back and enjoy the ride. So invite and include them in as many activities as possible. Don’t worry about participating completely.

4. Don’t pity.

The last thing a child with a disability needs is pity. Give them the dignity of respect as a human being. Joshua is tiny. Not even 4 feet tall. But his mind is the mind of a 12 year old, not the mind of a 6 year old where his body is stuck.

My son’s favorite class is because someone thinks he’s awesome. His second favorite is because he gets to be with other kids. So consider including a disable child, or his siblings, in your activities this summer.

Please share this, and share your ideas as well. We need to learn from each other.

26 Life Memories that made me who I am

Here they are. In no particular order, of importance or impact.

 26 Life memories. It’s a Wonderful life…so far.

And I’m sure after a few days, I’ll change this list. Here goes.

  1. Fishing in the Davis’ pond, Pittsburg, East Texas. Don’t remember the date. Nothing like pond fishing. Love it to this dayPhotograph Tom Sawyer II by Andrea Dell'Aquila on 500pxTom Sawyer II by Andrea Dell’Aquila on 500pX
  2. My first plane flight, from DFW to Chicago, our family moving from Tx to Europe. Gotta admit, the turbulence scared me. “What’s that pilot doing up there?” that’s the quote I’m reminded of. 1981
  3. My first lion. 2003. Nakuru Kenya. With Jeff Nelson.
  4. The first time I kissed my wife. On the bus back from a Thanksgiving retreat. 1995. Still love kissing her today.
  5. My first morning in Khartoum, Sudan. Dusty, red. Scared but excited.
  6. The first day of the Ocean International Community Church. 5 people. My wife, my son, Laurie K and Walker K. 5 people.
  7. Sitting under the wide open sky, watching shooting stars and seeing the Milky Way without light pollution. Northern Kenya, 1995.Photograph way to milky way by Mohammed  AM on 500px way to milky way by Mohammed AM on 500px
  8. 9th grade English class. Professional author as a teacher. First time I thought that maybe I could write.
  9. Holding my son Joshua for the first time. Dec 1, 2003. All eyes, and gummy smile. Tiny little human.
  10. Watching my wife deliver my daughter. The delivery was intense, we almost lost both of them.
  11. The birth of my son Riley. He was a c-section and didn’t come out breathing right away. Some pretty intense moments. Reims, France, 2008.
  12. The day Joshua was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. I found a bathroom to crumple over in and cry. Joshua just asked me “What’s wrong daddy?” as he tried to comfort me. January 17, 2010.
  13. Driving home after my driving license test. Dad let me drive and we stopped and got an ice cream/shake from Tastee Freeze. 1991.
  14. Diving with sharks. First time diving, Port Sudan. Sharks came out of the dark and circled. 2002.
  15. Bungee jumping and whitewater rafting the Nile. Bungee was surprisingly fun. Got sucked under rafting, thought I would die.
  16. My banana seat bike when I was 5. At the little white house in Pittsburgh, TX. Hours and hours of fun. Days and weeks of fun.
  17. Mountain climbing and sledding in our backyard, Albertville France, 1982. The little shed that had a crystal clear mountain stream running through it. Magical moments in those hills.
  18. Dad and brother got chased by a Saint Bernard in the Alps.
  19. My first (and only) Muskee catch. Canada, 2005 with River of Life church. Denny Curran was there. Ordean Peterson too.
    Boundary Waters trip. Devon Davoux, Jeremy Montgomery. 2006. Its now a tradition. Photograph Canoeing at Sunrise by Jerry Monkman on 500px Canoeing at Sunrise by Jerry Monkman on 500px
  20. Meeting Devon Davoux, day 1, North Central. Been my best friend since.
  21. Making the call to Greg Beggs to tell him we had to leave the Sudan. Second hardest call I’ve had to make.
  22. Getting the CD with photoshop on it, Sept 2001. Nothing to do but wait, nothing to do but learn.
  23. Mom crying when grandma died.
  24. Helping baptize someone in the Nile river, 20 hours North of nowhere.
  25. Easter 2013 at the Ocean International Community Center.


Don’t miss the launch of Life Cartography the book, on Kindle.

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We are all Ray Rice, Andrian Peterson. 3 steps to take to not go there.

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, the issue of domestic abuse and child abuse have been forced to the front of everyone’s collective awareness by two ongoing and separate cases involving athletes from America’s favorite sport to watch: Football.


Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, knocked out a woman with a blow to the head. Forget who she was or became.

He assaulted a woman who made him angry and knocked her out. Andrian Peterson switched his kid. Excessively. Whatever you think of switching. Or spanking. And though the 2 issues should be kept separate, they are now deeply intertwined in our social narrative. The story we like to tell about ourselves. How we are a moral society. How we treat each other with respect and dignity.

What we aren’t willing to admit is that the truth is that we all could be Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson.

Continue reading We are all Ray Rice, Andrian Peterson. 3 steps to take to not go there.

What a pacifier sucking 3 year old taught me about detours: Life Lesson #39

Detours lead to “Oohh” moments.

Alana smile.jpg 

My daughter was a pacifier addict. Binkey, Nook, Dummy, the names are endless. But without one in her mouth, our nights were sleepless, trips were delayed, meetings were attended late all because this little tike could not function without the pacifier. The boys, not really. Neither cared much for the “binky.”

For my little princess, the Binky wasn’t just a pacifier. There was love there. How do I know?

At the tender age of 2, she was in the trolley at our local Target when I had to take a detour down the baby aisle. Looking for baby wipes, my mind on dirty bottoms, I wasn’t expecting the sudden “ooohhh” of wonder and delight that escaped unbidden from my toddler. I looked up to see her little baby blues fixed on the wall display with dozens of pacifiers for sale, transfixed in wonder.

When was the last time the gasp of wonder escaped unbidden from your soul? What takes your breath away?

You can’t always create those moments but you can expect them, and take detours down the aisles that will increase your chances.

Oohh is so much fun.

Crazy people aren’t the only ones who hear voices in their heads. Life Lesson #33

Be very careful of the voices you allow in your head.

Most of us keep a constant dialogue going in our heads. Sure, there are times when my wife asks me “what are you thinking?” and I don’t have a ready answer. I’m in my “nothing box.” But generally I’m having conversations with myself.

Those conversations though are generally informed by other conversations I’ve listened to. People whose worldviews and ideas shape me, whether I intend them to or not.

I read somewhere that after reading an author for a while, your brainwaves begin to align with his. Read a depressed person, and you’ll be depressed. Read a crazy person, and your thinking gets confused.

I have a few voices in my head that won’t go away. Erwin MacManus inspires me, Andy Stanley helps me simplify things, Tim Keller makes me smarter. TED talks allow me to see the world in a different way. Seth Godin keeps me from giving in to fear and Malcolm Gladwell forces me outside my box.

Who’s part of your dialogue team?

Some people should be fake. Life Lesson #32

Always be real. Unless you’re always real negative. Then be fake till you change. Please.
be real or fake.jpg

Jan* is in conflict with Bobby*. Jan isn’t the easiest person to get along with but when she is ever confronted, she just goes to her standard response. “That’s just the way I am. I can’t change who I am. Take it or leave it.”

Trust me, after 40 years of life, I’ll leave it, thank you very much.

You and I were born unable to talk. We were born unable to control our bowels or our emotions. Yet we learned.

The verdict is out on the whole nature versus nurture argument. I’m much like my namesake uncle whom I’ve spent little time with. But we share many things, even physical mannerisms. My daughter is like my mom, though they live a continent apart.

You might be the product of nature, or maybe genetics had a strong imprint on your than nurture. Either way, you are can change.

Life is too short, and too filled with beauty and pain, to be around someone who is an emotional leech. Who takes your energy away from you.  Who want the world to conform to them because “that’s just the way God made me.”

And before you start making your list of people to avoid, take a good look in the mirror. Would your boss look for you at the company party? Would your kids want you to hang out with their friends? Would you want to hang out with you if you weren’t you?

The difference between kissing up and a giving good compliment.

 Life Lesson #30 Learn to give good compliments.

I know that people like different things. But a good compliment someone will remember for a while. Say, 50 years at least. Mark Twain said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

The Anatomy of a bad compliment.

  1. Lie. “Go get’em Johnny, you’re the best.” Doesn’t ring true when Johnny is #15 on the depth chart. He knows it, and so do you.
  2. Repeat what others are saying. Wow, nice Game Johnny. Nice speech, nice hair, nice jacket, nice… Yeah, by the 3rd time I’ve heard it, the compliment looses impact.
  3. Use vague words. Nice. Good. Impressive.
  4. Be insincere. Force yourself to find something good to say. Kind of like complimenting your sister after cutting her down. “Find something nice to say, Johnny!” “I like your hair.”

Anatomy of a memorable compliment.

  1. True for you. Even if the recipient wants to deny it, give them a personal compliment from your experience. A lady at a certain church once came to me after a speech and said “if we didn’t have our pastor, we would want to have you.” I know her pastor. In my mind, he’s a great man. That’s a solid compliment, and it was true for her.
  2. Specific. Johnny might not be the best, but he might be the only one who could hit a curve call. Or have the nicest handwriting. You’d be amazed the things people remember. Notice the small and specific
  3. Public. Now, I know not everyone likes to be the center of attention. But everyone likes to be bragged on publicly. Not every compliment should or can be given publicly, but if the people important to me hear that compliment, the noise factor increases significantly.

There are many others I’m sure. But in 40 years, I only remember a few compliments. So try to make them memorable, will ya? Over on Facebook, or in the comments, would you share the best compliment you’ve ever received? Or other ways to compliment people? If you liked this post, you might want read

Monkeys don’t have solutions: Life Lesson #29

Monkeys don’t have any solutions.

showman who trains performing monkeys


My friend John Fernandez is one of the best businessmen I know. In addition to running daystar Desserts, maker of “the World’s Best Cheesecake,” John is a gourmet chef, father, devoted man of faith but perhaps most importantly, John shares what he has learned freely. This is my edited, warped version of his “monkeys” concept.

Basically, at DayStar Desserts, John doesn’t allow anyone to bring him a problem without also at least a suggestion for a solution. He talks about people trying to “put monkey’s on my back.” Amazing how few “monkeys” land on his desk.

To take the monkey one step further though, apply this to complaining. Complaining is generally a recognition of an existing problem. Here’s the danger. We actually think we are smarter than most people. No one thinks they are average, right? But if everyone is a 4.0 grade point average at Harvard, 4.0 is average. Nothing special.

If you are complaining, you are recognizing a problem but not offering a solution. That’s average. Any average person can do that. But thank goodness, we’re not average, right? Did you know in recorded history, monkeys have not made much progress? They are still out there in the forest, swinging from vines and eating each other’s bugs.

Now, I assume my bosses see most of the problems I see. My friends know their issues. Sure, we all have blind spots, but most people aren’t blind.

Don’t diagnose without a solution. Because if they had a solution, I’ll bet those average people out there would have already solved it.