Tag Archives: Life Coaching

3 last minute gifts guaranteed to please


It’s the day before Christmas and the stores are packed. What can you give that person you know well? You are wondering the aisles, thinking how meaningless the whole thing is. What do you get to truly express your heart? Or the relative showing up at the party that you know nothing about? Here are 3 gifts that keep on giving…


This may seem counter intuitive, but committing to your personal growth is actually one of the greatest gifts you can give to your loved ones and the world in general. Make a real commitment to the people in your life that you will intentionally work on your character issues and personality brokenness this coming year.

In 2003, I remember meeting Aloys, a pastor in Rwanda. His faith journey began simpy.

“I wanted to be a better husband to my wife, so I gave my life to Christ.”


What amazing thinking! Committing to taking off those rough edges, the impatience and irritability, that’s an expensive gift. It may mean counseling. It may mean asking for forgiveness. Certainly accountability and training will be part of the journey. Let the ones to whom you’ve given “growth” know your process and progress.


We all mess up. We irritate each other.

Amazingly, have you noticed how our tolerance for the faults of others decreases in direct proportion to our intimacy with them? We often accept the foibles and eccentricities of strangers and show none for our loved ones and close friends.

Acceptance of the oddities of others with a commiserate dedication that we will not allow their brokenness to push us away, that is a true gift.

“I’m going to love you. No matter how odd, sharp, edgy, cranky, and broken you are.” Now that’s a gift.


Ok, so I’m pushing the alliteration, but what if for a year you decided that when you see your child in the morning, you smile. When you see your wife or husband, smile at them. Smile at your employer and employees.

A smile is often costly. The requirement is intentionality. Valuing someone enough to smile can be difficult in the midst of the chaos of life.

Let it be genuine. Find a good memory, and every time you see that person, pull up the positive memory. Then give them a smile. Make sure it reaches your eyes.

So there you have it. 3 gifts you can give everyone. And avoid the store.

What gifts have you given like this.

How to be popular: Life Lesson #27

The secret to popularity.

The first popular kid I remember from school was in 4th or 5th grade. From then on, the popularity contest ran full swing until graduation night, populating the hallways of highschool with “in” kids and everyone else, “cool” kids and everyone else. These were rarified airs to travel in, and being included was dizzying.  Why is it then that so many of the “popular kids” were actually quite unpopular with the rest of the world?

To credit my high school, the playing field and measuring sticks for popularity were not as delineated as in other fine institutions of social learning. Something about being in an international environment changed some of the rules.

In college, the game was still there. To be popular, you had to be attractive, confident, put together. But if popularity wasn’t your goal, you could just be you.

Somewhere in my 30ies, I achieved popularity. Not because I was suddenly the favorite of a whole ground of strangers I was forced to associate with because of the educational environment forced on me by my situation. Rather, I was popular because I knew a lot of people that I liked and who strangely enough, also seems to like me.

Once I learned that perfect hair, teeth and abs were history after high school, I started enjoying being me a lot more. And ALL my friends are popular. At least with me.

Life is not school. Life Lesson #26

Life is not school.

“Man, I got in trouble for that one.” A friend told me about something he was called onto the carpet for at work. Really? In trouble? Define that, will ya?

School, particularly the western model, begins around age 5 with kindergarden. For a minimum of the next 13 years, and often longer if college and post-grad are undertaken, we are graded on everything from attendance to attitude to academic aptitude. There’s a measuring stick. Don’t do it right, and you’ll get sent to the principle’s office, or head master, or dean, or whomever.

That mentality is carried over into adult life. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t being graded for most of what I did. Sure, there are performance reviews, sure there are promotions, but beyond that, most of life is not graded. Life is meant to be lived.

What makes a great dad? The scale and definition is as unique as the individual being parented. What makes a good husband, friend, employee?

In school, you don’t get graded on loyalty, or innovation, or character. You get graded on spitting back certain content, and perhaps at more advanced institutions, correctly discerning authorial intent, and discerning patterns. The fields are endless and so are the measuring sticks.

You’ll never be graded on a walk in the park, or enjoying a sunset, or standing in awe of seeing your first elephant in the wild, or holding your first child with tears flowing down your cheeks.

Life is not school. The most beautiful moments are rarely graded. They are lived.

Free Coffee is not a human right. Life Lessons #25 .

” The precedence of privilege tends to lead to the assumption and demand of right.”

This one comes from Mike McClaflin, Africa Regional Director, AGWM, former military officer and king of the short one line answer.

A few years ago, I heard Pastor Barnabas Mtokambali from Tanzania speaking about privilege.

“We bring pastors in from the village to the city to train them. They get used to 2 meals a day. They get used to public transport and they become spoiled.”

Two meals a day is spoiled? Public transport is spoiled?

Kind of redefines privilege doesn’t it?

Precedence: The first time you get free coffee at work, you are grateful. The first year you get a bonus, you’re over the moon. The first time dad lets you take the family car, you are grateful.

Privilege: Three months later, finances are tight, and coffee is suddenly a few pennies. Irate, aren’t cha? No bonus at the end of the year? There goes Christmas for the kids. You can’t drive the car until you pull your grades up? Who does he think he is!?

I am privileged. By virtue of my birth location, I can travel to most of the western world without a visa. To be brutally honest, my skin color opened lots of doors in Africa for me, even if they were occasionally opened with resentment.

Give someone privilege long enough and they come to view it as a right.

Three meals a day is the baseline standard for what we should expect. That expectation is in the basic charter for human rights, isn’t it? Or it the baseline “daily bread?”

Everything else is bonus.

Personal note: This sounds kind of preachy, and probably leaves you feeling like I’m being unrealistic, unfair. Perhaps. So I decided to try it out myself on myself.  In leading up to my 40th birthday, I went 40 days eating only one meal a day. I was amazed at how easy it was. The battle was mental, not physical. Food we need. How much is often culturally and convenience defined.

Learn to talk to a human. Life Lesson #24

Learn to talk. (credit to my older, wiser brother, Stephen Porter, on the original idea here).

I speak 6 languages. Not fluently, and I have an accent in most of them. Swahili was the most recent one I learned and what a fun, challenging experience. My sixth language though? Digital media.

You may be a “digital native” . You don’t even remember Windows 95 and Compuserve. That doesn’t excuse you from this one.

I understand lol, I know that ALL CAPS IS YELLING, and I try to keep up with what the digital cultural metaphors are.

But just because you speak digital doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to speak to people. Having a conversation is about valuing the person in front of you. At 40, I get irritated when everyone at the table keeps checking their phone. Which means that I’m often irritated at myself.

Can you have a conversation? A lengthy conversation, that’s verbal, personal and face to face?

Try it out. If you are struggling, google it. You should know how to do that, right?

Everyone is interesting #22

Everyone is interesting.

This is an idea that takes some time and some effort. Skip till tomorrow if relationships don’t interest you.

I count as good friends a number of guys who are web coders. Add in some photographers, a UN diplomat, a number of Tanzanian and Kenyan maids and housecleaners, a couple big shot pastors, a University VP with an earned PhD, a bunch of broke college students, a young lady with Down’s Syndrome, and several kids with whom I’ve played basketball. Rich and poor, urban and small town, outdoorsy and metro-chic. Black and White, Asian, Indian, Chinese.

Everyone is interesting if you aren’t the center of the world. And the twin insight is everyone likes to talk about themselves. Amazing what you can learn with a few questions and letting people talk about themselves.

Of course, there are those with whom you will connect and resonate. Others  you will have to work much harder to find that common thread. But when I start with the idea that everyone is interesting, questions become conversations. Conversations lead to friendships. And the world becomes a more interesting place.

Get over yourself and get counseling. Life Lesson #15

Go to counseling.

There, I said it. A couple days ago, I wrote about dealing with your baggage.  But it goes beyond that.

I have friends who are separated. Others who are divorced. Others headed that way.  I’ve got broke friends.

And then I have some who have survived adultery, drugs, and all sorts of junk. Friends who’ve made a lot of money.  The difference? Counseling.

Counseling is an act of rebellion against your pride.

Now, not all counselors are created equal. I personally have seen a number. The first guy we saw, well, he was nice but didn’t help. The second guy was someone I talked to. He cried with me real good. But I quit. He didn’t help.

The essence of true counseling is someone who can counsel. Not lay you down on a couch. Counsel. The word means to give advice. Who can tell you what to do. Who can read the situation, who’s walked before, that person is worth their weight in gold, and many times their hourly fee.

Todd told me when I was 22 to put $200 a month into an untouchable savings account. Right now, I’ve got $48,000 in saving. Actually, I don’t. Why? Because I disregarded good counsel.

So don’t be proud. Get some financial advise. Some relational advice. Some career advise. Some spiritual advice. Pay for it. And get it from someone who knows what they are talking about, not your goofball friends. Because they are as broke as you are.

Why being a Marine is better than being a narcissist. Life Lesson #13

<<Important disclaimer. Be all you can be is the slogan of the US Army, not the Marines. But I thought the titled sounded better this way. Call it editorial license. My sincere apologies to all the offended parties.>>

You can’t “be anything you want to be.”

Pop mantras are dangerous and lead to disappointment. Seriously.

Take for example “All you need is love.” The Beetles sang it, our parents grew up believing it. But try telling that to a hungry child and it rings hollow, doesn’t it?

The other one is “you can be anything you want to be.”

I wanted to be Michael Jordan. I wanted to fly from the free throw line. The reality is that no matter how many hours I practiced, no matter how many times I jumped, I was never going to be able to do what Jordan did. Not possible. That didn’t stop me from playing every day for a decade.

I had never not gotten a job I applied for until RMR. Remote Meter Reading was a company that paid well, and would have been a great part time job. Except that on the qualifying test, I couldn’t match numbers quickly. I had a tiny bit of dyslexia. A career in math was never going to be a reality for me.

Good intentions don’t make up for bad thinking.

You can’t be anything you want to be. But there are something, some unique place, where you can be you and your life will have meaning and purpose.

The key is discovering what that is. Those who discover that early exponentially multiply their satisfaction with life.

You can’t be anything you want to be. I prefer US Army statement. “Be all you can be.” Now that’s possible.