Thursday, June 30, 2011


Have you ever found an old journal and been amazed at what you were thinking and feeling? Or have you ever wished that you could go back to that day when you were feeling super passionate and excited about life and bottle that enthusiasm? Now you can!

Future Past + Presencephoto © 2010 Hartwig HKD | more info (via: Wylio)

At the rehearsal dinner for my wedding, guests were given a blank piece of paper and an envelope labeled “Year 1,” “Year 2,” “Year 3,” etc. The envelopes went all the way to Year 25. Guests were asked to write a note that Aimie and I would open on each anniversary. Although we’ve only been married for two and a half years, this has proven to be one of the highlights each year on our anniversary.

I have just finished reading Jon Acuff’s awesome book Quitter. If you are trying to balance the tension between your day job and your dream job, this is the book for you. In the book, Jon refers to a website called The idea and layout behind this website is so elegantly simple that it is easy to miss the brilliance.

At, individuals can send an email to themselves at a later date. I simply put in my email address, type my email and then decide what date I want it delivered to my in-box. Why is this such a powerful tool?

If you are like me, you have those days that are extraordinary. Maybe you just feel more alive or more focused or more loving or more whatever it is you feel. What if you could bottle that feeling and remember it when you are feeling not so passionate and enthralled with life?

In walks On these great days, you can type a quick email reminding yourself why you feel so passionate and excited about life and set it to be delivered on the first of each month for the next year. How great of a reminder would this be?

Below are 5 more ways to utilize the power of to live a more intentional life.
  1. After you attend a conference or professional development opportunity, write an email to yourself six months down the road to remember how you felt. 
  2. Think about the times during the year that you experience those lulls in enthusiasm and passion. Choose a day when you are feeling excellent and send yourself a series of emails to encourage yourself. 
  3. Write an email to yourself about enjoying the true meaning of Christmas and set it to be delivered at a time when things tend to become most crazy during the holidays. 
  4. Send an email to yourself on those “anniversary” days in your life to remind yourself how lucky and fortunate you are (day you met your spouse, day that a special event in your life history occurred, etc.). 
  5. Send yourself emails about more practical matters (oil changes, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).
The point is to use this tool to be more intentional about your life. Stop coasting through life taking each day as it comes and choose to make your life spectacular.

QUESTION: What other uses can you brainstorm for

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


“What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God.”
~Monica Baldwin

 Gate Handle by Vera Kratochvil

Humility is a hallmark characteristic of a successful life. While the best leaders are not always humble, there is a certain transcendent quality to those leaders who possess a true spirit of humility.

Another of my favorite all-time books is The Call by Os Guinness. If you are looking for your true calling, this is a life-changing book. One of my favorite excerpts from the book is about humility:
At times the church of Christ has created institutional ways of challenging pride. Few are more moving than the burial ceremony of the Hapsburg emperors, who were laid to rest in the vaults of the Capuchin monastery in Vienna.

When Emperor Franz Josef died, the grand cortege arrived at the closed doors of the monastery and a herald knocked at the gate. From within the voice of the Abbott could be heard asking:

“Who are you, who knocks?”

“I am Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary,” the herald replied.

“I don’t know you. Tell me again who you are?”

“I am Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia, Lodomeria, and Dalmatia, Grand Duke of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Styria and Corinthia…”

“We still don’t know you. Who are you?” the sepulchral voice reiterated. Whereupon the herald knelt down and said:

“I am Franz Josef, a poor sinner humbly begging for God’s mercy.”

“Thou mayest enter then,” the Abbott said and the gates were flung open.
This is a wonderful picture of true humility.

Do you believe that there are resources in Christianity that allow us to increase our humility? Humans are deeply self-centered creatures. It seems we use anything in our power to justify ourselves – our jobs, our money, our family, our possessions. There is no limit to our capacity for self-centeredness. 

This self-centeredness flies right into the face of humility. How can we truly be humble and yet constantly trying to justify ourselves? This is an exhausting life.

But, when Jesus came (not a religion), He blew the doors off of self-centeredness. Through Christ, justification is no longer needed. He saw us at our worst and still accepted us. The need to be “good enough” is gone through what Jesus accomplished. Jesus did not choose us because we were good enough. He chose us because he loves us – period.

Do you believe this? Have you ever spent time thinking about this resource?

What are you using to justify yourself today? Will you set it down and put your eyes on the One who loved you and me when we were unlovable? The path to true humility is only found in the restful arms of a loving Savior.

“True humility is contentment.”
~Henri Frederic Amiel

Question:Why is self-justification such a powerful force? Please leave comments below.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Do you have a dream? What stirs your soul? What makes you get out of bed in the morning with passion and purpose? 

Today’s post is a wake-up call to do something great! The goal is not to persuade you to quit your job or move to a foreign country and become a missionary or dig wells or adopt children. Maybe your dream is as simple as creating a neighborhood watch program or starting a Bible study or building a neighborhood playground. The size of the dream is not the point – having a dream is!

What is your dream? As Goethe states: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”

Below are 3 keys to accomplishing your dreams:

1. The Power of One
I wrote about this in a previous post here, but I believe that each person on this earth has been uniquely gifted to change the world. What is your gift? What is your talent?

Too often we just coast through life thinking, “I’m just one person. What can I really do?” History is replete with those individuals who had the courage to stand up and make a difference. Please find your dream – the world needs it!

2. Stop Talking and Start Doing
My wife has the ability to bring truth to me like no other. I am an avid reader and tend to gravitate toward books when I want to learn about something. When I have a new dream, she will say, “Are you going to do something about it or just read a book?” This is not said in a taunting or disrespectful fashion. She is simply nudging me to stop talking and start doing.

Oftentimes I feel like this quote from Malcolm Muggeridge was written specifically for me:

“Here lieth one whose soul sometimes burned with great longings. To whom sometimes the curtain of the infinite was opened just a little, but who lacked the guts to make any use of it.”

Stop talking about your dream and do something about it.

3. Be a Dreamer of the Day
I believe we all have dreams at one time or another. But, I believe dreamers fall into one of two categories: dreamers of the night or dreamers of the day. Which are you?

T.E. Lawrence said, “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”

Do not leave your dreams in your mind to fade away and never make a difference. Choose to be a dreamer of the day.

What is YOUR dream? What are YOU doing about it today? Want to build meaning and purpose into YOUR life? Follow YOUR dream.

Question: Do you have a dream that you've actually taken steps to accomplish? Leave comments below.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Are you haunted by past regrets? Do you tend to hold on to grudges? Does your memory of a past event color your future? Maybe you need to work on being a good forgetter!

Blurred Golden Background by Petr Kratochvil

One key to living an intentional life is to choose our focus. We all have memories and regrets that nip at our heels and seem to follow us around every day of our life. Sometimes the way to move forward in our life is by choosing to be a good forgetter.

Michael Jordan had a popular Nike commercial many years ago in which he said: “I missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life…and that is why I succeed.”

Do you think Michael Jordan dwelled on those times when he missed the game-winning shot? Do you think he allowed his last missed shot to affect the next one he would take?

An aspect of intentional living is learning from our past mistakes – not allowing them to paralyze us with fear.

If you are ready to silence the incessant voices of the past, follow these three simple steps to becoming a good FORGETTER:

1. Make a choice to let go
  • This is such a simple statement, yet this is the beginning point of change. The ability to forget is like a muscle – it requires work to strengthen. Forgetting is a choice. When that thought or memory comes into your mind, you must be conscious of the thought and say to yourself, “Stop. I choose to let this go.” We are much too eager to latch on to any thought that floats through our mind. Make a conscious choice to let it go.
2. Choose your focus
  • Once you have made the decision to not focus on the past memory, you must immediately focus on something positive. For me, this is usually a favorite scripture. However, it might be a quote or a happy memory or a favorite picture. We cannot focus on two thoughts at the same time and that is why this step is so powerful. Choose your focus.
3. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
  • The first time you try this process, your memory will come right back to mind and may be stronger than it has been in some time. I liken this process to those light fixtures that come with a dimmer switch. Each time that you make a conscious choice to work through this process, the memory fades ever so slightly until eventually it just disappears.
There is no magic formula to becoming a good forgetter – it is a process. But, becoming a good forgetter is essential to living an intentional, conscious life. 

I love this quote by Elbert Hubbard:
“A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness. Successful people forget. They know the past is irrevocable. They’re running a race. They can’t afford to look behind. Their eye is on the finish line. Magnanimous people forget. They’re too big to let little things disturb them. They forget easily. If anyone does them wrong, they consider the source and keep cool. It’s only the small people who cherish revenge. Be a good forgetter. Business dictates it, and success demands it.”
Question: How do you let go of past mistakes and failures?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


"The worth of a book is to be measured by what
you can carry away from it."
~James Bryce

Book Tunnel by Petr Kratochvil
In the life of an educator, there is something especially magical about summertime. I always have a million ideas of things to accomplish and books to read. 
I enjoy when bloggers share their reading lists so I thought I would do the same. Below are the books that I have read this summer, the books I am currently reading and the books I plan to read this summer. I also provide a recommendation from 1 star (lowest) to 5 stars (highest).
Please note that all links are part of my Amazon Associates account and if you purchase one of the books by clicking through my website that I will receive a very small referral fee.

Have read this summer
  • Awesome book about finding your passion and a social media marketing plan to brand yourself. 5 star recommendation
Quitter by Jon Acuff
  • Great book about keeping your day job while you pursue your dreams. 4.5 star recommendation
War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • One of my all-time favorite books. Pressfield breaks down the Resistance that prevents us from pursuing creative endeavors. 5 star recommendation
Currently Reading
  •  This book is in the style of Zig Ziglar or other self-help authors who tell stories and relate content applicable to living a good life.
Leadership is Dead: How Influence is Reviving It by Jeremie Kubicek
  • Good book that relates how the best leaders are influencers.
First Family by David Baldacci
  • I have to throw in a fiction book along the way, especially when we visit the beach.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • This book was recommended by my college advisor and I just received it in the mail today. The book is for anyone who aspires to write. The story on the back cover is worth the price of admission.
Plan to read this summer
  • The book above (Crush It!) was so good, I had to purchase his second book. Can't wait to read it.
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki
  • Guy Kawasaki has always written inspirational books. I'm looking forward to delving into this one.
Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, et al.
QUESTION: What have you read this summer that is worthy of a recommendation?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


“Be willing to make decisions. 
That’s the most important quality in a good leader.”
~General George S. Patton
Read the quote above again. There is one very important point made in the quote and one very important implied point in the quote. 

First, General Patton states that making decisions is the most important quality in a good leader. Does this apply to you and me? Absolutely! We are all leaders of something – ourselves, our families, our businesses, etc. So it is important to make decisions.

Second, the statement says nothing about making perfect decisions (of which there are none). He simply says to make decisions.

There is power in being willing to make decisions.

Below are three keys to making solid decisions:

1. Decision-making is a skill.

Just like any skill in life, decision-making requires practice. The more we make conscious decisions and choices, the easier decision-making becomes.

We must choose to exercise this skill to become better.

2. Great leadership is not about making great decisions on your own. It’s about owning the decision once it’s made.

Lou Holtz has a great quote about owning decisions: “The time to worry is before you place the bet, not after you spin the wheel.”

List the pros and cons, take time to prayerfully consider which direction to take, and seek other’s advice, but make a decision. And once the decision is made, move forward.

You will make wrong decisions - but making wrong decisions is the only way to become better at making wise decisions.

3. Don’t overdramatize the decision-making process. A decision is a decision – nothing more, nothing less.

We oftentimes build up decisions to be life-or-death. Certainly, some decisions are more important than others. The way to process decision-making, however, is to look at life as a series of decisions.

If you make a poor decision and end up somewhere that you did not plan, then you make another decision. Take the pressure off of your decision-making process.

Are you a good decision maker? If not, why not? What is holding you back from being an intentional leader for yourself and others?

Question: How do you think one can become a better decision maker? Please leave comments below.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


“We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what's wrong in your life, or you can focus on what's right.
~Marianne Williamson

After reflecting on yesterday's post concerning fears, I recalled a story that I oftentimes share with others.

Several years ago I attended a Promise Keepers conference in Birmingham, Alabama. One of the speakers shared a brilliantly simple story about focus. I will paraphrase the story below:
My 6th grade son came home from school last week and he was very upset. He said that he couldn’t stop thinking of curse words. He heard some of his friends say these words and he just could not stop thinking about them. He was very upset.
So, I told him to close his eyes and think about a giant Red Elephant in his mind. Once he had this clearly in his mind, I told him for the next 30 seconds that I did NOT want him to think about this Red Elephant. Then, I said, “Go!”
After 30 seconds, I asked him how that worked out. My son said, “Dad, all I could think about was that Red Elephant. No matter how hard I tried, that’s all I could think about.”
“You’re right, son,” I said. “It is very hard to not think of something by effort. Let’s try another experiment. For the next 30 seconds, I want you to think about a Green Elephant. Go!”
After 30 seconds, his son said, “Dad, that was so easy. As long as I thought about the Green Elephant there was no space for the Red Elephant.”
I said, “Son, this is a very valuable lesson. You can’t stop thinking about the Red Elephant, but you can replace it with the Green Elephant.”
What dominates your thoughts? Have you tried, without success, to not think about it? That might be the wrong approach. Try replacing the thought with a more positive, empowering thought.

Your replacement thought might be scripture, a quote, or a picture you focus on in your mind’s eye. The type of Green Elephant that you focus on is not the point – the fact that you choose to focus on a Green Elephant is.

Below are a couple of Green Elephants that I use on a daily basis when fear begins to surface:
  • Scripture. One of my favorite Green Elephants is Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  
  • Songs. When I'm particularly fearful, I hum "Amazing Grace" to myself. I think I started this after I saw an interview with Orel Hershiser (former Major League pitcher) years ago and he said he hummed "Amazing Grace" in between innings to stay calm.
  • Quotes. One of my favorites is by Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
  • Think back on challenging times in my life when I persevered.
  • Think about my wife and how God brought her to me.  
  • Think about Jesus Christ on the Cross and all that it encompasses.
        Life is too sweet to allow fear to dominate us. Take the time to create your Green Elephants today and make a conscious choice about what you focus on. 

        Question: What are some of your Green Elephants? Please share below.

        Tuesday, June 21, 2011


        What are you afraid of today? Are you allowing this fear to prevent you from truly living? Today we talk about facing your fears.

        Clouds Are Coming by Vera Kratochvil

        One of the truths about life is that we all have fears. Below are some common fears: 
        • Snakes 
        • Public speaking 
        • Marriage 
        • Divorce 
        • Having children 
        • The future 
        • Retirement 
        • Job uncertainty 
        • The economy 
        • Our health 
        • Safety of our family 
        • Financial concerns 
        You are not unique if any of these fears cause your palms to sweat and your heart to beat just a bit faster.
          Below are three ways to face your fears and still live an intentional life:   

          1. Accept fear as a part of life. 
          Since the Garden of Eden and the fall of man, humans have been struggling with fear and uncertainty. Accept this and know that at times you will be fearful of things.

          Don’t mask fear and act like it’s not there. Accept it and call it what it is. By giving a name to this inner feeling of fear, we expose fear for what it is – simply a feeling.

          There is nothing inherently wrong with fear. Fear serves a purpose in our lives, but it can also paralyze us from taking action. 

          2. Know who you belong to. 
          We are children of God. Do you know this and believe this? Fear cannot reside in the presence of God. I love the quote: “The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.” We cannot simultaneously focus on fear and on God.

          If we truly have a relationship with Jesus Christ and know where our future resides, we can take any fear and carry it out to the absolute worst scenario and, in the end, we are still in God’s presence. Use this resource. 

          3. Act anyway. 
          I heard someone once refer to taking action in the face of fear as putting a “lion in your heart.” Choose to intentionally live in the face of uncertainty and fear.

          I love this quote:
          “To fight a bull when you are not scared is nothing and not to fight a bull when you are scared is nothing. But to fight a bull when you are scared – that is something.”

          What fears are limiting you today? Please do not allow these fears to hold you back from living an intentional life. There is much liberation in seeing a fear on the horizon, walking toward it, and walking right through it. Even if you are shaking with sweaty palms, face that fear today.

          We’ll never live a fear-free life, but we can choose to take action and confront our fears. What fear do YOU need to face today?

          Question: What resources do you use to handle your fears? Please post comments below.

          Monday, June 20, 2011


          “You can’t recharge by going away and doing nothing. Some way, some how you must plug into something.”
          ~Marilyn vos Savant

          Marilyn Vos Savant writes a weekly column for ParadeMagazine (Sunday insert in many newspapers). About ten years ago, she had the above quote in one of her articles. I cut out the quote and tucked it away because it resonates so strongly with me.

          Personal renewal must be one of the intentional choices that we make in life. When we go non-stop for an extended period of time (as we all do), there is a subtle chipping away at our inner being. Scheduling these times of personal renewal are essential for intentional living.

          Here are three criteria to remember when thinking about those times of renewal: 

          Renewal is personal 
          Each of us has, what I like to call, a Renewal DNA. What is renewal for one person might be the exact opposite for another. We recharge in different ways. Spouses particularly need to understand this idea and consciously choose to support each others' personal renewal times. 

          Renewal typically involves action 
          Most of the time, renewal is an action activity. By “plugging into something” we are involved: exercise, reading a book, relationship building, etc. 

          Renewal times vary 
          One renewal activity might last five minutes and another might last a full day. We need all types of renewal.

          We all recharge (or “Sharpen the Saw”) in different ways. Are you aware of how you recharge? Below is a quick activity to help you develop a list of activities that are ready to be used when you need a time of renewal. 

          Step 1: Think about those activities that leave you refreshed and renewed. Take a couple of minutes and list (without judgment) any activity that comes to mind. 

          Step 2: Take one minute to review the list, and place one of the following letters beside each activity:
          • S – if the activity typically takes less than 30 minutes to complete
          • M – if the activity typically takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours 
          • L – if the activity takes longer than 2 hours 
          Step 3: Create a final list, grouping the renewal activities into the three categories.
          Step 4: Schedule a weekly renewal activity. 
          We need daily renewal (prayer time, exercise, etc), but we should all intentionally schedule a weekly renewal time. Do that now.

          Below is the list that I generated after my brainstorming session:

          Prayer/Devotional time
          Connection with extended family by phone
          Creative work
          Listening to music
          Cleaning up/organizing

          Listening to a sermon
          Listening to a motivational or inspirational speaker (video or CD)
          Date with my wife
          Watch a movie

          Attend a conference
          Vacation with my wife

          Renewal is such an important part of living an intentional life. Be conscious about scheduling renewal activities. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of those you love?

          Question: What is your favorite renewal activity? Please leave comments below.

          Sunday, June 19, 2011


          Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
          ~Proverbs 22:6

          Hugh Fountain (daddy) and Jason - 1977

          I often joke with my dad about all the things that I “inherited” from him. 

          For example, about the time that I hit 30 years of age, my doctor told me that I had high Uric Acid. This is an inherited trait and both of my brothers share this with our dad as well. Thanks, dad! 

          If you asked my wife, she would tell you that when I am upset or frustrated that I tend to become very quiet and conversation is difficult. If you ask my mom about my dad, she’ll tell you the same thing about him. Thanks, dad! 

          If you came into my house, you would soon know that my wife hung every picture and has completed pretty much all of the “handy” work in our home. I was just not gifted in being a handyman. Thanks, dad! 

          Finally, I began wearing glasses in the 7th grade. Without my glasses, now, I can’t see across the room. I share my dad’s eyesight. Thanks, again! 

          But, as I think about life, the true measure of a man and a father is what he teaches his children. Below are the things that I’ve really inherited from my dad: 

          Love for family.
          I have two older brothers and two older sisters. My dad has always taught us to value family. When our family comes together for holidays or other occasions, it is always joyous. There is a peace and harmony when our family is together. My dad has always nurtured that spirit. 

          Love for Jesus. 
          As I grew up, church was a non-negotiable. If it was Sunday, we were in church. But, my dad didn’t just haul us to church on Sunday and forget about it the rest of the week. I remember vividly as a kid having family devotional before we went to bed. Imagine the chaos of trying to keep five children focused on a devotional. 

          One indelible image that is in my mind from my childhood is seeing my dad on his knees praying. What a lesson this was for me. There is power in a little boy seeing his dad pray. This taught me from an early age that life isn’t about me. 

          Love for others. 
          My dad has lived a life of helping other people. He is truly one of the most tender-hearted, loving people that I’ve ever known. My dad has never turned his back on another person in need. And he has always done this with humility. 

          My dad has always provided unwavering support for me and my ventures. Whether it was going off to college or moving to Mississippi or Florida or Louisiana, he has always been behind me 100%. I know this has helped me make tough decisions. When you know that you have family supporting and backing you, it makes risk-taking a bit easier. 

          The importance of a daddy loving his son’s mother. 
          My parents have been married for over 50 years and I can say without reservation that my dad has ALWAYS loved my mother unconditionally. As a child, there is power in knowing that your parents love each other. As a boy, you respect your dad so much more when you see him loving and respecting your mother. 

          On this Father’s Day, the biggest compliment that I can pay my dad is that his life has always pointed me to God. I’m proud to be a Fountain and I’m proud to be my father’s son. I love you, dad, and I thank you for ALL the gifts you’ve given me over the course of my life. Happy Father’s Day!

          Question: What did you "inherit" from your father? Please leave comments below.

          Thursday, June 16, 2011


          **** This week I will be writing about four life experiences that had a huge impact on my life. ****

          "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse." ~Walt Disney
          Cinderella's Castlephoto © 2008 Casey Fleser | more info (via: Wylio)

          After my first year of teaching back in 1996, I decided that I needed to have a new life experience. So, I moved to Orlando, Florida, for the summer and worked at Disney World. This short, seven-week stint was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did I learn a bit about the magic behind WDW, but I also learned a valuable lesson about managing people.

          I worked in Merchandising in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. For those of you familiar with WDW, this is the area just behind the castle. For most of my days, I worked on the Stromboli Hat Cart next to Lumiere’s Restaurant. I enjoyed this assignment as business was always brisk and I was able to be outside. The volume of sales that this small cart at WDW does in a day is unbelievable!

          I have several stories from my days at WDW that I might share in future posts, but in this post I want to relate one of the best lessons that I ever learned about managing and motivating employees.

          Each evening after the park closed, the manager of Fantasyland merchandising would hold a debriefing session  with all merchandising employees to review the days budget and whether or not we had met our goal. This, in itself, was a powerful exercise. We felt like a part of WDW because we were in the “know.” I loved the fact that they shared this information with employees.

          On a typical day during the summer, our budget would be around $90,000 (this was only the merchandising area of Fantasyland). So, in the evening, the manager would say, “Our budget for today was $87, 450. We actually hit $91,257. Great job!” Then, he would ask if anyone had challenges during the day or any issues that he should know about. This was a very powerful exercise.

          My story takes place in the middle of my time at WDW. It had rained off and on for a week straight and we sold a load of ponchos (no one EVER brings ponchos with them to WDW). So, each evening when we met for debrief we would crush the budget by $15,000 or so.

          When we met that Friday evening for our debrief, the managers had brought carts of hotdogs, fries, drinks, and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars for everyone. They told us that this was in celebration for our hard work.

          In actuality, we knew the wet days had contributed to our sales, but it did not matter. You would have thought they gave all of us a check for $1,000. We were whooping it up and high-fiving and generally excited. The managers were pumping us up and just being super appreciative.

          We knew we had made WDW a load of extra money that week and they had spent next to nothing on buying us junk food. But, again, it did not matter. They did something for us and we LOVED it.

          I’ve never forgotten this lesson. If you are in a position of leadership (and we are ALL leaders – if you’ve forgotten read this), you need to say thank-you for the hard work that others do. A seemingly small amount of recognition can go a long way.

          What can you do today to encourage others? Stop focusing on what you can’t do for others and focus on what you can do.

          Question: Have you had experiences similar to this? Please post comments below.

          Wednesday, June 15, 2011


          **** This week I will be writing about four life experiences that had a huge impact on my life. ****

          "I'm really influenced by so many different things."
          ~Alex Winter 

          When I taught middle school math, one of my daily duties was monitoring breakfast in the cafeteria. This was a sweet deal because the gracious cafeteria staff always fed me. 

          Since the elementary schools and middle schools shared a cafeteria, all students (1st - 8th grades) ate breakfast together. I learned a valuable lesson about life as I observed the difference in how the elementary and middle school students interacted with each other.

          I always enjoyed watching the elementary students because they were just so happy with life. When they ate breakfast, they did not care who they sat by – gender, race, etc. If one elementary student dropped their plate, three others were quickly there to assist. Oftentimes, these students would give each other hugs when they saw each other in the morning.

          Watching the elementary students infused me with joy for life.

          Middle school, however, was slightly different. We all know how trying the middle school years can be. I used to have a sign hanging in my classroom that said, “This will be the greatest year of your life.” My neighbor teacher would tell me that I should take that sign down because if my students really believed that message that they were in for a rough life.

          I noticed when the middle school kids came into the cafeteria that they would sit in “societal” groups. I use the term “societal” because it seems that by the time these kids reached sixth grade they were different. Students would choose to sit segregated by race, gender, and, oftentimes, socioeconomic status. Why?

          There is no doubt that we are shaped by our environment and societal expectations in general. Why, as we grow older, do we seem to simply slide into the group-think mentality and act the way that “society” conditions us to act? Intentional living is about choosing our actions and responses in life – not doing what everyone else is doing.

          Is this so different for us as adults? If I’m honest with myself, oftentimes I do things because of the way I think others will react. Most of the time my motives in life are not pure and sincere. This group-think mentality finds its way into our lives unless we consciously choose how we will act.

          When I was in college I read a little book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The first essay of the same title lists some things we learned in kindergarten that will serve us well throughout life. While it’s a bit trite and over-simplified, it resonates with me just the same. I’ve linked a site where you can read the short essay here.

          As you walk through today, think about how society conditions us to react and respond to the people around us. Make a conscious decision today to decide how you will respond to others.

          Question: In what ways does society condition us to act? Please post comments below.

          Tuesday, June 14, 2011


          **** This week I will be writing about four life experiences that had a huge impact on my life. ****

          Do we fully realize the power of our actions? This story embodies the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.”

          I taught middle school math for seven years before heading off to become an academic counselor at the college level. During these seven years, I was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor at my middle school. His name was Johnny Cabaniss.

          When I first arrived at Bay Minette Middle School, Coach Cabaniss was the assistant principal. By the time I left, he was the principal. He is now the principal at Baldwin County High School.

          For some reason, Coach Cabaniss took me under his wing from the time I arrived at BMMS until the time I left. He had unwavering support for me and taught me many lessons that I’ll never forget. One such lesson occurred the day before school started one of my last years at BMMS.

          As any educator can attest, the days leading up to the start of school are exciting and stressful at the same time. Much organization is needed to prepare classrooms and be ready for the moment when a new crop of students come through the door.

          This particular afternoon, I had been working all day to have my room ready. The assistant principal at the time was in charge of textbooks and the textbooks should have been in our rooms at least a week earlier. Well, we had just received our books that morning and all of the teachers were stressed trying to write names in the books and have them prepared for the students.

          Coach Cabaniss came by my room that afternoon just to check on me and determine how things were coming along. The minute he walked in, I unloaded on him. I complained, fussed, and generally lamented the process of distributing textbooks. I was definitely out of line in acting this way toward my principal, but I was just out of patience. Have you ever had those moments where you say things to almost “pick” a fight? That’s where I was at that moment.

          I think I actually wanted to have an argument with Coach Cabaniss. At the very least, I wanted a reaction. But, thankfully, he didn’t take the bait.

          What Coach Cabaniss did next was something that I’ll never forget.

          Without so much as a word of condemnation toward my attitude, Coach Cabaniss simply sat down and started helping me with my textbooks. This subtle gesture meant more to me than any advice or words that Coach could have given to me at that time.

          Coach Cabaniss’ actions that day entrenched my loyalty for him. This was not some premeditated action on his part. This was, simply, him responding to my need at that moment. What a lesson he taught me that day.

          Are we living intentionally today? Are we focused on the moment and responding to what needs to be done right now? My challenge for you and myself today is to seek out teachable moments like these. Of course, to be a man or woman of action (not just words) we must be internally prepared to respond in a proper manner when moments like this arrive.

          Question: What subtle action by another person impacted you? Please post comments below.

          Monday, June 13, 2011


          **** This week I will be writing about four life experiences that had a huge impact on my life. ****

          Have you ever had someone make such a profound statement to you that it forever affected the way you view life? That’s the backdrop for this story.

          When I graduated from Troy State University (I’ll never call it Troy University as it is now named!) with a degree in mathematics, I was unsure what to do with my life. I wish I would have thought about my choice of majors before graduating, but that’s a topic for another day.

          A representative from the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) was on campus interviewing for Space Camp counselor positions, so I thought that sounded like as good an option as any. I interviewed, was offered a job, and began working two months later as a counselor.

          Working at Space Camp taught me much about life. In fact, the experience eventually led me to go back to school to receive my certification for teaching.

          The real lesson that I learned from interacting with the high school kids at Space Camp was diversity. We had kids from all over the United States and the world. In fact, Space Camp hosts several focused week-long camps: Hearing Impaired Space Camp, Visually Impaired Space Camp, and International Space Camp to name a few.

          During Visually Impaired Space Camp week, I gained a much deeper appreciation for the challenges that individuals face in the world. These kids were beautiful in many ways and had an insatiable appetite for learning and sharing their joy for life.

          During this week I was taught a powerful lesson about my own prejudices.

          Escorting my group from the Habitat (living quarters) to the main activities area, I was having a conversation with one of the visually impaired campers who could not see at all. In reference to another camper, she said, “She is a beautiful girl.”

          In my moment of discomfort, I said, “Yes, she is beautiful on the inside.”

          The camper said, “No, she is beautiful.” This was not said in a condescending way to me at all – it was simply stated as fact. This visually impaired student just saw the other girl the way that she truly was – it had nothing to do with appearance.

          When she said this, it stopped me in my tracks. How dare I qualify beauty? I felt two simultaneous emotions: idiocy and enlightenment. Idiocy at my ignorant qualifying statement and for being so little as to not see her beauty; and enlightenment at what I had just learned from this visually impaired high school student.

          A slight shift occurred on the inside of me that day. I’ve tried not to be so quick to judge someone by their abilities or disabilities. I’ve tried to silence that judgmental self and “see” people as they truly are. In a subtle way, this comment deeply affected me and has stayed with me since that day.

          Part of intentional living is choosing how to act and respond to the people in our lives. We should daily question how our preconceived notions and, oftentimes, prejudices are affecting the way we interact and love others.

          I’ll never forget the day that a young girl who could not see with her eyes taught me how to see with my heart.