The Weight of Expectations

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“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.”

heavy-pack-1-5-official-1024x661It was summer 1996 and these were the words of my Senior Drill Instructor, Staff Sergeant James Porter.  He was demonstrating to my boot camp platoon how to properly carry our Marine Corps “pack” in preparation for the long days of hiking ahead.  For our next phase of training, we would spend some time in the mountains and hills over San Diego with more than 80lbs on our back.  I watched as those who took his advice and instruction thrived, while those who did not failed.

As a husband, there are many weights in my pack; however experience has taught me that one of these weights is typically larger than the rest:  expectations.

These expectations are typically broken down into two parts.

First: what do I expect my wife to do (my expectations)

Second: what does she actually do (her behavior)

In my short 16 years of marriage I have learned this one basic lesson: There is always a gap between expectations and behavior.  Maybe this gap is there because of how things were done with my family or how things where done in her family. Maybe this gap is there because of something I have failed to communicate. Regardless of the reason….the gap is there.

But here is the bigger issue – I will typically fill that gap with one of two responses: I can believe the best about her OR I can assume the worst about her.

I want to be clear // what we choose to put in that gap is fundamental to the health of our marriages. Our relationships will grow or fade depending on what we choose to put in that gap.

Stephen Kendrick, author of the best-selling book The Love Dare beautifully states, “Love chooses to believe the best about people. It gives them the benefit of the doubt. It refuses to fill in the unknowns with negative assumptions.” Centuries before Stephen wrote his words, the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Corinth, boldly declared, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”

Love demands we fill in the gap by believing the best! When we assume the worst, our pack becomes heavier. Thankfully we can lighten our pack by communicating our expectations and assuming the best! Remember, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.”


Starting Over in Life

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“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.” Albert Einstein

do-you-want-to-startIn the past few months I have had the experience to walk with a few friends and family members that were attempting to “Start Over.”

Although each person and situation has been unique, a certain question runs central throughout each of their lives’ story: “How can I ensure the next time won’t be like last time?”

From my own experiences and from walking with others I have learned a few key lessons on “starting over.” The difference between the ones who have made a clean start and the ones that haven’t is the ability to grasp the following lessons (among many others).

#1. The common denominator in all our mistakes is….us. Wherever we go, there we are. Denis Waitley, author and speaker on personal success once stated, “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”

#2. We learn from our mistakes but the majority of the time it is only in the areas that matter least: games, sports, texting, cooking, etc… We repeat our mistakes in areas that matter most: finances, relationships, employment, etc… Just because we “know better” doesn’t mean we will “do better.” It takes self-control and a plan to learn from our mistakes.

#3. Experience does NOT make us wiser. Experience makes you older, poorer, angrier, hurt, tired…it does not make you wiser. Only evaluated experience makes you wiser. The most combat effective units I served with faithfully and ruthlessly conducted after-action discussions. The key to becoming a better fighting force was not simply the experience, but what we learned from the experience and how we could apply that knowledge to future experiences.  The same goes with our life experiences.

The key lesson with starting over is there is hope….believe it or not, you are in GOOD COMPANY. Scripture is full of stories about people who were forced to start all over.

Moses: Got in fight, killed a guy, went away, came back, saved Israel.

David: Anointed as king, kicked out, came back, became king.

Paul: Was a Pharisee, wanted to get rid of Christians, blinded by God, came back and served God.

So to answer the question, “How can I ensure the next time won’t be like last time?” – Hit the pause button.  Stop the wash-rinse-repeat cycle. Get off the merry-go-round of life. Invite God into your circumstance and let Him help you learn from and take responsibility for your mistakes, clearly evaluate your experiences, and truly start over.

Leadership Minute: 65 Years Ago 1stLt Lopez Reminded Us of This….

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On June 25, 1950 the North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel and pushed relentlessly southward down the peninsula, driving before it the demoralized Republic of Korea Army. With his forces confined to the “Pusan Perimeter” General MacArthur decided to launch a surprise of his own.  He organized an audacious amphibious attack with the Army and Marines hundreds of miles behind the communist lines at the coastal town of Inchon.  D-Day was set for September 15th. The 230-ship task force was the largest naval armada since World War II.   The Marines from the 1st Marine Division would lead the assault.


As briefed, the assault force encountered the 10 foot high sea wall meant to keep them out. In typical Marine fashion, 1stLt Lopez, was the first up and over the wall. Unfortunately, moments after this photo was taken, 1stLt Lopez was hit. He was attacking a North Korean bunker with a grenade….as he raised his arm to throw, machine gun fire ripped through his right arm and chest. The Marine Officer fell backward and the grenade rolled out of his hand. He tried to pick up the grenade but his arm was too badly wounded. In a few precious seconds he knew that the grenade would explode and kill many of his fellow Marines. With a sweep of his wounded arm he pulled the grenade into his chest, wrapped his body around it, and absorbed the full impact of the blast. For his actions above and beyond the call of duty, for sacrificing his own life to protect his men, for sacrificing his life for his country and for freedom, 1stLt Lopez was awarded our nation’s highest honor–the Congressional Medal of Honor.

1stLt Lopez is also remembered every 6 months at the Marine Corps The Basic School (TBS) graduation. The Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez Honor Graduate Award, is presented to the Marine Officer of each graduating company who demonstrates the highest potential for future leadership and responsibility in the Marine Corps.

Thank you 1stLt Lopez for allowing your life to stand as a testimony to the timeless message that leadership requires sacrifice.

Semper Fidelis….


6 Things I (should) Say to My Wife Everyday

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A few months ago I wrote a post on the 2 Things I Say to My Kids Everyday. As I was reflecting on that post this morning, I recognized the need to refine and recommit my daily words of affirmation for my wife.

Please note – I am conscious of the imperfections of my efforts in telling her each of these daily – but my motivation is clear – to ensure my bride knows these 6 things truly come from my heart:


I love you.  Simple words but powerful.  These 3 words imply both my acceptance and my willingness to place her needs ahead of my own. I must never simply assume she knows.

You are beautiful. I have come to realize two things in this area: (1) I have never met a woman who does not enjoy being told she is beautiful and (2) Most women don’t think they are as beautiful as they really are.  My shouts declaring her beauty should drown out any doubts she may have.

I pray for you.   What better way to make my wife feel loved and protected than by laying down my prayer life for her. Even better, the more I understand how my wife benefits directly from my prayers for her, the more I understand how God uses those prayers to build my own faith.

You are my desire. The world bombards my wife and I both with images of a false, unrealistic idea of what sensuality and intimacy are. I should remind her daily that she fulfills all my desires….no fantasy could ever compete with what we have!

I value our partnership. I have many advisors, mentors, and friends…..still my most trusted source for wisdom, guidance, and honest feedback is my bride. She has seen me at my best and my worst.  Our individual futures and our individual purposes are intertwined as one.  I would want no one else to walk thru this life with.

Thank you. For the big things and the small things. For walking beside me. For being my biggest fan. There are too many things to list (many I never see) but I must continually tell her thank you.  She deserves my gratitude.

What about you?  Do you have daily words for your spouse?  If not, develop them.

Do this every day; make them real, make them count.

A 1st Grader’s Letter of Hope

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During my final deployment to Iraq in 2009-2010, I was stationed at Al Asad in the Western Anbar Province. During this 13 month deployment it was common for my unit to receive care packages from elementary schools, churches, and community organizations showing their support to the troops.

boot-camp-lettersOne day in October we received another shipment containing letters of support. As my letter (addressed to “Any Marine”) was passed to me, I placed it in my pocket to read at a more convenient time. Later that evening I retrieved the letter from my pocket and honestly laughed out loud when I read it. It was penned by a 1st grader from Oregon. The young man had drawn a picture of a tank with an American Flag in the background. This boy must have been a child of few words, because across the top of the letter was his 5-word message to me (written in alternating red and blue letters). It simply read, “I hope you make it.”

After sharing this kid’s motivating remarks with a few of my Marines, I honestly thought…I hope I make it too!

What’s interesting about the word hope is that for many it is used to express uncertainty rather than certainty…almost like a wish. For example: “I hope the Cowboys make the playoffs,” or “I hope we have something good for dinner tonight.” Uncertainty is clearly tied to this type of hope.

Conversely, that’s absolutely not what is meant by Christian hope. To quote John Piper, “As believers, our hope comes from the promises of God rooted in the work of Christ.”

If we don’t have the hope that Christ is for us, then we will be engaged in self-preservation and self-enhancement. We will cross our fingers and rely on our strong desires and wishes. We could even perhaps decide, by sheer strength and will-power, to be positive thinkers and thus make the best of our brief and uncertain lives. There is no hope in this type of existence.

So let’s look away from the circumstances that confront us, look to Christ, look to the promises, and hold fast to them. Simply put…our hope is faith in the future tense.

What or who is your hope and faith in?

Leadership Minute: Rate Your Boss as a Leader

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Today’s Leadership Minute comes from Clarke Price, former President, Ohio Society of CPAs and a Founder of the Ross Leadership Institute.

leader great quoteIn his classic 1970 book, Up the Organization, Robert Townsend proposed a way to rate your boss as a leader:

Score each characteristic from 0 to 10

My Leader is:

1.. . . . available.  If I have a problem I can’t solve, he is there.  But he is forceful in making me do my best to bring in solutions, not problems.
2.. . . . inclusive.  Quick to let me in on information or people who might be useful to or of long-term professional interest.
3.. . . . humorous.  Has a full measure of the Comic Spirit in his make-up.  Laughs even harder when the joke’s on him.
4.. . . . fair.  And is concerned about me and how I am doing.  Gives credit where credit is due, but holds me to my promise.
5.. . . . decisive,  Determined to get at those little unimportant decisions which can tie up organizations for days.
6.. . . . humble.  Admits his own mistakes openly – learns from them and expects his people to do the same.
7.. . . . objective.  Knows the apparently important from the truly important and goes where he is needed.
8.. . . . tough.  Won’t let outsiders waste his time or his people’s time. Is more jealous of his people’s time than he is of his own.
9.. . . . effective.  Teaches me to bring him my mistakes with what I have learned (if anything) and done about them (if anything).  Teaches me not to interrupt him with possible good news on which no action is needed.
10.. . . . patient.  Knows when to bite the bullet until I solve my own problem.

Total   __________  This is your leader’s rating as a leader on a scale of 0 to 100.

How would your team rate you?

Baseball and Leadership Development

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One of the highlights of summer in my house is the Little League World Series.  My boys love watching kids their age play one of the sports they love.  They especially enjoy the introduction of each player.  In front of a national TV audience, the young baseball players have a chance to state their name and their favorite player.  I was amazed at how many kids stated Derek Jeter (who retired at the end of last season) as their baseball hero.

baseballI am not a huge Yankees fan, however I can respect the legacy of success and hard work that Jeter is leaving behind.  During one of the commercial breaks, my youngest son asked me, “How did they find someone to take his place?”  In a simple way I attempted to explain the MLB’s farm system.  I shared how teams use the minor leagues to develop talent and produce a new crop of young players.

My oldest son, more savvy to sports, then mentioned how teams also “buy” talent through free agency.  This is also true.  Some teams, instead of developing their own talent, pay big money and sign a free agent from another team.

What about you….do you have a minor league leadership development system or do you depend on free agency?

As a leader within your organization ask yourself the following questions:

 ·        Are there stars on my team nearing the end of their service?

·         Who are the rising stars on my team?

·         Do I have an intentional, programmed leadership development plan for my team?

·         If one of my team members were absent for an extended period of time (similar to the D.L. in sports) have I identified talent to fill the hole or would I need to go the free agency route and hire someone new?

Remember…free agency is not necessarily bad.  If you develop the talent on your team well, another organization may come calling for one of your team members.  When they do, you’ll ensure that person is supported and equipped to go.  You’ll then go to your bull pen and call up your next rising star!

Leadership Minute: Setting the Example

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“If anyone speaks evil of you, let your life be such that none will believe him.”  William Thayer

My previous organization has a set of Core Values.  At the top of this list is honor.  Some describe it as respect, uprightness, or integrity.  I believe it is a combination of these things and much more.  It is one of the foundations of leadership.

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863In his work, Lincoln on Leadership, Donald T. Phillips provides examples of leadership strategies used by one of our nation’s greatest presidents.  Of all the guidelines, ideas, and generalities on Lincoln’s leadership presented by Phillips, I find the simple concept of “Honest Abe” to be the most profound. 

President Lincoln was guided by his moral compass.  He understood the integrity of his words and the power of his example would speak volumes to a nation in need.

By being a model for the type of behavior they wish to see in their subordinates, leaders can have considerable influence over their team.  Simply put, strong, effective leaders understand the power of their example.

As you look at your spouse, your family, and your employees, are you providing the right example?



Comparison: The Thief of Joy

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This past weekend, our church had the pleasure of hearing stories and testimonies from a few of our students who recently returned from summer mission trips. We had over 300 students, ranging in ages from 6th grade to high school seniors, who committed to spend a part of their summer serving others. From inner city Houston service projects to caring for displaced Iraqis in Jordan, a common theme echoed throughout each testimony…..joy. Our students were continually in awe of how many of the people they served had joy even in the midst of their circumstances.

I believe one of the major reasons why these people could continue to be joyful is that they refused to compare themselves to others.

I have heard it said many times but it became even more real this weekend….”comparison is the thief of joy.”

comparision is the theif of joyThere is no win in comparison.  We either feel superior to others or we feel inferior to others. As Andy Stanley once mentioned, there is always someone with a bigger “er”… someone skinnier, someone richer, someone prettier. Their kids are smarter, better, nicer. Their house is bigger, their car is newer….the list can go on and on. A sad side-effect is that we are then truly unable to be happy for or celebrate with those around us who may have “more”.

In the parable of talents, Jesus, the master story-teller, describes three servants who were entrusted with a certain amount of money while their Master was away. They were each given a set amount based upon their abilities. Two of the servants used the money wisely while one of the guys simply buried it in his yard.

When the Master returned, he was extremely pleased with the actions and responsibility of the first two servants and rewarded them accordingly. Needless to say, the Master was not happy when he heard the report from the last servant. He had failed to use the gifts given to him. It is important to note – the last servant didn’t do anything bad…he just didn’t do anything!

What is even more interesting about the last servant is his response to the Master. He blamed the Master for his failures, for his unwillingness to leverage and multiply the gift he was given.

When we compare ourselves to others we are in essence saying God it is your fault. You did not give me enough….or….God you gave them too much. God you could have made me smarter, prettier, richer…and the list goes on. God, if you would have just given me more I could have done more.

We have all been entrusted with certain things, certain talents, certain circumstances and certain experiences that only we have. We must move from wanting more or wanting different and realize that what you have is less important than what you do with it!

The question is: “what are you going to do with what you have?”

Remember, there is no win in comparison.

Change of Direction

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In most all military boot camps, one of the first things a new recruit is taught is close order drill…or for the non-military type…marching. The drill instructors use drill to teach discipline by instilling habits of precision and instant obedience to orders, to build unit cohesion, and to provide simple formations from which combat formations may be readily assumed.

marines1First the first few weeks the recruits spend hours upon hours learning drill through continuous repetition.  Some movements are quickly grasped while others are quite painful.  I remember clearly the two most difficult drill movements for me and my unit to learn: “About Face” and “To the Rear”.

“About Face” is a standing individual movement while “To the Rear” is a marching movement used by the entire unit. Both drill movements serve the simple purpose of turning the individual or the unit 180 degrees in the other direction.

History provides us with great examples of men and women who have chosen to change the course of their life for the better.  I was sharing with my children recently the story of a man, living centuries before, who changed the negative direction his life was taking. His name was Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. Known as a relentless persecutor of the early church, he was determined to stop the spread of Christianity. But after a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul devoted the rest of his life to preaching the gospel and building the church. Today we remember him as a missionary, church planter, and author of thirteen New Testament epistles.

For my boot camp platoon, Platoon 1003, once we individually and collectively learned the difficult tasks of changing our direction we were able to move on to advanced training, graduate as Marines, and fulfill our purpose in serving others.  And as Paul clearly shows us, it doesn’t matter how far off course you’ve gotten; it isn’t too late to change your direction.