The Real Glass Cage

I recently read an inspiring article written by the amazing and insightful Margie Warrell of forbes.com. The article, titled “Glass Ceiling Or Glass Cage? Breaking Through The Biggest Barrier Holding Women Back,” discusses that there is definitely biases and negative views against women in the workplace, but “the bigger barrier holding women back from growing their influence is not a ‘glass ceiling’ but a glass cage of our own making.” Warrell then states that this glass cage is made of the self-doubt many women unknowingly hold on to. The solution? Dream bigger, forge your own path, rock the boat, know your value.

I wholeheartedly agree with many of the ideas and suggestions Warrell outlines; however, I believe the underlying problem of the biases, the lack of confidence, and even the lack of influence comes from the image the world portrays women as. And the sad thing is, so many of us believe it, accept it, and even replicate it in our own lives.

This portrayal seeps into everyone’s thinking in one way or another–a teenage girl’s Pinterest board may be full of Marilyn Monroe quotes (I’m totally guilty of this, by the way), or her favorite show might be Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I know, I know, those are stupid things, subtle things. But I honestly think it matters and that it effects girls in negative ways because “we are what we think.”

I think so often women can become extreme about this topic of equality and want to throw all the blame on men for a woman’s failure to succeed or the unfair prejudices one might hold. In some cases this can ring true, but I also think that the lack of influence can stem from the way women view themselves and what they have to offer. Just search “women business outfits” on google and I think you’ll see what I am suggesting.

With that being said, imagine a society where instead of teaching young women about Kardashians, Ariana Grande or Miley Cyrus, they were taught about Queen Esther, Joan of Arc, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Can you even begin to grasp what that would do for a girls’ self-image, self-worth, and self-confidence?

I recently read this talk given by Elder Faust, and it is actually what inspired me to write this post. Below is his account of Joan of Arc–her accomplishments, courage, and contribution.

“Young Joan of Arc, one of the great heroines in history, became the unlikely standard-bearer for the French army in the Dark Ages, long before the gospel was restored. Joan had the Light of Christ and also the courage to follow its promptings and make a difference. Joan was a peasant girl who could neither read nor write, but she was bright. At 17, sensing her life had a purpose, she left home, determined to help liberate her oppressed country. Naturally, people scoffed at her ideas and thought she was a little crazy, but in the end she persuaded them to let her have a horse and an escort to go and see the king.

“At first the French soldiers did not want to obey her, but when they saw that all who followed her succeeded and all who disregarded her failed, they came to look upon her as their leader.

“Clad in a suit of white armor and flying her own standard, Joan of Arc liberated the besieged city of Orleans in 1429 and defeated the English in four other battles. Twice she was wounded, but each time she recovered and went on fighting. [Eventually] she was imprisoned, tried as a heretic, and then burned at the stake in 1431.

“Although this is a sad ending, it does not take away from Joan’s greatness. She was courageous enough to follow the personal inspiration to which all of us are entitled.”

(“Your Light–a Standard to All Nations,” James E. Faust, April 2006)

If women want so badly to be valued for their brains and insights, then we must place women like Joan of Arc as our role model and idea of success. She sincerely desired to do what God had planned for her, and then courageously acted in accordance with that plan.

“To other girls in the fifteenth century, Joan of Arc seemed to be very different. Sisters, don’t be afraid to be different in our century! Sometimes we have to be different in order to maintain Church standards. So I repeat, don’t be afraid to be different, but be as good as you can be. Joan of Arc did not worry about what her friends did, but rather about what she knew she should do.”

-James E. Faust

We must change our mindset and decide that we will be women of faith and women of God, rather than women of the world. In order to break through this “glass ceiling” or “glass cage” then we have to be willing to be different in good ways and act in accordance with what we know we should do.

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Living Your Best Life

“It is necessary to prepare and to plan so that we don’t fritter away our lives. Without a goal, there can be no real success.”

(President Thomas S. Monson, “In Search of Treasure”)

The new year is upon us! There will be celebrating and friends and really good food, but (if you are like me) there will also be facing those resolutions you set a year ago that maybe didn’t get “resolved.” You know–the goals you wrote down on a piece of paper, and then as the days, weeks, and months progressed that paper was covered up (maybe intentionally!) with other more urgent “to-dos.” Life happens, right? And maybe because things tend to get messy (despite your best efforts to plan and prepare), you have decided to just not set any goals or 2016 resolutions.

It’s tempting to fall into this trap of saying to ourselves, “I’m not going to aim ’cause I’m pretty-sure-almost-positive I’ll miss.” Because it hurts when we fail, right?

It may be easier to not set goals but as President Monson stated, “Without a goal, there can be no real success.” And failure really only helps us come closer to achievement.

“Success is failure turned inside out-

The silver lining of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems afar,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-

It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.”

(“Don’t Quit” Author unknown)

Plan, prepare, and set your goals. What do you want to do and who do you want to become? Resolve to do your best and don’t fear messing up or being too ambitious, because “success is failure turned inside out.”

In order to live our best lives we have to aim for great things. Trying to improve ourselves and enrich our lives doesn’t necessarily mean we will achieve our goals, but the process of striving diligently will enlarge our talents, willpower, and abilities.

Blog Picture- Living Your Best Life
Picture courtesy of theBERRY (theberry.com)

So silence that little voice in your mind telling you that you can’t do it– because what if you can?

The Opportunity In Opposition

“If you can dream–and not make dreams your master; If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings, And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you, Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

Excerpts from “If-” by Rudyard Kipling

I have always found strength and inspiration from this poem by Rudyard Kipling. The words make me want to do better and become better, but I’ll be honest, at first I wondered “How in the world am I supposed to treat triumph and disaster the same and develop a will so strong that I can command my heart, nerves, and body even when I am exhausted?” It seems pretty lofty, and near impossible; however, I believe every human being has the ability to achieve exactly what Kipling suggests.

First, “Meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.”

Success is great and failure is bad, isn’t it? We should avoid hardships and potential defeat, right?

I probably would have answered “yes” to both of these questions a few months ago. I think it is probably human nature to avoid potential failure. It hurts and it’s hard. However, I recently learned in my institute class that opposition is exactly why we are here on earth. Life is supposed to be rough sometimes.

I think Paul of the New Testament is a superb example of meeting trials and successes with the same attitude. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 he states, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Also in chapter 4 verse 17 he remarks that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Isn’t that miraculous? Doesn’t that make you want to welcome the trials and hardships that come in life?

Sister Reeves also reiterated this principle in the most recent General Women’s Conference. “What will it matter… what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?”

Failure is an opportunity– a chance to prove ourselves and be refined. We should rejoice in our afflictions, because they will truly be the things that bring us to Christ if we allow them to.

Second, “force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you, Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!'”

William James, the father of psychology, once said the following:

“Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

How often do we underestimate our abilities and our willpower? We are literally not putting to use a major part of our resources. So how do we force ourselves to use our will to accomplish great things? How do we tap into our resources?

Honestly, I don’t know. And I don’t think there is an obvious answer– it probably consists of a lifetime of developing ourselves and expanding our capacities day by day. However, a quote I recently came across in a business textbook offers what I believe to be valuable insight:

“Dark days force us to become more ingenious, to modify the ways we reached failure and reshape them into a new pattern of success.”

Difficult times can help us learn how to use more of our physical and mental resources. But the catch is how we approach or handle the trial or opposition. We can become more ingenious and literally force ourselves to “hold on” if we welcome the afflictions and view them as a way to learn and become better. The right attitude and mindset can literally transform us.

In conclusion, I believe that what Kipling suggests is indeed hard, but definitely not impossible. We have to always remember that we are spirit children of the greatest being in the entire universe– and the failures, opposition, and hardship He sends us are out of love. They will refine us and prepare us, but only if we let them change us. God has given us an amazing capacity to endure and develop, but our greatest potential can only be achieved by turning to and relying on Him.

 

The Power in Purpose

 

“Whenever you go out-of-doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every handclasp. Do not fear being misunderstood and do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you would like to do; and then, without veering off direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do, and then, as the days go gliding away, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire, just as the coral insect takes from the running tide the element it needs. Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, and the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into that particular individual… Thought is supreme. Preserve a right mental attitude – the attitude of courage, frankness, and good cheer. To think rightly is to create. All things come through desire and every sincere prayer is answered. We become like that on which our hearts are fixed. Carry your chin in and the crown of your head high. We are gods in the chrysalis.” (Elbert Hubbard)

This is one of my favorite quotes–in fact, it hangs on my mirror and I try to read it everyday (if I remember!). Each line is inspiring and holds a wealth of wisdom, and today I’d like to expound on just a few of Hubbard’s words.

“We become like that on which our hearts are fixed.” We have all probably heard the analogy of looking where you want to go– when driving a car, riding a horse, or just life in general. We tend to wander where our sights are set.

In my business and marketing classes my teachers have stressed, over and over again, the importance that every company has a vision. Success is rarely achievable when clear direction is absent. Establishing who you are and what you desire to do is crucial in business–and I’d add life, as well.

In order to “become that on which our hearts are fixed” we must consistently ask ourselves two questions everyday:

What do I really want?

What would I do if I really did want this?

These questions are given in the book Crucial Conversations as a simple guide to keep you (and your mind) on track when emotions run strong during communication, but I believe they could be applied to any endeavor in life. Find and clearly define your true purpose and desires, then ask what actions you would take right now if you really did want those things.

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

In closing, when “our hearts are fixed” then the faith required to hold on comes naturally. As C.S. Lewis states, the question is not if our moods and circumstances change, but when. Our lives, and even ourselves, are continually progressing and transforming; however, when we fix our hearts and minds on what we really want then the faith to hold on comes naturally.

Find your purpose and establish your vision. Then, no matter your mood or circumstance, hold onto that hope and work towards it everyday.

The Importance of Simplicity

In character, in manner, in style, in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

In the most recent General Conference President Uchtdorf counseled us to simplify and “make a conscientious effort to devote our energy to the things that truly matter.” He also made the same call for a refocusing of priorities in the October 2010 Conference. In this talk he spoke of the following experience:

“The story is told that the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi had a ritual he performed on the first day of training. He would hold up a football, show it to the athletes who had been playing the sport for many years, and say, “Gentlemen, … this is a football!” He talked about its size and shape, how it can be kicked, carried, or passed. He took the team out onto the empty field and said, “This is a football field.” He walked them around, describing the dimensions, the shape, the rules, and how the game is played.

This coach knew that even these experienced players, and indeed the team, could become great only by mastering the fundamentals. They could spend their time practicing intricate trick plays, but until they mastered the fundamentals of the game, they would never become a championship team.”

“Until they mastered the fundamentals they would never become a championship team.” Isn’t it interesting that the fundamentals of any endeavor are always the most important yet most overlooked aspect? I believe this can be said of life in general, as well. We get so caught up in the frantic pace of everything and forget the basics. Instead of focusing on the simple things, we are constantly looking for more, more, more.

This inclination to heap intricacy into all aspects of life is destructive. When we lose sight of the simple things our chance of achieving excellence in any area is greatly diminished. Leonardo Da Vinci described simplicity as “the highest form of sophistication.” Simplicity is mastery. When we rid ourselves of the desire for complex solutions we are more able to be at peace and grasp those things that truly matter–things that are necessary for our success.

Consider the areas of your life that need simplifying. Refocus on the basics and on the small, everyday “wins.” Master the fundamentals and focus on what truly matters, because a simple life is truly an excellent life.

 

 

The Power to Choose

The ability to choose and act for ourselves is one of the greatest gifts bestowed to mankind. Our agency allows us to dream, to set goals, and ultimately to succeed! Despite this, we still witness countless individuals who willingly forfeit this universal ability due to a variety of reasons, including other’s influences and less-than ideal circumstances. And yes, I said willingly forfeit.

I recently read an article by Peter Schulman in which he discussed how learned optimism is the key to every great salesperson’s success. He briefly touched on learned helplessness, a condition which countless individuals struggle with, oftentimes not realizing it.

Someone suffering with learned helplessness “believes he has no control over a desired objective [and] will be unlikely to make the effort necessary to achieve it.”

How many times have we done that to ourselves? How many times have we just given up and accepted defeat because we don’t believe we can change something? I can’t get straight A’s– I’m not naturally smart and that’s that. There’s no way I could run a half marathon– I’ve never been athletic. Or, I can’t go to church– I’m just not spiritual.

On the contrary, he described a learned optimist as someone who “is more likely to see adversity as a challenge, transform problems into opportunities, put in hours to refine skills, persevere in finding solutions to difficult problems, maintain confidence, rebound quickly after setbacks, and persist.

Now, I think that after understanding both definitions it is quite obvious who will be more likely to succeed and find joy along the journey. In fact, I believe it would be safe to say that it is impossible to achieve great things with a learned helplessness mentality.

“In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond.” {David A. Bednar}

As you go about each day, remember– no person, no matter how cruel or condescending, and no situation, no matter how hard or hopeless can make you feel less than what you really are. Our agency allows us to achieve great things, but only if we will use it to take action and believe! As Elder Bednar said, we have power “to act and choose how we will respond.” Choose to see the best, to transform a crisis into success, and turn a setback into your next big opportunity.

Sources:

“Applying Learned Optimism to Increase Sales Productivity” (Peter Schulman)

“And Nothing Shall Offend Them” (Elder David A. Bednar)

Unlikely Beginnings

The names “Scamper” and “Bozo” ring across the barrel racing world as two of the most successful and influential horses of all time. The geldings, ridden by Charmayne James and Kristie Peterson, dominated in different eras of rodeo but possessed many commonalities–grit, heart, and the love to run. And even more importantly, both horses began their paths in a very unique way when compared to the typical high tech and high priced breeding/genetic and training strategies in barrel racing.  Let’s take a moment and look back on their unlikely beginnings that eventually set them, against all odds, on the path to dominating the industry.

Kristie P. and Bozo
Kristie Peterson and the legendary Bozo. Photo from jbquarterhorsestud.com
Charmayne J. and Scamper
Charmayne James and Scamper at the 1990 National Finals Rodeo. Photo from Pinterest.com

Gills Bay Boy aka Scamper

1977 Bay Gelding (deceased)

Owned and ridden by Charmayne James

Scamper, who was by Gills Sonny Boy and out of Drapers Jay, was a feedlot horse who had passed through multiple horse traders’ hands by the time the James family purchased him. James stated that “somewhere along the line, he’d gotten really well broke” (“Charmayne James” by Cheryl Magoteaux). He was four when she began riding him, and by the early ’90s the team had won 10 consecutive world championships and six NFR average championships. The feedlot colt, who had been through at least four different auctions before James bought him, proved to the world that prestigious bloodlines and elite training programs mean very little when compared to grit and heart.


French Flash Hawk aka Bozo

1987 Sorrel Gelding

Owned and ridden by Kristie Peterson

When Peterson bought Bozo she was “a horse trader and school bus driver at the time…[and] liked to buy and sell when a good deal presented itself” (“Impact of Tiny Watch” by Jennifer Zehnder). Saying that she got a good deal when she bought Bozo would be an understatement. The feedlot colt was a mere $400 and when Peterson saw his papers she “had to have him.” Even more, she tried to sell him as a three year old for $2500, but his feet were so bad she couldn’t find a buyer (“Peterson isn’t Clowning Around,” Desert News). A few years later she was glad she couldn’t because the team went on to win the world four times, and Bozo was named the AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year five different times. Bozo’s rough start didn’t stop him from dominating the professional barrel horse world throughout the ’90s, and his impact is still obvious today.


Now, obviously, these feedlot to fame stories could never have been possible without the immense talent James and Peterson possessed. It is impossible to judge the time and energy they must have put in, as all great trainers do, to making these unlikely barrel horses some of the best in the history of the WPRA. However, there is a profound lesson to be learned through stories like Scamper’s and Bozo’s. In an industry of highly technical breeding procedures, careful and analytical genetic crosses, and specialized, intense training methods, these stories are a great reminder that it doesn’t take a $100k horse to make history. Of course it takes a great one– we hear time and time again from the best riders that horse power is everything in the barrel world. However, great doesn’t always mean expensive.

The industry gets caught up in the buying and selling of prestigious breeding rights and colts with royal genetics–and for good reason, because many of these horses will go on to perform and produce and really leave a mark. However, a horse with good conformation and a good mind can really do wonders when ridden by a talented trainer who knows how to get the most out of them. And maybe that is what the barrel horse world needs more of–good riders who can take ordinary horses and find the greatness in them. James and Peterson are elite examples of this. They had the ability, and their situation prompted them to take chances on horses that didn’t show immense talent in the beginning. But after sticking it out and putting a lot of time into it, Scamper and Bozo became two of the industry’s greatest horses.

Instead of focusing so much time on trying to find the best-bred prospects, maybe we should switch our focus to becoming the best trainers possible. Then, when opportunity knocks, we will be able to transform ordinary, good-minded horses into talented athletes who will excel in an increasingly tough industry.

Resources

Western Horseman- “Charmayne James on Barrel Racing” with Cheryl Magoteaux

Barrel Horse News- “The Impact of Tiny Watch” by Jennifer Zehnder

Deseret News- “Peterson isn’t Clowning Around on Bozo the Horse” (associated press)

Lipstick & Lessons Learned

In a short passage titled “Talking with Little Girls” Lisa Bloom shares these statistics:

“15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart.” -Lisa Bloom

Doesn’t that just make your heart ache a little? It made me cringe, and I immediately thought, “Those blasted Kardashians ruining American girls’ mindsets! Media has drained the self-confidence and self-worth of girls everywhere, and we have to stop them!” But before I had a chance to plot my take down of People magazine and MTV, Bloom shared a story that I found quite profound.

“I went to a dinner party at a friend’s home and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time. Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, ‘Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!’

“But I didn’t. I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/pretty/beautiful/well-dressed they are.

“What’s wrong with that? It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem?

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at age 23.

“That’s why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows:

“‘Maya’, I said, crouching own at her level, ‘very nice to meet you. Hey, what are you reading?’ I asked. Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expressions gave way to genuine excitement over this topic.

Purplicious was Maya’s [favorite book] and a new one to me, as Maya snuggled next to me on the sofa and proudly read aloud every word. Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It’s surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls.

“So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling.”

We get so caught up in blaming the media for the deteriorating self-image of girls everywhere, yet as I read this I realized that one person and one interaction can actually make a huge difference. What message are we sending to girls when we talk to them? Maybe those startling statistics are more a result of a confused cultural mindset. The media has most definitely played a huge role in it, but are we, as individuals, fighting back? Are we empowering little girls? Or are we telling them their hair is great and their dress is flattering?

Now, I don’t think it’s bad to compliment or praise beauty. Rather, I think this is more of a matter of changing our focus. What do we place emphasis on, and are we being mindful of the message we send?

2015-10-30_17.33.51

picture from hercampus.com

Bloom suggested that the next time you meet a young girl to try “generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain.” What could change if every person began asking little girls about their studies and their favorite books? Would more emphasis on thinking lead to increased focus on kindness, talents, and strength?

Let’s strive to empower instead of flatter. It will require re-training an engrained mindset, but imagine the difference one can make if in every interaction they tried to “generate an intelligent conversation.”

In Bloom’s words, “Here’s to changing the world, one little girl at a time.”

My New Friend Carol

“I shall not pass this way but once, any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

On Monday I made a new friend. Her name is Carol. She doesn’t have a home, or a job, or most of her teeth. She’s middle-aged and worn from years of traveling. Carol sits outside the gates of temple square with her few belongings at her feet and a sign asking for money. And a five-minute conversation with her might just make your day.

Honestly, I would never have taken the time to sit and talk to a stranger about their life, lessons learned, or their hopes and dreams. However, I was given an assignment in my Sales class to speak with three different strangers for 5-10 minutes.

So there I was– sitting on a garden box and trying to keep dialogue flowing with a homeless woman.

At first, Carol was hesitant, but pretty soon we were talking and laughing and swapping stories. She told me about her hometown and her family and her need for freedom. I didn’t fully understand why she would choose this life, and likewise, she couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be tied down to anything. She remarked that she “just shakes [her] head” when she sees people (like me) walking down the street, because we “just don’t have a clue.” So I asked her what she would tell someone– someone like me.

And that’s when Carol taught me.

She looked down and said, “I don’t know, it’s different for everybody. Life is different for everybody.” Those words and the way she said them have just clung to me. Life is different for everybody.

I once heard that “to know all is to forgive all.” And I would add that to know all is to love all, understand all, and befriend all. As I looked in Carol’s eyes and could see the years of hurt, the years of running, I realized that there is no way on earth that any human can really judge another person perfectly. We just don’t know. And if we did know,  I think that we would forgive all, understand all, and love all.

Had I never been given the assignment to speak with three strangers I know I would have never taken the time to talk to Carol. I maybe would have smile, remarked that I didn’t have any money with me, and hurried on my way to something much more important (in my mind). However, I was forced to take the time to look around and find people to connect with. As a result, I was able to learn from a wise homeless woman, listen to an aspiring fashion designer’s dreams, and give words of encouragement to Rick, who was headed to an interview and was hoping he would get the job so he could buy a new pair of shoes. Any other day, I would have passed by each of these individuals and not said a word to them. I would have missed out on so much.

“God’s children were not put on earth to walk alone.”

Too often we pass each other in hallways or on sidewalks and we never say a word or push through the small talk. How much we are missing out on! I think we forget too often that we are all children of the same Heavenly Father and we cross paths with certain people for a reason. Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to listen. Ask them about their hopes, their dreams, their family– and then learn from them. There are opportunities to do good every single day, all around us. And sometimes the best thing we can do, the best service we can offer, is to just listen.

When have you learned something from a simple conversation? I’d love to hear about it– leave a comment below!

 

What Are The Rocks In Your Jar?

“A man stood in front of a group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

(Stephen Covey- “The Big Rocks of Life” from appleseeds.org)

This last week John Bytheway came and spoke at the LDSBC’s annual Foundations for Success conference. He mentioned this story and left us with a question at the end of his talk:

What are your rocks?

“What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others?” -Stephen Covey

As I have contemplated this question I have realized that most of my so-called “rocks” really haven’t taken precedence over the gravel, sand, or water. When comparing a jar to a day, I’m not sure that I am making sure the rocks get in first. A popular story summarizes the experience that a group of Harvard students once had in class, and I think it relates to this perfectly. A professor asked them to all write down their goals, desires, and dreams. After doing so they were told to write down what they do everyday, and then compare it to their previous written goals. These students were shocked. What they were doing daily really didn’t match all that well with their lofty aspirations.

How often do we consciously devote time to what we truly want each day?

I think for most of us, the answer is “little” or “definitely not enough.” It’s understandable. Life gets busy and our days and to-do lists are full. However, I think there are a few things we can do each day to help us get our rocks in the jar.

#1      Evaluate your typical schedule.

John Bytheway shared with us an experience he had when writing his first book. He stated that he just couldn’t find the time…. until he really tried. After evaluating his daily schedule he found that his least productive hours were at night when he was watching prime time TV. Long story short, he went to bed earlier and skipped his nightly television shows. And instead, he woke up early and for just an hour and a half each day worked on his dream of writing a book.

“Why do we spend time watching other people live their dreams on TV when we could turn it off and start living our own?” -John Bytheway

Eventually the book was published and it kick started his career– all because he sacrificed a couple hours of television each day.

#2       Write it down.

Studies have shown that when we write something down we are much more likely to follow through. What do you want to do today? Spend more time with your family? Read your scriptures for a half hour? Write it down. Make yourself accountable. Make yourself put the rocks, or the big things, first in your life.

When we step back and look at the big picture we realize that so much time and effort goes into the most worthless stuff. These are just a couple ideas of how to get back on track and put the big things first, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What has helped you put the rocks in first?