Thursday, April 17, 2008

Notes from Lesson 8 of Og Mandino's University of Success

Lesson 8 focused on how to develop your strengths. Main thoughts include:
  • You create opportunity by your feelings and determination
  • You must support yourself instead of undermining yourself
  • Be creative and imaginative instead of worrying
  • Live in the present. The past is gone. The future is unknown.
  • Set constructive goals and move yourself toward today’s opportunities

Sunday, April 13, 2008

7 Tensions Common to Christians in the Marketplace

  1. Serving God versus pursuing mammon
  2. Love versus competition
  3. People versus profits
  4. Family versus work
  5. Perspective in the face of success
  6. Charity versus wealth
  7. Faithful to God versus pluralistic

See Ecclesiastes 3 for perspective
(from the book Halftime by Bob Buford)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Transition of Leadership

This week started with a quick trip to Yorktown Virginia. I drove from Xenia to Yorktown on Monday, participated in a meeting at Langley Air Force Base on Tuesday and then drove home on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were spent at the office catching up on email and other work.

During my scripture reading this week I transitioned from Deuteronomy (Moses dies) to Joshua (Joshua starts leading).
  • In Luke 10 it states that Martha was worried about many things, but Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen
  • Ask and receive, seek and find, knock and it will open (Luke 11)
  • Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it (Luke 11:28)
  • Reckless words injure, wise words heal (Proverbs 12:18)
  • In Luke 11 Jesus was very confrontational when dealing with those who focused on looking good on the outside while harboring sin on the inside. (We call this hypocrisy)
  • Just like Moses, we need to know when to step down or away (Deuteronomy 31)
  • Am I acknowledging God before men or do I disown Him? (Luke 12)
  • Also in Luke 12 it says to be on guard against greed because life does not consist of possessions
  • In Deuteronomy 32 the Lord demonstrated his justice by allowing Moses to see the Promised Land but not allowing him to enter it
  • Am I bearing any fruit? What fruit am I bearing? Am I like a fig tree that will be cut down? (Luke 13)
  • Jesus was focused on the work of today and tomorrow and reaching his goal, which was death! (Luke 13:32-33)

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Bookends of Success by Dr. John C. Maxwell

NASCAR drivers know the importance of starting in the right place. Before a race even begins, they compete with one another in the hopes of earning the best starting position. At qualifying runs, held the week prior to the official race, each driver speeds around the racetrack in a timed performance. The driver with the fastest time earns pole position - or the right to begin the race in front of the other cars. A driver in pole position doesn't have to be concerned about passing anyone in order to win the race. All he or she must do is hold their position in order to win.

Conversely, a driver who does poorly in the trial run must begin the race in the worst possible position - at the very back of the pack. Stuck behind the other race cars, the disadvantaged driver has virtually no chance of winning. To finish first, he or she would have to pass every other car on the track during the course of the race.

In addition to starting strong, a NASCAR driver understands that his or her performance depends on finishing well. In a 500-mile race, leading for 499 miles is meaningless if a driver isn't in front at the checkered flag. Regardless of a driver's skill maneuvering the car early in the race, if he or she crashes or loses focus toward the end, the driver will forfeit the lead and lose the race. Nobody wins points for their position in the middle of the race; rather, each driver is assigned a place based on how he or she finishes.

THE BOOKENDS OF SUCCESS

Great leaders understand the two bookends of success: starting and finishing. We generally think about them in terms of doing a task or project. However, what's true in our approach to projects is also true in our approach to each day. How we spend our mornings and evenings has a tremendous bearing on the course of our leadership.

I use my morning to set up a game plan for the day. During this time, I allow no interruptions. I never schedule breakfast meetings, and I isolate myself from distractions. I do not permit myself to strategize years down the road or to project my thoughts months into the future. Rather, I narrow my focus to the upcoming 24 hours. I ask myself: "Just for today, how can I be a success?" Viewing life in 24-hour increments, I place a premium on each day. I try to make each one a masterpiece.

During the evening, I reflect on my day. By reflecting, I translate my day's experiences into learning opportunities. This process solidifies in my mind the lessons I've discovered or bits of knowledge I've uncovered. Reflecting also gives me the space to assess my progress on the goals I made during the morning.

Relaxation is another important part of my evening routine. I make a point to put my leisure time into activities that replenish me by refueling my energy. For me, such activities include spending quality time with my wife, reading a book, or studying Scriptures. Relaxation puts me in a good emotional state, lifts my spirits, and reminds me of the joys of life.

When I neglect to carve out time in the morning to plan my day, I notice adverse effects. First, I don't live my day on purpose. Instead of choosing where to invest my time, I cede control of my schedule to whatever circumstances happen to arise. Second, I squander my energy. Since I don't outline clear goals for my day, I float from one activity to another without getting anything done. Finally, when I skip my morning planning time, I feel overwhelmed. Since I'm ambitious, I have a propensity to bite off more than I can chew. If I don't focus my attention, the weight of my numerous involvements begins to drag me down.

When I am not intentional about setting aside evening time for relaxation, I encounter negative symptoms, too. First, I get uptight. My times of reflection and relaxation act like valves that release stress from my life. If I don't guard those times, I get tense, my thoughts are more negative, and my health suffers. Second, I lose passion. My leisure times fuel me. If I am not intentional about putting time into my favorite activities, then life loses its luster. Third, I miss chances to grow. When I don't reflect on the meaningful moments from each day, I rob myself of the benefits of experience.

SUMMARY

Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is out of reach. That's why today matters. Leaders who value each day know the importance of starting well and finishing strong. In the mornings, they focus their energies on key tasks, and in the evenings, they replenish themselves. By mastering the bookends of success, leaders position themselves to make an impact every day.

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter, "Leadership Wired," available at www.injoy.com."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Borrowing Your Own Money by Jason Holland

Walk in with your W-2 and walk out minutes later with your tax refund. This service is available from many tax preparation companies. It may sound too good to be true. That’s because it is.

That speedy refund is costing you big time. You see, it’s not really your tax refund. You are actually borrowing your own money and paying interest on it. It’s called the refund anticipation loan (RAL).

RALs are trotted out every year by tax preparers like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt. These companies front you the money you expect to get back from the IRS. Then you don’t have to suffer through the one- or two-week wait if you file online directly with the IRS.

In exchange for your rapid refund, you pay significant up-front interest charges. Those charges can eat away as much 10 percent of your total refund, according to a Georgetown University study. On top of that, you pay fees for the privilege of having a temp fill out your tax return and file it with the IRS. If you choose to have your loan deposited directly in your back account, that’s another fee. Put the loan on a debit card? Another fee, plus usage fees.

RALs are perfect for the impatient and the broke. Low-income earners make up the biggest part of this market. And it’s no surprise that college students are targeted heavily in ads for this "service." People turn to tax prep companies when they don’t understand IRS forms. They often don’t realize they are signing up for a loan, let alone that they are paying huge fees.

If you have a complicated financial situation, you should probably contact a CPA. Otherwise, there are plenty of helpful free resources available in your community and online. Then you can file your own return, at no charge, with the IRS at IRS.gov, with either eFile or Free File. You’ll have your refund in your bank account in as little as a week.

Two tax prep resources to look into are:

* Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: Call 1-800-TAX-1040 or go to tax-coalition.org to find trained volunteers in your area.

* AARP’s Tax-Aide program for seniors: Go to aarp.org/money/taxaide/.

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, the Internet’s most popular health, wealth, and success e-zine. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.earlytorise.com.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chapter 4 of How to Win Friends and Influence People


Main points from my reading of Chapter 4 of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie:
  • Become interested in other people like a friendly dog does welcoming visitors
  • To make friends you must do things that require time, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness
  • Know peoples’ birthdays!
  • Greet people enthusiastically
  • “We are interested in others when they are interested in us” ~Publilius Syrus
  • Become genuinely interested in other people

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Another Week in Xenia Ohio

Some thoughts from this week as I read more in my One Year Bible:
  • From Deuteronomy 10, what does God require of his people? Fear Him, Walk in His ways, Love Him, and to serve Him
  • Hear the Word and put it into practice (Luke 8:21)
  • The Lord is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3)
  • In Luke 9:1 Jesus specifically gave the twelve disciples power and authority to drive out demons and cure diseases
  • Why did Jesus often tell people to not tell anyone who he was? (Luke 9)
  • A man is praised according to his wisdom (Proverbs 12:8)
  • In Luke 9 we see the disciples arguing which of them was the greatest. Jesus told them that the least is really the greatest.
  • He who works the land will have abundant food, he who chases fantasies lacks judgement (Proverbs 12:11)
Other activities of the week included:
  • Having a $60 million dollar contract awarded to Northrop Grumman at work on Tuesday (no fooling...April 1st...agh...)
  • House church at Tim Horton’s Wednesday evening (where we started our “the price has been paid” campaign)
  • Getting basement plans and permit applications on Thursday for finishing the basement in our house
  • Watching the grass come alive and turn green for another mowing season!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Helpful Tips for Tax Time (Part 2) by Dave Ramsey

I Got A Refund! Instead of thinking this money - whether it's $300 or $3,000 - is a gift from the government to send you to the Bahamas or to get a brand-new spring wardrobe, think about it differently this year. Even though nice trips and new clothes are great, only consider stuff like that AFTER you've taken care of these necessities first:

• Build up your emergency fund. If you don't already have $1,000 in the bank, stash that away as fast as possible. It's important! Life is going to happen, and you need to be ready for your own sake. Don't let Murphy catch you off guard and put you further in debt. If you are already debt free (except for the house), throw this extra money toward building up your full emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses.

• Attack your debt snowball. If you already have your $1,000 emergency fund, attack your debt snowball with gazelle intensity. List your debts in order with the smallest payoff or balance first. Do not be concerned with interest rates or terms unless two debts have similar payoffs. In that case, list the higher interest rate debt first. Paying the little debts off first gives you quick feedback, and you are more likely to stay with the plan.

• Invest it! Only after you are out of debt and have your full emergency fund saved should you consider investing your refund. Remember that if you are under 50 years of age, you can contribute up to $4,000 per year into a Roth IRA ($5,000 for over age 50). This is money that grows tax-free! If you're already contributing 15% or more into your own accounts, use this money toward your child's college funding.

• Pay off your home. Did you know that you aren't destined to have a house payment for the rest of your life? Yeah, it may sound crazy, but I'm telling you the truth! Once you've completed Baby Steps 1-6, it's time to own your home 100%. Maybe your refund is a whole house payment or two...or three. If you put your refund toward this, you are that much closer to owning your home - possibly months earlier than you originally expected. Now wouldn't that feel awesome?! Just think what life would be like with NO PAYMENTS!

It's time to think differently this year about this extra money! Remember...Debt is normal. BE WEIRD!

Dave Ramsey is a personal money management expert, an extremely popular national radio personality and best-selling author of The Total Money Makeover. Dave is changing the face of America by helping people get out of debt and build wealth. Ramsey exemplifies his life's work of teaching others how to be financially responsible, so they can acquire enough wealth to take care of loved ones, live prosperously into old age, and give generously to others.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Helpful Tips for Tax Time (Part 1) by Dave Ramsey

I have to pay! When you realized you weren't getting a refund this year, you probably didn't jump for joy, did you? Bet you didn't. None of us are thrilled about sending our hard-earned money away. Even though you have to send money to the IRS this year, it's not the end of the world, even if you're already living on a super-tight budget. Even if you've already sent in your check, here are some things to keep in mind:

• Revisit the budget. See where you can squeeze a little bit of cash out of certain categories in your budget - all the little amounts from various places add up! Try your absolute hardest to resist using money from your emergency fund. How about pulling a little out of your clothing, entertainment, or vacation funds? Get free budgeting forms.

• Clean out the house. It's that time of year again where people are always looking for a treasure in someone else's junk. It's nothing but a win-win situation: you get rid of clutter in your garage/attic/shed AND make extra cash while others walk away with bargains.

• Pizza, anyone? Pick up a part-time job for a short period of time. Delivering pizzas is a fabulous idea - and it's great for attacking your debt snowball like crazy, too!

• Here comes the Debt Snowball! If you absolutely can't write a one-time check to the IRS, put this payment in your debt snowball. Just remember that you will have to pay interest just like most other bills you are attacking in your snowball.

Don't stress about sending in the check. By following the above tips, you'll be back on track with the Baby Steps in no time!

Dave Ramsey is a personal money management expert, an extremely popular national radio personality and best-selling author of The Total Money Makeover. Dave is changing the face of America by helping people get out of debt and build wealth. Ramsey exemplifies his life's work of teaching others how to be financially responsible, so they can acquire enough wealth to take care of loved ones, live prosperously into old age, and give generously to others.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lesson 7 of Og Mandino's University of Success

Some bullet points from lesson 7 of Og Mandino's University of Success:
  • I can versus I can’t
  • No area of life is immune to faith (believing) and effort (work)
  • Quit talking about it and do it!
  • If you have a dream, thank God for it and do something about it