2. Strengths and Talents

No, not for a talent show!

It’s amazing that most of us get through 12 or more years of education without ever identifying our strengths and talents. We step into the work world with “an education,” but often without a clue what we like to do or are good at. It’s well worth doing an assessment or two! And repeat the process for time to time.

My quick definitions (probably taken from Marcus Buckingham):

Talents: automatic, what you were born with
Strengths and Skills: things you learn

Now, Discover Your Strengths
First Published 2001

Most character habits and values are LEARNED! Strengths and habits are LEARNED. It’s great to build on what you were born with, but most valuable things can be learned. Things that fit or talents are the easiest to learn.

Two Aha ideas:

1. It’s incredibly easy to fail to recognize our own talents, or to not appreciate them. Because we are born with them, we don’t notice they are special. We expect we’re just like everybody else. The population is so diverse that we will probably never meet anyone else with our collection of talents. You are more unique than you first suspect.

2. Per the research from Marcus Buckingham and others, there are things that fit our strengths that are naturally easy for us to get better with. Conversely, it’s really hard for us to significantly improve in our areas of weakness. Since you can fairly easily get better in your strengths, don’t spend a lot of time trying to overcome your weaknesses. Mitigate your weaknesses, don’t try to turn them into strengths.

Within your Strengths, you most likely have a super-power that others don’t! Dig to find it, then use it to your advantage!

<New to 100 Thing? Start Here>.  <Previous: 1. Choose Gratitude>.  <Next: >.

Introduction to Approachable Christianity

Introduction to Approachable Christianity

For the most part, this series is written for me. I’ve had these nagging thoughts and questions for many years. When answers couldn’t be found, well, I got started. Consider this a “conversation with myself” that you are welcome to listen in on, and also, contribute to. If you have better answers, especially in everyday language (no deep theology please), jump in!

So many Christians, so many view-points. That just can’t be right! Did Jesus set out to confuse us? That doesn’t seem possible. We are told the Holy Spirit is our counselor. Counselors help explain things. How have we missed it all these years?

Have we been misled? OK, maybe, sadly we have a long history of that. Or … have we just been complacent? I think that’s my situation. To avoid conflict, or to not be embarrassed for not understanding, I just drifted along in the Christian mainstream and flowed along with the crowd. That just doesn’t seem to be what Christ called us to!

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve been lazy. Or God may have us waiting for his timing. Moses was called by God, then God “delayed” him for 40 years! What was on his mind all that time?

Compare to science. Forget the phrases like “trust the science.” That’s never been the scientific method. The scientific method is to always TEST the theory.

I offer all this very open-handedly. This is for me. And all of it is offered with the simple idea that “I could be wrong!”

Worth Wrestling With?

“A good theology doesn’t just come by hearing and accepting it. When you get into the deep truths of the scripture you have to wrestle with it. You have to earn a good theology.”

— Randy Pope

I enjoy wrestling with Christianity’s awkwardness. How about you?

New to Approachable? Start Here <Previous: Awkward Christianity> <Next: Just What Is A Christian??

Awkward Christianity

Awkward Christianity

Do any of issues resonate with you?

  1. Far too many people, including friends and family, feel the church is irrelevant in their lives. (My paraphrase of Jeff Henderson)
  2. I know I’m supposed to share my faith, but I just don’t know what to say. Worse, I fear my attempt could push people away!
  3. I see people who call themselves Christians who don’t seem to fit, even a little, what I expect. Am I wrong in my expectations? Am I judgmental? Are they as messed up as it seems?
  4. I have friends, family, who I’m pretty sure are far from Christianity. Do I really believe they will go to hell when they die? What am I supposed to actually do?
  5. In Christian circles, we hear phrases like “keep repeating the gospel,” or “preach the gospel to yourself.” Am I supposed to know the whole book of Matthew (or Mark, or Luke or John)? Or is “the gospel” somethings shorter and simpler? I’m not sure I can describe what “the gospel” is?
  6. How can we have so many Christian denominations that have such different beliefs? Is there an essence to Christianity we can agree on?
  7. I know people — nice people, helpful people, people who are involved in serving others — “Good people.” No claim of Christianity; sometimes claims of something else. Are they going to hell?
  8. What is the fundamental basis for Christianity? The Bible? (can it be trusted?) Tradition? (How well has that ever worked out?) My feelings? I’m embarrassed that I just can’t quickly, clearly, explain what Christianity is
  9. People speak of being “Led by the Holy Spirit.” I have no confidence I’ve ever heard the Holy Spirit speaking to me
  10. Following Jesus. Friendship with Jesus. Sitting at the feet of Jesus. These all sound very physical and tangible. Do you have this experience? Do you know others who do?
  11. Who are your models of real Christ followers? How often do we see Spiritual Leaders who miss the mark a little? Does that turn you away from Christianity?
  12. What is worship? What is praise? What is it to give glory to God?
  13. Who created hell? Who “administers” hell?

<New to Approachable? Start here> <Next: Introduction>

Approachable Christianity

Approachable Christianity


Does Christianity confuse you? 2000 years ago, when Jesus walked on earth, He invested three years with a handful of guys, and He confused them all the time! Since then, somehow, Christianity has survived, and sometimes thrived, but it’s also splintered and fractured into so many groups who seem to be at odds with each other. Do we all have the same basic beliefs, or are we as different as the different church architectures we see? What is going on? How can we be so vastly different? Are there any core beliefs where we can agree?

Do Jews and Muslims and Christians all worship the same God? If so, how can there be so much animosity amongst us? Are Catholics Christians? How about Mormans and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Seventh Day Adventists? Christian Scientists? With all this division and confusion, it is any surprise that Christianity is on the decline? Where does Scientology fit in?

One of the most confusing things of Christianity is that there’s not anywhere [obvious] a short list of the basics. There is almost an attitude of “you get to choose what matters.” If we all get to choose our own path, is it any wonder that there are so many different paths?

Maybe, just maybe, there are some good answers to be found. That’s certainly my hope.

If it were simple, would you be more inclined to believe more?

If there is a simple part of Christianity that disagrees with your personal long-held belief, are you willing to adjust your belief?

If it’s hard, are you willing to work for it?

Do you really accept that your eternity is at stake? If heaven and hell exist, then it matters where you end up, and despite popular media views, death is not an automatic ticket to heaven.

What can we do, together, to make Christianity more understandable, more inviting, more approachable?

<Next: Awkward Christianity>

What is a “finisher?”

What is a “finisher?”
(hint: I am one!)

Do you find yourself starting a lot of things, but rarely finishing? Join the crowd!

Lots of good people, who know what they are doing, often end the day with important things left undone.

How often do you fail to get things done? Important things? Do you miss commitments? Fail to do the things you told someone you would do? It hurts, doesn’t it?

You are not alone. Many people, including very successful people (and businesses) leave money on the table by failing to follow-through. You probably know exactly what you want to do. You probably even know how to do it. But at the end of the day, far too often, it didn’t happen.

You need a Finisher. An Action Item Tracker. A system to keep you on track to finish the most important things and to push distractions out of the way. A Finisher keeps you on track and pulls you back on track when distractions and interruptions happen.

Think of project management without all the Project Management jargon! A finisher is a lot like having a project manager except a lot easier.

“Get the right things finished. Every day!”

The good and bad of knowing exactly what you want to do: It is frustratingly easy and infuriatingly hard! Especially if you are trying to do it all by yourself.

1. Choose Gratitude

1. Choose Gratitude

“Those who are not grateful soon begin to complain of everything.”
–- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Years ago, I started keeping a “one line” journal, and part of what I kept track of was the best and the worst of each day. It didn’t take me long to realize it wasn’t very helpful to keep up with the worst, so I switched nearly 100% to just the positive. Even though I’ve had a life of generally positive and optimistic thoughts, this one little change ramped that up tremendously. I can’t remember the last time I had a “bad” day! Of course, since I look for the good, not the bad, I’m not saving bad memories to be remembered!

In a future post I’ll address the idea of keeping a gratitude journal but for now I’ll just mention that I have a simple system for taking notes of good things that happen each day, then also reviewing past good things as I start each day.

A choice

This sign sits in my office where I see it every day.

When I was young, I mostly accepted that good and bad things will happen each day that are out of my control, so bad days were inevitable. Then, through all kinds of influences, I learned that even if I couldn’t control the events, I could control my responses. I could choose to find the good in any situation. Imagine my surprise to discover this sort of thinking goes back to the Stoics, and probably before. A fascinating, easy, daily, read on this can be found in The Daily Stoic, https://amzn.to/3iwO3nJ

Observation (nothing scientific here, just personal observations): People I know who deal most with depression tend to focus on the bad things of the past. The happiest people I know find the silver lining in almost everything and regularly express gratitude. I don’t know that I can claim a cause/effect pattern here, but just in case, I choose gratitude every time!

<New to 100 Things? Start Here> <Next: 2. Strengths and Talents>

100 Things – Introduction

100 Things – Introduction

This is something I’m doing for me. Things I wish I had learned earlier, or things where I need regular reminders. No matter how much I’ve learned, for many things, I need to remind myself again. “My brain leaks.”

Compare to Marcus Aurelius and Meditations. He wrote it for himself! That’s what I’m doing.

There is a little book that’s been around more than thirty years titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I’ve never read it, but the title sure resonates. I often see people who seem to have such wisdom or understanding, and I wonder how I missed out on what they know. Maybe I was absent that day of kindergarten?

Mickey Mellen wrote a nice little article , about how most advice any of us have is for our own past selves. So that’s where I am … so many things I’ve learned and just wish I had learned them, and reminded myself of them, a lot earlier in life!

My hope is that this will be a collection of short articles of wisdom and practical advice for living my own fulfilling and meaningful life. These articles are designed to serve as a reminder of things that are important as I try to stay true to my values and goals.

I invite you to join me. Challenge me where you disagree. Or tell me what I’ve left out. What are your “secrets” for living a happier and more fulfilling life?

Even though I’m calling this “100” things, there’s nothing special about that number. I may end up with 1000. Or only 50. I regularly see books that have 365 things, to have one per day. Maybe that’s where this will end up. We shall see.

I offer all this very open-handed. This is for me. And all of it is offered with the simple idea that “I could be wrong!”

Just wondering, kindergarten or otherwise, was any of this taught in school?

<Next: 1. Choose Gratitude>

Not Enough Time in the Day?

Image: TimeAndChoice

This applies to so many things, including getting your work done each day. I often hear it in Discipleship and similar where people tell me they don’t have enough time to read a book or read the bible.

And yet, they manage to post dozens of things on Facebook. They may watch hours of TV. They may play hours of video games well into the night. They may spend hours at a nice restaurant or bar. People who “don’t have enough time” often have lots of time for other things.

So what’s that about? I’m not trying to shame anyone. The point is, most of us in this society have a LOT of available time. We choose to use it for entertainment. Is that wrong? Not necessarily! But isn’t it just a little hypocritical to say “I don’t have time?” It really is just a matter of choices.

I haven’t researched this, but have heard enough stories to believe it. When people lose power at their home for days in a row, they read more. Not sure if that’s great news or awful! Maybe it hints that we are lousy at controlling our own use of time and we need an outside influence.

Trouble Getting Enough Done Each Day?

To Do NOT Done!

Do you get to the end of the day and think that you didn’t get enough done? Or, maybe, you got a lot done, but it wasn’t the most important stuff.

Countless books have been written, speeches given, etc., on how to manage your time or otherwise get the right things done.

And plenty of talk about urgent vs. important. And the Truman Box. And planners and schedulers and reminders. How has that worked for you? (If you have a system that’s working well, please tell me. I’ll gladly cheer you on!)

Two big suggestions, which together will consume only a few minutes each morning and lead to a much more satisfied ending on the day:

  1. Morning reflection. Just a minute or two: what matters today? If you can only get one thing done today, what would that be?
  2. List your top TWO (and only two) priorities for the day and make sure you look at that short list all day long

Then, through the day, hold yourself accountable, or get someone else to help, to not do anything else until you get the priorities done. After that, do as much else as your heart desires. You know you’ve done the right things first, so that already makes for a great day.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?