3 Ways to Be a Better You

“Before I can live with other folks, I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience,” says Atticus Finch, the stalwart character in To Kill a Mockingbird. Today, I reflect upon three decisions that have made my life — and can make yours — more epic.   (This is an extension of 3 Steps to Make 2015 Epic, I dedicate this to a dear person in my life working to find herself.)

John Wooden's 7 point creed

As leadership author John Maxwell says in his book How Successful People Think, “you can spend your life any way you want but you can only spend it once.” Spend your life well. Be a better you.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@JohnCMaxwell”]”You can spend your life any way you want but you can only spend it once.” John Maxwell [/tweetthis]

1. BE YOU

The conference ended, and I'd been talking to some awesome educators in Memphis. The people were so engrossing that I was running late to the airport! As I'm doing the TSA shuffle, I'm not making eye contact. The line is as slow as  a one legged hound dog on tranquilizers. There seems to be something slowing the line down just on the other side of the metal detector.  But all of a sudden, as I rush through the metal detector and pick up my bags, I hear this Elvis Presley voice behind me,

“Thank you, thank you very much…”

I turned to the voice of Elvis. There he was, buttons busting at the waist — a TSA agent who looked just like Elvis. Same pompadour, same glasses. He even had the snarly grin down. When he saw my glance, he and gave me that superstar smile and pointed his ring encrusted fingers at me. I slowed the line down as I stared in wonder. What would possess a TSA agent to dress like Elvis every day? He was an imitation Elvis.

As I hustled off in disbelief, I started thinking about all of the people who make their lives as an imitation Elvis. Indeed, the best of them can make some big bucks in Vegas from what I've heard. But some of these men (and women) have stellar voices. What would have happened if they decided to be “ME” instead of “HIM”?  We've already had an Elvis, but we haven't had YOU!

Elvis Presley laughed about his intended career,

“I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way round somewhere along the line.”

Elvis could have been a second rate electrician or a first-rate Elvis. Don't be Elvis — be you!  Find your purpose. Read great books. Try lots of new things. Look to others for inspiration but be YOU.

The picture above is my “new office”. We've moved my desk from a tiny corner of our workout room to my youngest son's old room. (I have two of three in college now! Wow!)

I love this wall because it is MINE. When we first moved in, someone else helped me decorate. I didn't love my house as much as I do now because now my house is ME! Shakespeare says

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

Be honest with yourself about your strengths, gifts, and your own calling.

When you are honest with yourself you can start truly building your legacy. Make a determination today that you will determine to be yourself. Ask yourself questions about yourself. Am I being true to my talents and calling? Do I surround myself with things that represent me? Do I put thoughts and books in my mind that help me be a better me? Who am I trying to imitate? Can I break out and do something that is more uniquely me? You have a unique purpose — find it! BE YOU!

2. BE ETHICAL

There's a funny story where a little girl begs her teacher to tie her shoe. The teacher replies,

“You'll have to do it yourself, dear,” to which the girl replies, “Oh dear! I don't know what I'd do without myself!”

So, YOU have this one life for YOU to live. The most winning basketball coach of all time, John Wooden,  had his 7-point creed that I keep beside my desk between my two computer monitors. I read it every day. (pictured below)

1. Be true to yourself. 2. Make each day your masterpiece. 3. Help others. 4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. 5. Make friendship a fine art. 6. Build a shelter for a rainy day. 7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

John Wooden's 7 point Creed. 1. Be true to yourself. 2. Make each day your masterpiece. 3. Help others. 4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. 5. Make friendship a fine art. 6. Build a shelter for a rainy day. 7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

John Boyle O'Reilly was an outspoken poet, journalist and fiction writer advocating freedom for the Irish People. In his poem “Rules of the Road” he says:

“Be silent and safe – silence never betrays you;
Be true to your word and your work and your friend;
Put least trust in him who is foremost to praise you,
nor judge of a road till it draw to the end.”

O'Reilly and Wooden and many great men and women of history knew their beliefs. They knew what to do with themselves. William Shakespeare says,

“Mine honor is my life; both grow in one;
take honor from me and my life is done.”

Part of living an epic life is knowing not only who to live for but how to live. “How to Live” is actually the title of one of my favorite songs from “Point of Grace.” I play this song as I make decisions and ponder life.

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
And let it all out
Cause you won't regret it
Lookin back from where you have been
Cause it's not who you knew
And it's not what you did
It's how you lived

Twelve years a go, I realized that the best days of my life were those I started on my knees in prayer and reading my Bible. I also realized that the only time of the day that was mine was the morning before everyone else woke up. So, if I wanted to live the best life I could, I was going to change my morning routine and get up an hour before the rest of my family. I set my alarm clock for five a.m. Beginning my day grounded doesn't make me a perfect. (Far from it!)  But it makes me wiser. It gives me strength for the hard moments that come  like a tornado out of a blue sky.

Be intentional about your morning. Where do you draw strength?

Ask yourself these questions. How do you want to live? What are the things you believe? What are the best days of your life? How do they begin? Can you change your days so they start well? How can you be more grounded in your personal ethics?

3. FOCUS ON THE BEST USE OF YOUR TIME

“Sometimes you have to let go to the small things so your hand will have room to grasp the bigger things,”

Said my pastor, Michael Catt as part of his sermon on leadership. He should know. He's the man who said yes to two of his pastors who wanted to make movies and not only changed our church but made an impact on the world of entertainment (and many lives.) Here's how he told the story to our church a few weeks ago.

The staff of the church had been at Disney studying excellence. They had just finished a backstage tour. Each minister was spending time with Michael to share their vision for the next five years.  It was Alex's turn. He said Alex looked at him and said,

“No church would let a minister be on staff and make movies would they? I really want to make movies.”

Pastor Catt said he thought a moment and then said,

“I don't see why not.”

Alex and his brother Stephen Kendrick have now gone on to make Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), Courageous (2011), and are finishing up post production Movie Five. (See all their projects.) On the Christian film database website review of Movie Five (to be released in 2015) and their first film independent of Sherwood pictures, you can see the continuing story unfold:

“Sherwood is still our church home, and we’re here talking to you now only because Michael Catt, our pastor, took a risk, supported us and let us make a movie,” Alex Kendrick said.

So, in order to grasp something bigger, the Kendrick brothers had to let go of smaller things. Notice, I didn't say unimportant things. There are lots of important things to do in their church ministry. But to grasp at a big huge vision, they had to let go of smaller things. Our small hands can't hold everything. We choose what we hold onto.

Thomas Fuller, chaplain to Charles the Second of England says,

“He that is everywhere is nowhere.”

I can think of two big examples in my own life. I had to let go of my 250 question exam to create the Flat Classroom Project, often claimed as one of the first projects that showed the true potential of global collaboration. Then, just a year and a half a go, I had to let go of the Flat Classroom Project and the 7 projects that went along with it so I could focus on the purpose for my life. My work on Every Classroom Matters and increase in writing on sites like Edutopia and work on my third book are part of those bigger things. Not to mention, living life with no regrets as I enjoyed and savored my oldest son and middle daughter's senior year of high school.

You can't do it all. You have to often make choices between good, better, and BEST. Bad is not the enemy of best. Good is. We have all these little tiny good things that we won't let go of to grab at the best, epic things.

And when you finally grab that epic thing, magic awaits! Sir Winston Churchill, the doggedly determined Prime Minister who led Great Britain through World War 2 said,

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

If you're a successful person — that tap on the shoulder usually happens WHILE YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING ELSE. When I've had great opportunities happen, the greatest of them happened when I was very very busy and I had to choose to let go of something good to grasp at great.

Jason Cohen @asmartbear says

“Only ever work on the thing that will have the biggest impact.”

Warren Buffet says

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

To be a better person, you must make choices. Sometimes you must let go of a lesser thing to move onto greater things. Sometimes you must say “I don't see why not?”

Consider the things you have to do. Take an inventory of how you're spending your time. Is there something great you feel called to pursue? What are things that might be good but are holding you back from pursing your purpose? Seek wise advice and visionary leaders to advise you. (These decisions shouldn't be made rashly.) Seize your purpose and let that be your finest hour.

Live a Better Life – Live an Epic Life

Live an epic year this year.  I do not share as one who has arrived but as a fellow journeyman on the highway of life. I want to live an epic life. How about you?

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8 thoughts on “3 Ways to Be a Better You

  1. This entry is very uplifting, and I feel like its central message is something all educators need to remember from time to time. In a work environment where we have countless standards and benchmarks to fulfill, it can sometimes be challenging to really feel like we are in control of what we teach and how we teach it. Sometimes, I find that one of the major challenges of my job is trying to be uniform with what the Common Core expects of me while also trying to create lessons and great learning opportunities that can showcase my personal strengths as a teacher.

    Finding that balance is a challenge that is worth pursuing in the end!

  2. Enjoyed this so much. It’s 5:50 a.m. and I am up to write an essay for a summer institute application, but got sidetracked by your article… We have been a 4 generation household for about six months (84 year old mother to a 2 year old grandson) and mornings are the only time that I have time for myself! Much to ponder. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This article was amazing! It made me stop and think. The section, Focus on the Best Use of Your Time, completely held my attention. Since life moves so fast, and as a teacher, it seems to move even faster each new school year, I realized that I need to stop and really look at how I’m using my time, both personal and in the classroom. You stated, “You can’t do it all, so we need to make choices.” I agree with you, and we need to step back and make a choice to really do the things we want to do and work on what will make our lives richer.
    I really appreciated your blue box questions. I plan to sit down and look at each one and explore them for their possibilities to change something in my life.