Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 14: I’m Grateful for Robyn

I think I was maybe twelve when I learned that my older siblings were overachievers. It was probably when we were at the state capitol for the second time in about a month, receiving another award and having our family photo taken with our Congresswoman, who knew my mom, dad, and oldest brother and sister personally, and she said, looking at me and my two other siblings, “How many more children like these do you have?”

The state senator and congresswoman knew my family because Todd and Robyn had both worked at the capitol and had both received recognition for civic service. They’d always just “been like that.”

Robyn in particular is the kind of person that truly thinks of others before herself. It is a pure, Christ-like and unconditional love. She has a ridiculous amount of talents, really just so many talents, it’s pretty unfair, but she has always used them to help and serve others. I remember as a teenager she used her abilities to sew and make clothing so that she could modify second-hand clothes for children with disabilities so that pants, shirts, and stuff were easier to put on and take off. I know, right? What kind of a teenager does that? She’s always just been like that.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day 15: I’m Grateful for Todd

Not everybody can have the ultimate big brother. Todd is eight years older than me. And he’s always been setting the bar of awesomeness and achievement for me. Not wanting to dive into too many details of his pretty incredible life, suffice it to say that he is the most accomplished, driven, hard-working yet low-stress, patient, humble, and Christ-like human being that I know. Even to me that sounds hard to believe, but I just re-read that sentence and, yeah, it’s true. He’s pretty amazing.

After my grandma’s funeral, I enjoyed the unique experience of having about a three hour conversation with him and his wife and I was utterly astounded at the level of problems, I mean trials and stuff, sure, but like actual, life-threatening crises, that they have been through. Their lives are unbelievable.

But the result of it all is that Todd is an example of wisdom, insightfulness, and pure, faithful living that I aspire to emulate. I remember thinking as he talked about what he’s learned from his experiences, “I would love to know what he knows, but wow...I am not sure I would have made it through those trials or have handled them that way.” It’s a testament to me that God knows the lessons we need to be taught, but he also knows the tuition we are willing to pay to learn them. My brother has paid the tuition for the highest-level of education in faith, forgiveness, and love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day 16: I’m Grateful for Dad

I’ve really had two dads in my life. The same guy, just two different people at two different periods of my life. My earliest memories are of a guy who could do anything. My dad is an outdoorsman, a do-it-yourselfer, a craftsman, a born teacher, and a gifted storyteller. He was tall, deceptively strong, and just knew how to do everything. I remember working with him to split firewood, I was eight or nine, and he showed me how to use a maul and I just thought there was no one smarter or stronger. I remember changing the oil and brake pads on our car and thinking that no one could be more capable or competent. I remember pulling up old carpet and laying down new, watching him trim and notch it with perfect foresight and was astounded that anyone could know so much. As a teenager and young adult, I relied on him for things that I didn’t know how to do. He got a lot of calls from me at college asking about money, electricity, and car repair. He was a comfort and an inspiration to me when I was a missionary, remembering the stories he’d told me and the example he’d set.

About 10 years ago, my dad had a stroke and a seizure. It was the beginning of the progressive effects of non tremor Parkinson’s disease. I don’t really know what that must feel like to go through, but as someone watching it, and in my own parent, it’s a very scary and hopelessly unnerving experience. I feel helpless to witness his deterioration--it seems like he suddenly got old very fast. And I feel lost that, with the time I can spend with him, he isn’t the dad I remember. Fortunately, he is a very optimistic person. He tends to be upbeat, unjudgmental, and fairly at-ease with his situation. But it’s been hard on the rest of us, especially Mom, to lose the patriarch, the DIY-er, the man who could do just about anything. He’s simpler now. He still likes telling stories. And he still inspires me to live a good life. But I already miss the first dad in my life. And I’m trying to make the most of and be grateful for the time I still have with my dad, stage two.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Day 18: I’m Grateful for Graham

I have heard many times from many parents that you need to have “one of each” to really appreciate the differences between raising a boy and raising a girl. I now add to that, you need two of each to appreciate the difference between the very unique personalities in every individual. Graham has always been his own man. He is brave, fearless, quick to get angry, and quick to forgive. He isn’t cuddly. But he is full of love and trust. My earliest memories of this baby are of him lighting up when he saw me. I’ve always felt that he liked me, admired and looked up to me in a way that made me feel responsible to him. Graham is the kind of person that makes you want to be as awesome as he thinks you are. And I hope I can be.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Day 19: I’m Grateful for Finn

Finn is my second child, but my first son. Just like with our first, I learned again with this baby that each person is unique and individual. With all three of our children, I have found that I learn as much from them as they might be able to learn from me. But Finn is special. He is truly the most pure, most angelic human being I have ever met. He is just so good! I am astonished anew each and every time that he demonstrates love, kindness, unselfishness, and pure charity. With Finn, Ginny always uses the word “sweet.” And that’s just it, like the taste of sugar, Finn makes people happy, brings a smile to their face, and makes you want more. He’s just the kind of person you want to be around. And an example to me of what the Savior meant when he said, “Become like little children.”

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Day 20: I’m Grateful for Charlotte

Aside from getting married, having a child was one of the biggest moments of my life. The first lesson I really learned in becoming a father is that I did not just bring into the world “a child,” I brought in a very specific person, an individual, who just like me, has her own ideas, understanding, needs, and desires. Being a dad to Charlotte has been among the most unique and rewarding experiences of my life because she is unique and interesting and so full of life. By becoming not just “a dad” but “her dad,” I feel I’ve become a better person. One who is interested in stuff I never would have been (princess movies, musical theater, Wimpy Kid books), but also a person who is seeing this world and experiencing life in a fresh new way. I’ve heard that kids do that for you, make you relive life and see it differently. But this is not just any kid, this is my Charlotte.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Day 21: I’m Grateful for Ginny

This may be the hardest one of these I write. I’m already telling myself to not go too deep, to not be too personal. Writing why I’m grateful for my wife is really attempting to write about the person I know the best in the world. Yet every day I’m impressed at how interesting, smart, and dynamic this person is. If the goal of getting married is to find your best friend, the person who brings out the best in yourself, and someone who will love you more as she or he learns to know you more, then I found the best possible companion for me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day 22: I’m Grateful for Brandon Sanderson

So it wasn’t until about 2008 when I learned that Robert Jordan had passed away that I remembered a series of thick epic fantasy novels called "The Wheel of Time" I’d read in my early teens. And I was amazed, maybe a bit bewildered, to learn that Jordan’s editor and widow, Harriet McDougal, had picked some unknown upstart to finish the series. With the resurfacing of this series, the memories rushed back of adolescent late nights following Rand al’Thor and Mat Cauthon picking fights way beyond their skills, and Egwene and Nynaeve tugging reproachfully at their braids.

I’d never heard of a writer handing off his unfinished series to someone else, and frankly, I didn’t trust it. So I picked up my first Sanderson book to see just who this guy was. Like most new-comers to Sanderson, I began at Elantris. And it wasn’t love at first page.

I was an older reader, now. A grown man, with real worries and hopes in my life. It had been a long time since I believed that picking up some magic spells and a heron-marked sword could solve my problems. But I thought Arelon was wonderful, Elantrians were compellingly complicated. The characters tackled topics I hadn’t remembered from my earlier dive into fantasy: politics, human and civil rights, religion, and a very personal search for purpose and meaning that I could identify with. It was rich and complex, conflicted in the right ways, but containing a beautiful, elegant reveal that made for a fun, relatively fast (it’s 600+ pages), very immersive experience and I saw what McDougal had seen in him. This guy can write!

I devoured the Mistborn series, then Warbreaker, and finally The Way of Kings before I came up for air and looked around for what Sanderson was doing next. At this point in 2011, I was pretty much current with all of his published fantasy. So I looked around for more of his stuff and found his podcast Writing Excuses. And that's what I am most thankful for now in my life.

I love to write, I've been writing personally and professionally for years, but I have never studied the "craft of writing" sufficiently to really see myself improving at it. Listening to Writing Excuses now for over 4 years and hundreds of episodes, I feel like I'm growing, learning, and improving as a writer. It's giving me exactly what Sanderson promised in Season 10, a masterclass in writing genre fiction. And that has given me hope that my dream of publishing one of my novels is achievable.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Day 24: I’m Grateful for John Lee Dumas

I started listening to podcasts in 2011 when an ad agency friend, Scot Singpiel, first gave me some recommendations and really sold me on the idea. One of the first I downloaded was EOFire. I came in around the episode he did with Marcus Sheridan and was immediately hooked.

The style was brief, fast-paced, a bit formulaic (okay, a LOT formulaic!) but the content was compelling and ultra-relevant to my situation. John Lee Dumas, who later renamed himself JLD, was interested in the same thing I was interested in: creating a smart, automatic, content-focused business model that didn't require me to trade hours for dollars.

In five years, I've heard almost every one of his now more than 1400 daily interviews. And I'm glad to report that John has gotten better (a LOT better!) at interviewing, really hitting his guests with questions that get to the core of how they think and built their business. And I love when he doesn't let them off the hook with a weak or "backhanded compliment" of an answer!

For those of you like me that are preparing for our one-day-in-the-future interview with John Lee Dumas, or whoever is successfully following in his well-defined footsteps at that time, here is the basic outline of the questions we'll need to answer:

JLD Question #1: Are you prepared to ignite? (You just have to basically find a creative way to say "Yes, I'm ready" and no matter what you come up with, John will laugh over your response)

JLD Question #2: I've given a little bit of your background. Now tell us a little more about yourself and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life. (Not really a question, but he will pause and wait for you to come up with an answer. And yes, he says "a little bit" a lot)

JLD Question #3: (He will segue from whatever you gave him in the last question and then say something like:) Well, it takes a lot of dolla's to do (whatever that awesome thing you claim you're doing in your personal life). So where does the revenue come from? Where are you making your money today?

JLD Question #4: What is your worst failure to-date as an entrepreneur? (And don't even try to not make it a story or to say you have more than one!) There's only one "worst" (he'll remind you) and I really want you to take us to that exact moment. Really tell us that story.

(And be prepared for the follow-up of "What do you really want to make sure Fire Nation gets from that story?" Nine times out of ten, John's gonna make you spell it out!)

JLD Question #5: Now what's your greatest "Ah-ha" moment? (This is the question he upgraded to from his previous "Have you had an 'I made it' moment?" question that got a lot of ambivalent or otherwise not-helpful responses)

JLD Question #6: What's your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur? (And he's a shark sniffing for blood on this question. I love when the guest tries to get away with the ol' college interview answer like "My strengths ARE my weaknesses" or "My biggest weakness is probably that I work TOO hard and I care TOO much." He will laugh it off, but then he'll hit you again with something like, "Really? THAT'S your biggest weakness? Come on. What's it really?)

JLD Question #7: And what's your biggest strength? (This answer is usually the briefest of the whole interview, so stay trite and save your best snappy answers for the upcoming Lightning Round. It's nominally John's favorite.)

JLD Question #8: You are busy and you've got a lot going on that you're justifiably excited about. But I want to know, what has you most fired up about your business today?

And then it's time for the Lightning Round!

Lightning Round Question #1: (He starts with the indispensable and perpetually awkward:) Are you prepared for the Lightning Round? (Where you have to be ready with a snappy, "Yep," "Sure, John," or an awkward, "Let's light it up!" Oh, and there was one terribly bad one where the guy was like, "I'm a Buddhist monk dipped in kerosene" or some similarly scarring visual reference. I'm not gonna be that guy. Let's prepare a simple answer. Let's not be that guy.)

Lightning Round Question #2: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? (Most common answers John will accept: "Fear" or "Nothing!")

Lightning Round Question #3: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? (Best if you can quote a celebrity or your dad. Bonus points if it's a nod to a previous answer)

Lightning Round Question #4: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? (Basically an opening for you to brag about how you're super into meditation)

Lightning Round Question #5: Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation. (And he will bust you up if you try to use Evernote. He's like, "Seriously? I just said 'like Evernote.'" But man, his guests seem to LOVE Evernote)

Lightning Round Question #6: If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why? (Then he used to plug his team up with Audible. 'Cause he knows we love audio! I mean, we listen to podcasts, we're not the kind of people running out and buying bound packets of dead wood!)

Lightning Round Question #7: The $500 question. (And yes, it's a doozy! Always a "doozy") Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you know no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?

John Lee's Question #8, or #9, or #15, I'm not sure how I was keeping count: I want to end today the same way we started–on fire!–with you sharing a parting piece of advice, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye. (This complicated three-part finale of a question usually throws them, so make sure you don't leave a part out, or he'll inevitably follow up with a reminder for the part you forgot)

Bonus Question from John Lee Dumas: And where is the best place that people can find you?

John Lee will remind us all: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. (And then the part you've been waiting for, he's gonna change your name to initials. Will you get three? Maybe just two? Does John even know your middle initial?)

You’ve been hanging out with SPB and JLD today–so keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Shawn in the search bar and his show note page will pop right up with everything we’ve been talking about. (He may remind you they're the best show notes in the biz, Fire Nation, with links and time stamps GALORE!)

Then you're done! Twenty-five minutes of unedited, immortalized podcast fame.

But I love it. I can't tell you how many of my rough, ROUGH mornings have started off with me feeling miserable and uninspired at 5am and become 25 minute personal mentor and motivation sessions for me because of the awesome content that JLD is putting out through EOFire. And for that, I am grateful. And I’ll catch you on the flipside!

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