Posts in ambition
The Spirituality of Letting Go

Wives are great at helping their husbands focus on what really matters.  I'm not sure if the same applies to husbands but here's how choices often look in the St.Pierre house:

  • Work late or attend Thomas' soccer game...
  • Call my mom or watch another episode of Alphas..
  • Prepare for a presentation or play video games... 

My wife Cary recently "gave" me a gift of focus.  We were debriefing a class that I taught on missionary spirituality when she said, "You really need to focus on one thing and then become an expert in it." 

I couldn't agree more.  The fact is, I've been struggling with various blogging themes since school began and as a result, my blog's posts have been less frequent. 

The problem wasn't that she was right (she was) but that I have three or four things that I'm really passionate about.   I guess I don't want to let go of the two or three interests in favor of the one.

That's probably the Resistance kicking in, to reference Steven Pressfield. 

This is God at work.  When we have competing priorities, we often have choices to make. The one option isn't, "I'll take them all, thanks!"  Choosing all leads to overwhelm and doing a ton of things only fairly well. God calls us to be excellent and not "fairly well" at the roles on our plate.  

A spiritual discernment of your project list will lead you to make better choices and be happier as a result.  Sure, you'll only become an expert at one thing but that's no so bad. 

This week, what do you need to let go of in order to become the expert that God wants you to be? 

P.s. I'll be unveiling in the coming months the new themes of The Daily Saint as well as some new side projects that I'm very excited about.  Stay tuned! 

Photo by FDP 

Why Everyone Needs a Second Job

There is a new neighbor down the street.  His name is Dave and he is apparently a wiz when it comes to motorcycles.  I know this because I see him every night working on one in his garage.   

I'm pretty jealous, as you can imagine.   

After all, I don't repair motorcycles, ceiling fans or cars.  I did paint a bedroom this past week which was pretty awesome. But motors... that's a different story.   I call in the experts when wires, oil or engines are involved.

Back to Dave. 

Besides his obvious skills in the garage, what's more amazing is that he has a day job.  Bikes are just a hobby but he treats them with the same energy as if it were a second job.   

His "second job" keeps him energized so that he can excel in whatever he does during the day. 

I started my second job last week as I began a new doctoral program.  For the next three years, I will treat this incredible task as if it were a second place of employment.  I'll have a second office.  A second set of notebooks.  A second set of responsibilities.

My wife, Cary often says that moms need a second job.  Their first and primary, that of being a mom, can benefit from another area of interest.  This looks differently for each mom.  Some get jazzed up by working out.  Others sell stuff online.   

The magic: it almost doesn't matter.   

The key is to be a growing person.  In my experience, a "second job" has the following benefits:

  • It ensures that you have an area of interest outside of your "day job"
  • It keeps you growing as an individual
  • It ensures that your social life is bigger than just your 9-5
  • It just might be an area of life where God meets you and teaches you something  

Dave has his second job.  I've got mine.  

The big question is, what's yours? 

*photo by fdp 


What's Holding You Back?

Do you remember the amazing story of Roger Bannister?  He was the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes.  He did this in 1954 after having been disappointed with his performance in the 1952 Olympics.  

High performers are often like that- just getting to the Olympics isn't enough.  They want to win.

Prior to his incredible accomplishment, no other person had broken the magical four minute mile mark.  Within three years, 16 others had broken through and joined the ranks of sub-four minute milers.  Incredible! 

Was there something magical about the year 1954?  Did runners suddenly discover a new method of training?  

No and no.  It was a mental and a physical breakthrough.  Runners discovered that they could break through prior barriers in their mind and in their bodies.

Here in Jersey, life is right-smack in the middle of Summer.  The kids are getting tired with having time off.  Our last vacation is right around the corner.  Life is good. 

Yet, I sometimes have a  hard time being "ok" with having time off in the Summer.  Call it Catholic Guilt or something else, I don't know.  Sometimes I feel bad for those who don't have time off like I do in the Summer.  Then I go back to work and don't really enjoy the benefits of Summer.

What's holding me back?  It's a collection of mental models I've built up (work hard, don't rest too much, etc.) and the way our culture works.  After all, most people apparently don't value vacation or time off. 

No.  Time for a change.  As of today, I'm going to stop beating myself up and enjoy Summer.  Thanks be to God that I've chosen to work in education where I can enjoy some downtime and be with my family more than most people can.  Thanks be to my bosses for believing in me and having the confidence in my work.  Thanks be to God for a family that enjoys being together.  (is there anything better than pulling in the driveway to the cheers of screaming kids?) 

Whatever is holding you back... name it and then move on.  Happiness/success/breakthrough is closer than you think.  You may not (or may!) be able to break the four minute mile but there are countless other things you can be accomplishing along the way.   

What's holding you back? 

Feature photo courtesy of FDP 


How to Make Your Work Abundantly Nice
Sure, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  But it still needs to be mowed.  The teachers that I've worked with in the last ten years occasionally get the itch to look elsewhere.  Sometimes it is the right move, based on one's family situation or even financial benefits to another environment.

But there are no perfect workplaces as we all know. After the initial honeymoon wears off, the true colors of those with whom you work do show and the deep reality of work sets in.  You still have to get up early and occasionally stay late.  Sacrifices will always need to be made.  Conflicts will arise.

So, as I told a friend this past week, you have ultimately three options for those times when you get frustrated:

  • Stay put and learn to work within the system

  • Move on and hope to find a better system

  • Become the boss so that you can steer the system according to your own preferences

For those who choose the first option, there is a temptation to "settle" and lose what broader vision once existed in your career path.  We all know folks like these who have not only settled, they've stagnated and become the kind of establishment that most of us would rather avoid.

On the flip side, when you learn to accept the foibles of those around you - the very system in which you find yourself, there are other benefits.  Here are but a few ways to avoid settling but still appreciate your workplace:

  1. Focus on others but make sure they're the right ones. Don't focus on the downers around you or those who always complain.  Rather, see your work as a ministry where you are at service to the team, the clients or those that are bettered as a result of your organization.

  2. Increase life outside of work.  It sounds strange, but the more valuable your life is outside of work, the more you're able to cope with the oddities inside work. If I didn't have a loving wife and great kids to come home to at night, I would have lost it long ago. In other words- get a life.  When those around you complain, just look forward to the exciting vacation that you have planned or the latest APP that you'll be adding to your new iPhone.  It's that simple.

  3. Look around to gain context. Check out the papers. Drive by another workplace.  Heck, even go through the process of applying for another job.  The point is this- unless you've looked elsewhere and tasted from the menu, the food you're cooking will always seem bland.  Chances are, your current situation might not be that bad after all.

  4. Become a person of prayer.  When the day begins with prayer or a kind of journaling that promotes deeper reflection, the daily grind will not seem to difficult.  It's not that faith in God makes all of life's problems go away.  It doesn't.  The thing about nurturing one's spirit is that God is invited into the daily grind, working mysteriously through those around you and giving you ways to serve them better.

Photo by Elventear
What Can You do to Pump up Someone Else's Career?
The rise of Barack Obama is nothing short of incredible, considering his short track record in the U.S. Senate.  We could speak of what he did right from a marketing perspective.  We could easily mention his ability to speak with a preacher's cadence.  But there is also one man who Obama should thank perhaps more than any other.  Rev. Wright doesn't even come close to the level of influence of this man...

Former Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Turns out Daschle, when he was unseated in his run for reelection, offered his staffing to Obama and the man from Illinois graciously accepted his offer.  The result was a plan to  move the now president-elect Obama into key circles and situations which would gradually expose him to the American public.  Guess that plan worked to a "t".

How about you? What can you do to pump up someone else's career?  Is there a skill that you've mastered that the person next to you can benefit from?  Do you have some workplace capital that can be spent for a friend in need?  With the economy the way it currently is, we can all use an ally to move us along.