The First Line

Posted on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 05:30AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

After the State of the Union Address Tuesday night conservative pundits panned the President on television and radio. They have to, I guess. The political game is so fierce that they dare not give him an inch. The President’s critics said he didn’t give enough specifics. And the specifics he did give proved he hadn’t heard the message the electorate sent in November.

Pundits notwithstanding, I enjoyed the speech. I liked the Patriotic tone. Barack Obama sounded, at times, like a great conservative. Large parts of the speech could have been delivered by Ronald Reagan himself. For the first several minutes, I wondered just how far to the right Mr. Obama’s triangle was leaning.

As the speech progressed, he did show his liberal hand, no surprise. But the fact that he spoke of American Exceptionalism (without using the phrase) indicated that he had heard the electorate; and he is willing to meet the Republicans a bit right of halfway. But more importantly, it let us know that he believes this country is special - is a shining city on a hill.  

The cynics say that he doesn’t believe it. He just waxed Patriotic because he knew that’s what we wanted to hear. Maybe so, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it is extraordinary that, in the most public of speeches, a 21st century Democrat said America is “not just a place on a map, but the light of the world.” Not a light in the world, mind you, THE light of the world. That’s good stuff.

Liberals, like the President, see issues in still snapshots. They do not, or cannot, see the individual effort and individual genius that creates good and great things and situations. And they cannot foresee what will happen when the incentives to individual effort and genius are replaced with government-administered, taxpayer-funded plans and programs.

No one knows what the future will hold. Liberals think they can manipulate and plan it. Conservatives have faith that, when individual passion and persistence is given room to flourish, good things, heretofore unknown and unpredictable, will result. 

The first line of the President’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night may have been the most extraordinary. Maybe it just sounded like perfunctory pleasantries, but, if you are a citizen of Tunisia, Egypt or Lebanon this week, America’s peaceful transition of Congressional power is, as Ronald Reagan said in his 1st Inaugural, “nothing less than a miracle.” 

The first line of the President’s speech was: “Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner.” 

The President then said: “It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart.” 

Yes! Except for the last sentence. What actually helps set us apart is the civility within which the contentiousness and ferocity are contained. Sure there are harsh words, but, at some other places on the map, opposing political parties physically fight for power. In Tunisia and Egypt and Lebanon there is rioting in the streets and elected leaders fleeing the country over beliefs which we robustly debate. 

Most State of the Union Addresses start with the same line: “The State of our Union is strong.” And end with the same line: “God Bless the United States of America.” Mr. Obama chose not to begin with the former, but to end with both. And, though we have big problems, the state of our union is incredibly strong compared to all the other countries in the world and compared to all the other countries in the history of the world. 

The President said, “The idea of America endures. Our destiny is our choice.” And “It’s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.”

Embed those words in your heart and mind. It is not because of big government. It is because of our people. 

Thank you for reading this post. If you found it enjoyable, enlightening, edifying, useful…please recommend it to your friends, family, co-workers, customers, vendors…And please check out other Point28 posts below. Thank You! –Lon   

 

 

Connections

Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 06:17AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Any clarification in your own mind of your roles or your goals will improve your experience of this life. However, the most improvement will result from, not only clearly identifying your roles and clearly identifying your goals, but connecting them. 

The solidness of the connection is important. When transmitting a signal through a wire it is useful that that wire be well-connected at each end and that it be well-insulated along its whole length. This happens inside your body, as well. Your brain contains billions of neural pathways. The more pathways, and the better each pathway is connected and insulated, the better your brain works. The formulation of new pathways is called neurogenesis and the insulation of those pathways is called myelination.

Just like the HDMI cable to your television or the neurological cables in your brain, the connections between your roles and your goals need to be well-connected at each end and well-insulated. For the sake of this analogy, we’ll say that “well-connected and well-insulated” are represented by the straightness of the line between roles on the left and goals on the right (Roles are on the left because we read from left to right and it is useful to start with roles and work toward goals.) 

Like millions of other people, I got an Apple iPad for Christmas. Yesterday, I downloaded an app that allows me to draw on the screen with my finger (epiNoteHDPlus by Daydex Software). In playing with this app, I found, not to my surprise, that I could not draw a straight line. But I quickly realized that if I touched the screen at two points, simultaneously, a perfectly straight line appeared between my fingertips.

Having been involved in rec-league soccer with my daughters, I’ve lined a few soccer fields. To do this correctly, you first must pull a string between stakes. At the fields where I did some line-drawing, there were grommetted holes in the ground at the corners of the fields and goalie boxes. Metal poles were inserted into the holes and then string was pulled from pole to pole. A person (occasionally me) pushing a small cart, with an upside down spray-paint can, then follows the string to paint straight lines onto the grass. I’ve seen some fields that were lined without pulling a string. They look like the cart-operator was really drunk.    

The question for us is how do we draw the straightest line between our roles and our goals? Most things are not accomplished in fell swoops or huge leaps. They are accomplished incremental step by incremental step. It would be nice if, like on the iPad, a perfectly straight line just materialized between our roles and our goals, but, probably because God’s plan works itself out in our lives by the journey more than the destination, we have to imperfectly and incrementally create the connecting lines in segments. These segments are the working units of your life. They are all those “now” moments that click past, day by day and year by year.

To effect positive change, to connect roles and goals, we have to convert the segments into action steps. We have to pull the string. The trick to doing this is to actively choose, not passively stand by. But it takes work. You would not presume to be able to tell me what my roles and goals should be, or what action steps I should take to connect them. And I cannot tell you what yours should be. Sit quietly in a room alone and work it out. Be diligent and persistent. It may take a while. But the exercise of working it out is, itself, hugely beneficial. And the resulting clarity can make all the difference in your joy and significance of this life. 

Thank you for reading this post. If you found it enjoyable, enlightening, edifying, useful…please recommend it to your friends, family, co-workers, customers, vendors…And please check out other Point28 posts below. Thank You! –Lon  

This Stuff Can Take A Lifetime

Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 07:28AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments4 Comments

Have you determined your mission? Have you identified your roles? If not, no worries. This stuff can take a lifetime. But as long as you have not become aware of your mission and have not stepped into the roles for which you were designed, you are clinging to a rock as the current of your real purpose flows quickly by.

I have a friend who is into hang gliding. He goes up to Lookout Mountain, Georgia, straps himself to his glider and jumps into thin air. Hang gliders don’t have any means of propulsion, so the ride is basically a controlled fall. But I learned from my friend that accomplished hang glider pilots can remain aloft for long periods of time by steering into columns of rising hot air called thermals.

Think about your life as the distance between the jumping-off point at Lookout Mountain and the earth below. The length of your life is the time between leaping off the mountain and touching down in the field at the mountain’s base. If you are just along for the ride, you’ll have an unexciting, insignificant decent from birth to death.

While no one can refute natural law, it is possible to leverage aerodynamics and thermal convection currents to counter gravity, temporarily. In other words, if you become aware of a mission, come to see yourself as the person uniquely gifted to accomplish that mission and set goals accordingly, you can have a joyful, significant, up-lifting flight through this world.

So let’s assume you have either become aware of your mission and identified your roles or you are about to. The rest of the process is: prioritization of those roles, setting of goals, prioritization of the goals, developing action steps with timelines that connect your prioritized roles to your prioritized goals and enlisting some people to hold you to all this.

If it makes you feel any better, the process alone improves your experience of this life. So set aside some time for yourself; and do it.

                                                     + + +

There are two reasons for prioritizing roles and goals:  

1) We each have a finite amount of mental bandwidth, physical energy and drive – some people have more, some people have less, all have limits – which makes efficiency important. Expending energy into the ether only produces sound and fury signifying nothing. Unfocused effort defuses power.  You have to select and achieve each role and each goal, individually. 

2) Worthy roles and goals come easily to mind, there are a gazillion from which to choose. But some things are more important than others, not utterly maybe, but to you. And they must be, or no progress can be made. The saying, “Nothing is accomplished except by a monomaniac with a mission,” may not be absolutely true, but there is plenty of truth in it.

Warning: Others will inevitably attempt to enlist your bandwidth, energy and drive for the furtherance of their goals. Resist this. Certain people may command that you help them, but the more likely approach will be to attempt to convince you of the merit of their goals. Keep in mind that the merit of another’s goals is beside the point. They may have fine goals. However, if their goals do not align with your own, loaning your limited resources is just a defusing distraction.

You can only focus on a few roles and a few goals. Pray about it. Meditate on it. Decide what they are then rank them in order of importance.  

Next week we’ll talk about creating action steps to connect our roles to our goals.

Thank you for reading this article. If you found it enjoyable, enlightening, edifying, useful…please recommend it to your friends, family, co-workers, customers, vendors…And please check out other Point28 articles below. Thank You! –Lon  

Forget Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 06:44AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

Forget your New Year’s resolutions. They are useless. 

If you start the New Year with new resolutions, and nothing else, you’ll become a statistic. I’m sure you have read, or could right now search up, an article about the pitifully low success rate of New Year’s resolutions. So if you really want to improve your lot in 2011, you will have to resolve to do more than resolutions.

I guess it would be more accurate to say: Resolutions are alone useless. Resolutions are goals. And goal-setting can be a powerful tool for positive change. I could recommend some goal-setting techniques or, better yet, some good books on goal-setting, but goal-setting is not the beginning of the process; it’s the middle. And starting in the middle is why New Year’s resolutions usually fail.

Businesses use a process called strategic planning to effect positive change. And there are aspects of strategic planning that are also applicable to personal change efforts. Here are 8 steps to positive change: 1) Develop a personal mission statement based on your values and abilities. 2) Identify the roles you must play (the word “play” is not used lightly here) in order to realize your mission. 3) Prioritize your roles. 4) Create goals (resolutions) as destination points. 5) Prioritize your goals. 6) Create action steps which connect your roles to your goals. 7) Attach your action steps to a timeline. And the last step is to enlist others to hold you accountable for executing the action steps and executing them on time.

This is a little overwhelming, I know. But you can see why just declaring a list of resolutions is not effective. The strategic planning process, for a business or a person, requires time and effort. But it is well worth it.

Lest you think you are stumped from the get go because you don’t have a mission, consider what Richard Bach said, “Here is a test of whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Given that you’re still here, you have a mission. It would serve you well to ascertain what it is and to align your resolutions with it. The nature of your specific mission, by the way, cannot be determined for you or assigned to you. No teacher, preacher, parent or spouse can tell you what it should be, though many will try. The discovery and execution of it are up to you alone. This is both scary and liberating.

God made it clear to me that my mission does not involve playing the role of a singer, musician, artist, or athlete. My striking lack of talent in these areas leaves no doubt (Disappointing at first, but a blessing in the long run – many fewer distractions).

By eliminating things you obviously were not meant to do, and by asking yourself two questions, you can get at the details of your mission. The questions are: 1) What would you (do you) do for free? and 2) During what activity do you lose track of time?

In other words, actually the words of Sydney Smith: “Be what nature intended you for, and you will succeed.”   

Inexorably linked to your mission are your roles. Keep in mind that a role is not a job or task. Though aligning your job and tasks with your roles is a very good use of the finite time you have on this earth and leads to the truism: “A person who does what he loves never works a day in his life.”

A role is who you are, not what you do. Being a father is a role. Parenting is the associated job. Being an artist is a role. Painting is an associated task.

Think about your mission and roles. Pray about it. Meditate on it. Write them down. And we’ll talk about the rest of the process next week.

Thank you for reading Point28. If you found it edifying, enlightening or interesting, tell a friend.  

Begin Anew

Posted on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 06:43AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments Off

Thank you for reading Point28. Since February 2006 I have written 335 blog posts, but most were written some time ago. My intention now, in 2011, is to put up an article-length post once a week, like a weekly column.  

In the past, I was careful to not offend anyone. I tried to say things in a vanilla way. I avoided the third-rail topics of God and politics. I do not intend to do that going forward. I have turned down some good opportunities in order to make the time to write and in order to avoid associating organizations with my opinions; so I intend to make it worthwhile.

God and politics will by no means be the only topics. And, even when they are the topics, this will not be about individual religions or individual politicians. It will be about concepts and context. I am not a preacher or a politician; and I don’t care to be. I have neither a seminary education nor a political science degree. Everything I put forth will be from my personal experience.

I hope that you, the reader, will question and challenge me, either publicly, in the comment space after each post, or privately via e-mail (see “e-mail Lon” to the left).

My sincere prayer is that everything I write will positively impact someone, bearing in mind that sometimes the best way to positively impact someone is to turn up the heat.

The fun begins below, with the first article of this new start. 

Deer Hunter

Posted on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 07:52AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

Imagine that I am part of a tribe of hunter/gatherers, long ago and far away. In this tribe, each individual specializes in doing the tasks at which he or she is best. In the early days every family was responsible for doing all the things necessary for subsistence. Now, individuals specialize and exchange the fruits of their labor for the fruits of others’ labor. By doing this, each person has a lot more discretionary time and higher quality stuff.  

Imagine that my job is to hunt; and I am quite good at it. In fact, I almost always get a deer. I then bring the deer back to the tribe and exchange its parts (meat, antlers, buckskin, etc) for other things I need or want, like vegetables, handmade tools and clothes, even jewelry.

At some point, those chosen to lead our tribe ask that each person donate part of his or her productivity to help improve the village.  Wanting a better village, we agree. But over several years, the leaders keep asking for more and more to be “donated”. And over this same time the leaders start using the donations to pay people to help them run the village.

A cycle ensues of demanding more and more be donated to the “common good” and hiring more and more people to administer it. Until, finally, I have to give the leaders over half of all the deer I hunt. And, in a crazy twist, because I’m a successful hunter, they require me to give more of my bounty than they do the less successful hunters.

One day I’m out in the woods all alone, hunting and contemplating the state of affairs back at the village. I have been tracking a big deer and now have the chance to take it. But just at that moment, a thought hits me: I have used my God-given ability and my persistence and hard work to become very good at harvesting deer, but others are taking advantage of my good nature and living off of my work without exchanging me something of equal value.

So, instead of taking the deer, I decide to quit hunting for the tribe. I disappear into the woods never to be seen by the tribe’s people again. And the leaders are, at first furious, and then flummoxed, and then crestfallen. Their free ride is over. 

Fat and Happy 

Posted on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 07:57AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Most people in America struggle, a little or a lot, with their weight. Perhaps this is an unfortunate byproduct of a fortunate birthright: Living, by the grace of God, in the most prosperous country in the history of the world. (I feel compelled, every time I say that, to add that it is not just hyperbole. Check out U.S. GDP, or medical innovation, or military strength, or any of a multitude of other indicators.)

Right now, we are learning what we don’t want regarding our eating and exercising habits. Never has a country been so prosperous and never have its people been so fat. These things do tend to work themselves out over time. We will either learn to discipline ourselves or the external factors that have enabled our prosperity will go away, one or the other. John Adams wrote in a letter to John Taylor, in 1814: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.”

Unfortunately, the old saying fat and happy came from an era when each meal took a lot more work to come by and most people just dreamed of a life in which they would have the combination of ample leisure and abundant food that they imagined would make them fat and happy.

Maybe Jackie Gleason added fuel to this fire. He was a bigger-than-life television star (The Honeymooners) and often, throughout his life, was literally bigger around than the vast majority of men. And maybe Babe Ruth also added to the mystique, with his rotund frame and by famously, in 1930, earning more money than the President of the United States (back when that was unheard of for a baseball player). I’m not saying that Gleason or Ruth, necessarily, were happy, but their lifestyles were certainly aspired to by the masses.  

When I was in my teens, I could eat with abandon, exercise casually, and never gain a pound. In my twenties I kept eating, but found I had to be more intentional about exercise to maintain a good weight. In my thirties, much to my chagrin, I found it took exercise and calorie-restriction to keep the weight right.

Our ancestors stayed thin because they had to expend a whole bunch of energy on the basics. Thanks to the glorious success of our country, we don’t have to do that. But in the mists of this economic recession maybe we are finding that, while we are still fat, we are not so happy. And I submit that, if we continue down the road we are on, we will find not only our ability to pursue happiness, but our ability to be fat with prosperity will be relegated to the ash heap.

John Adams went on to write, “There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Suicide by obesity maybe, from overconsumption of the prosperity our democracy, without the discipline and exercise that was required to build it and would undeniably be required to perpetuate it.  

Thank you for reading this article. If you found it enjoyable, enlightening, edifying, useful…please recommend it to your friends, family, co-workers, customers, vendors… And please check out other Point28 articles below. Thank you!  -Lon 

The Problem is Supply and Demand 

Posted on Monday, August 2, 2010 at 09:51PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

Thursday, I read an article in The Produce News (a produce industry trade periodical). An interview subject, in the article, about the challenges of potato farming, says:

“The basic problem is supply and demand.” 

I beg to differ. Supply and demand is not a problem, nor a solution. It is a natural law, like gravity. You would not say, “The problem with falling is gravity.” Gravity is a given. There may be many solutions to the problem of falling, but, make no mistake, falling is the problem, not gravity.

Likewise, farmers’ businesses struggling is the problem. Supply and demand is a natural force with which all businesses must contend.

Falling hurts, as does failing at business, which is why the occurrence (or even the possibility) of either is a powerful, and potentially beneficial, driver of behavior. Complaining about gravity will not keep you from falling. Complaining about supply and demand will not keep your business from failing. But understanding gravity and understanding supply and demand can lead to decisions that prevent falling and failing.

Admittedly the analogy breaks down at some point. We cannot choose to leave earth in order to avoid gravity and keep from falling. It is, however, sometimes a valid strategy to leave a certain line of work, to avoid failing. In fact, free-market capitalism, which is based on supply and demand, dictates that weaker players leave the industry.

Marcus Buckingham taught us to focus on our strengths. And Jim Collins taught us to find our Hedgehog Concept. If time, education and effort do not yield great results in a certain pursuit, maybe that’s an indication that it’s time to change paths. 

It is traumatic, I know, to change professions. But it can also be the catalyst for a more satisfying and successful life. Take my friend, Randy, for example (a real person, so I’ll withhold his last name). Randy was a potato farmer in Maine. His family had been potato-farming for decades. But by the time Randy inherited the family farm, it was not (for whatever reason) profitable. After years of trying to make it work, he made a faithful decision. He embarked on a new course. He moved from Maine to Georgia for a job at a potato packing company.

Obviously, the decisions to leave farming and leave Maine were big and caused considerable trepidation. But, after a couple of years of learning the new ropes, Randy became and remains, very successful. His family is happy and well provided for. (And they like Georgia’s weather better than Maine’s.)

Supply and demand is not compassionate. It metes out fates that may not be to our short-term liking. But with resilience, perseverance, work-ethic, continuing-education and faith in divine intervention, the results can certainly be to our long-term benefit. 

Thank you for reading this article. If you found it enjoyable, enlightening, edifying, useful…please recommend it to your friends, family, co-workers, customers, vendors… And please check out other Point28 articles below. Thank you!  -Lon 

 

The Moment of Truth Stands Alone

Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 09:51PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments4 Comments

In the normal course of things, situations arise that challenge us. We often wish that we were not faced with these situations, but they are necessary. The only way to know how you will react in a situation is to be in it. Training is, of course, extremely useful (think Paris Island or flight simulators). But still, the moment of truth stands alone. 

You can prepare and practice and train for a situation, but the only way you will know how you will perform in the situation is to be in the situation.

This tough lesson, we had to learn. But it is a tough lesson we who chose to be parents and/or bosses must learn again, from a different perspective. Because we have already met the dragon (several times) and won (and lost), we know the subtleties and intricacies necessary to produce the results we desire. And we know that our children and/or subordinates do not yet have those skills.

In his latest book, “The Little Big Things”, Tom Peters says, “Sure the boss’s job is to get the job done effectively. But boss-hood primarily entails an abiding responsibility for the people under your charge.” And, of course, parenthood is ALL about an abiding responsibility for the people (your children) under your charge.

So how do we bring them to competence? Coaching, training, teaching, mentoring, roll-modeling? Yes. Yes. Yes. All of the above. I am not in favor of a sink or swim methodology.

But at some point, after the appropriate amount of illustration, demonstration and academic pontification, from you, the child or subordinate has to, like you did (and do), face the moment of truth.

Many times the most difficult thing for us, the parent or manager, is to remain quiet in the gap, to resist the strong temptation to handle the situation ourselves or to interject unsolicited (and hopefully, unneeded) advice. I never want to set anyone up for failure. But once they are set up for success, the scenario must be allowed to play itself out.

Dogs are raised to be dependent on us for life. We do not want independent pets. But take care not to raise your kids and work subordinates to be dependent on you for life. Your greatest accomplishment is their ability to surmount challenges and slay dragons without your help. 

 

 

Disposable Distractions

Posted on Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 12:53PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

After Sunday Soccer* this week, I went home and cleaned out my bathroom drawer and cabinets. In the 8 years we have lived in this house, I have accumulated quite a bit of out-of-date or just plain useless junk. I tend to accumulate stuff because I think I may have some need of it in the future. Amongst the clutter, there were dozens of buttons and plastic collar stays amid the expired Neosporin and eye drops. The junk did not actually obstruct my view or block my access to the good stuff (toothbrush, razor, fingernail clippers); but it was distracting and distressing in a subtle, chronic kind of way.

I have virtually stopped watching and reading the news, with the exception of National political stories, because it is equally as distracting and distressing. I don’t want to have my head in the sand, but I also don’t want it filled with that junk that passes as news. I am of the opinion that most news, even what is called “hard news,” is sensationalism done for ratings and entertainment (Stephen King novels kind of entertaining). While some horrible thing happening to someone is a tragedy for that person and his or her family and friends, there is no good reason to tell the world about it. It does not serve the greater good in any way.

If you intend to dedicate yourself to praying for each of the individuals affected by each of the tragedies that come to your attention, I think, that is a laudable and helpful thing to do; but face it—we don’t watch the news or listen to gossip so that we can ask God to intercede. We do it to be entertained and to make ourselves feel superior or lucky.  

I believe in philanthropy and community involvement, and I put my money and time where my mouth is. However, concerning myself with the soap-opera like details comprising the lives of every stranger I hear about is counterproductive and decreases my ability to actually do good.

We each have a certain amount of bandwidth. We can only absorb so much of the world outside of ourselves. If we are using most of our bandwidth for things that we’ll never have any chance to positively affect, then we have no capacity left to do that which would make a constructive contribution.

So choose to take in only that which you can and will use to do good. Focus on leading the life you are here to lead. Do not be distracted by exciting and interesting but useless things.

It is the time of year when many people create and break New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are goals, and the only way to accomplish a worthwhile goal is to focus on the action steps that lead to the desired end. Earlier in my life, I thought that just the passage of time would bring improvement. I would look out into the future and pick a date and think to myself, “If I can just make it to that date things will be better.” But that thinking was terribly flawed because in the meantime I didn’t change my behavior in any way that would constitute a step toward improvement.

People often interpret the phrase “on the straight and narrow” to mean eschew fun for work or obligation. I submit to you that it has a different meaning: Focus on and move toward worthwhile goals without becoming distracted.

We naturally try to process everything that we see, everything that we read, and everything that we hear. But the more distractions, the less focus on the goal. Carefully choose resolutions/goals that improve you and make a positive impact on the world. Then narrow your focus. Clear away the clutter. The shotgun approach does not work. You must pick out a target and consider everything else a disposable distraction.

 

*Sunday Soccer is a weekly adult soccer game and Bible study/Devotional. 

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Tiger

Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 02:10PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

I have been a Tiger Woods fan from the beginning. Well, not from his beginning as a golfer and celebrity, at the age of 2, on the Mike Douglas show (1978); but since he was at Stanford and winning back to back to back US Amateur Championships (1994, 1995, 1996). It is hard to believe now, but when Tiger turned pro, in August 1996, many, if not most, people who followed golf had doubts that he would do as well on the PGA Tour as he had done in collegiate and amateur golf. Some of these “doubts” may have been veiled racism, but the negative feelings toward Tiger were also because he was perceived to be cocky (read: over-confident)

Gary Player said, “There is as much difference between an 18-handicapper and a scratch player as there is between a scratch player and a tour pro.” There was an article in a recent golf magazine about great recreational players who, in their late 40’s, aspire to qualify to play on the PGA’s 50-and-over Champions Tour (formerly the Senior Tour). The article made it painfully clear that even great non-pros haven’t a chance of making the Champions Tour.

All this is to say that the common wisdom, when Tiger turned pro, was that even a great college and amateur player would need a few years of experience before he could win against the world’s best. But Tiger didn’t see it that way. He said unequivocally that he could compete on the Pro Tour. And he proved that he could more than just compete, winning twice in his rookie year and winning The Masters (by 12 strokes!) and rising to #1 on the money list in his second professional season (1997). 

USA Today is currently selling a “Special Edition” celebrating Muhammad Ali’s “50 years on the world stage”. Ali was the epitome of talking big and then producing an outcome that matched, and often exceeded, the rhetoric. Tiger didn’t shout from the mountaintop like Ali. He did, however, exuded confidence. And, like Ali, he backed it up, exponentially.

There is an important, but oft muddled, distinction between cocky and confident. The former is ego and the latter is certitude. Unlike a lot of people, I never saw Tiger’s confidence as cockiness. Then as now, he knew he was good (to understate it) but it was a knowing, not conceit. All golfers who make it to the PGA Tour are good enough to win on any given week. One of the factors that sets Tiger so far apart from his peers is this confident knowing. And I assumed that the clarity of mind necessary to eschew self-doubt in his golf game also facilitated confident knowing regarding his values. The continuity I perceived, across his work life and personal life, his public persona and his private persona, was the thing that I admired as much as the winning. And that’s shot to hell now.

The life of a celebrity, whom I do not and never will know, does not, on the whole, affect me much. But I have found that recent (and ongoing) revelations about Tiger’s divergence from the straight and narrow disappoint me. I know, as Tiger says himself, in his most recent website statement, he is “far short of perfect”. Nonetheless, I feel let down. 

Listening to the main stream media report on Tiger’s situation, over the last several days, led me to think I was alone in being negatively affected by it, until Wednesday night. I turned on The Golf Channel. It was as if someone had died. The anchors and reporters spoke in hushed tones and looked down a lot (very uncharacteristic of the normally ebullient Golf Channel staff). If you’re cynical, you could speculate that they just saw their meal ticket lose half its value – kind of their own private recession. Since Tiger generates more interest in golf alone than all other players generate combined. But I think Kelly Tillman and associates are, like me, genuinely disappointed in their hero. Unlike me, this is a guy they all know and have respected from up close.

Tiger is still a phenomenal player. He will still probably break Jack’s records. He will be, like Ali, the greatest. But he will never be so off the course, again. 

Spinning Turbines not Wheels

Posted on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 09:55PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment | References395 References

There is an article in the December 2009 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine about alternative energy. It turns out that the place most associated with old energy is leading the way in the production of new energy. Texas, home of the U.S. oil industry, has more windmills than any other state in the Union, by multiples. And actually I misspoke, they are not windmills; they are wind turbines. Windmills convert the power of wind into mechanical energy which is then used to run machinery directly. Wind turbines convert wind power into electricity.  

Incidentally, it holds true with wind turbines that everything is big in Texas. The plains of the Lone Star State sport rows and rows of 20-story tall, 3-bladed turbines. Turbines which enable decidedly ungreen Texas to generate 8300 megawatts of electricity from wind. While the capitol of green living, California, only generates 2781 megawatts.

So how did Texas eclipse every other state in the production of something that so many of those other states supposedly value more? The answer would make Milton Friedman proud: Free market capitalism. 

In Texas the state government stays out of the way and allows free enterprise to function. So there were very few barriers to erecting wind turbines. Texans, motivated by profit not climate change dogma, built wind turbines because it was in their self-interest to do so. They didn’t need cap and trade or government land or a federal mandate or stimulus money, just the likelihood that an investment in a good idea would yield that for which the market was willing to pay, in this case, clean, sustainable electricity.

Everybody wants a clean environment and sustainable energy. Only some of us object to convoluting these universal aspirations into a pseudo-religion bent on punishing achievement by confiscating its spoils. Besides being plain wrong it also fails to produce the results it professes to desire. Only the profit-motivated, self-interested, rugged individual actually produces results. Everything else is just the spinning of wheels, instead of turbines. 

Abolish Labor Day 

Posted on Monday, September 7, 2009 at 07:12PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

Two years ago I was writing blog posts in this space frequently and on Labor Day 2007 I posted this: 

The United States’ Labor Day, as the name implies (once you know the history), was begun by an organization in the New York/New Jersey area called The Central Labor Union. I have always found it ironic that a day set aside for not laboring was called Labor Day, but the name was likely meant to tie the holiday with the labor union, not the lack of labor on the day.

I am one of the many who (used to) get Labor Day and Memorial Day confused. They were, in my narcissistic perception, just identical bookends to summer. A good friend, who is a former Marine, admonished me for this, on Memorial Day last, with such fervor that I felt (deservedly) embarrassed and unpatriotic. These feelings were exacerbated when I began researching the origins of Labor Day to write what you are now reading.

Not only do Memorial Day and Labor Day represent very different things, they are, in a lot of uncomfortable ways, antitheses of one another. Memorial Day is set aside to remember (hence the name) and honor those who fought and died for liberty and democracy. Labor Day is a celebration of communism and socialism. I know that is a provocative statement. But the origins of Labor Day bear me out.

Our Labor Day in the United States is the first Monday in September. In many other countries Labour Day is May 1st and is synonymously called May Day. And, though May 1st has been the day of choice for many holidays in the course of history, the modern May Day is widely viewed as a day to celebrate communism and socialism. And, in fact, though both have evolved, Labor Day and May Day each began in the 1880’s in The United States. And each was started by organizations with far-left philosophies. Labor Day, as already noted, by The Central Labor Union and May Day (in Chicago) in commemoration of the Haymarket Riots by the international socialist movement.

I suggest we abolish Labor Day. My name is Lon Langston; and I am a recovering workaholic. Sorry, I digressed into the 12-step intro. My point is that I am a recovering workaholic and as such have no problem with holidays. We need more time with our families and friends, golf clubs and fishing poles. But I would suggest we do away with Labor Day and replace it with Prosperity Day. Not Labor Day on which we celebrate the opposite of free markets and free people, but Prosperity Day – a holiday on which we celebrate the brains and brawn that catapulted and keeps America the most prosperous country in the history of the world (that is not, by the way, subjective hyperbole. Look up the GDP of the USA compared to all other countries).

The demise of Labor Day has a collateral benefit: it eliminates the oxymoronic practice of calling a day set aside not to labor, Labor Day. So my friends, labor not today but rest and celebrate your prosperity and that of your country.

Happy Prosperity Day!      And God Bless America!

787

Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 04:27PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments Off

$787 billion

No body has asked me, but if they did, I would say that the economic woes of the largest economy in the history of the world (by multiples) will not be corrected by policy-making or law-making or taxing or spending or bailing out, or stimulating, or anything else we hear that our elected representatives are spending their time and our money doing.  They should not be doing it, and we should vote for people who won’t. But in the meantime you and I need to protect our freedom and money from both the effects of economic downturns and the bad policy that they can incite.

The problem is philosophical not practical.  The problem is in our way of thinking.  People who lived through the Great Depression have a different mentality than those of us (which is now most of us) who did not. They are inherently more frugal. And I would argue that this recession will make the rest of us more frugal. To be sure, most of the audience of Point28 is already fiscally (and otherwise) responsible; so I will not make the misstep of preaching Dave Ramsey sermons to the choir.

When my first wife (who is my only and current wife) and I were young, we had some unsecured debt: credit cards. And we had some under-collateralized debt: upside down car loans.  But not more than we could comfortable handle at bill-paying time each month.

Once, with an opportunity to make small talk with a (as it turned out) somewhat crass financial planner, I thought I would be urbane and ask him what investments he recommended. He looked down his nose, over his reading glasses, at me, in a very effectively demeaning way, and said, “Do you have any credit card debt?” In that instant between the question and the answer I very much wanted to emphatically say “NO!” But I could not. I tried to obfuscate but only managed to downplay as I answered, as nonchalantly as my feelings of inadequacy would allow, “Yeah, we have a little credit card debt.”  He said, without an ounce of empathy, “Pay that off then ask me about investments.” Good advice, harshly delivered and, fortunately, well-taken.

Over the next year, we paid off the credit card debt and never extended ourselves in that way again. Sometime later, we made a pact never to be upside down in a car loan. We have adhered to this policy by being diligent in finding the right deal, not just the right car, and by saving up big down payments.  But I now think this is not enough. The current economic downturn has changed my, already conservative, fiscal thinking. And I hope that it has changed yours and everybody’s.

A lot of us have managed our financial house in a responsible way over the years and yet we still find ourselves embroiled in the larger economic mess. But the good news is that I think the solution for the macro picture and for our individual micro parts of the economy are the same: A cash economy.

Don’t buy it until you can pay for it. After all, you have no claim to that which your labor has not earned. So make and save the money first, then buy the cool cars and palatial mansions. This scheme is tough because it requires delayed gratification, but it is guaranteed. I’m not telling you anything you have not long since read in The Millionaire Next Door or Good to Great (The Stockdale Paradox). But it bears repeating because it is your protection against the bad decisions of your neighbors and the bad behavior of your elected officials. And it is your ticket to counter-cyclical prosperity.

If you operate your house (and business) on a cash economy, not only will you be insulated from recession, you will prosper through it. Right now everything is on sale. Cars and real estate are on sale, not to mention small-ticket stuff like electronics, clothes, toys. If you have cash, that cash will go a whole lot farther right now than it would have 2 years ago in the “booming” economy. 

But in order to get to this place of individual cash-economy prosperity you have to change your thinking. Instead of thinking, like I used to, about how big a mortgage your talented mortgage guy can get you with your stellar credit score, think in terms of net worth. This is a concept lost to many, otherwise smart, people. Think about it like this, if you sold everything you own today, at current values, and paid off everything you owe, in full, how much money would you have leftover? That is your net worth. That is the number you should be watching and setting goals to improve. Net worth is the ultimate measure of your finances. Net worth is freedom.

I am not into scarcity. I am a big fan of nice stuff. I want very nice homes and cars and clothes and vacations. But net worth has to come first. If it doesn’t, you subjugate yourself to the poor decisions of others (including $787 billion-spending, self-serving politicians). 

Unrealized Lives

Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 02:00PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments Off

We spend most of our time flailing against the world instead of really living. We were put here for some unknown purpose but rarely do we think of, let alone pursue, such a thing. Instead we construct in our minds and around our bodies, a meager life, a human-sized life, a proletariat life. We find a spouse, earn some income, buy a house and a couple of cars, and make a few friends. Then we rest on our almost completely unfulfilled laurels. Maybe unfulfilled is wrong. We are too ignorant to be unfulfilled. It is more like unrealized. We live, most of us and for the most part, unrealized lives.

As we grow up we are faced with the pains of flesh and feelings. We find we have need of food, shelter, clothing, transportation, then of friendship and intimacy. So we arrange for these things to be made manifest. We do whatever we must to tick off the lowest levels of Maslow’s famous pyramid. And this is all well and good. It is necessary and challenging. But, at some point (different for each of us) we find our level - the place at which we are comfortable. And we do the unthinkable. We worship the small g god of comfort. Nothing wrong with comfort, mind you. Except the worship of it breeds that other, much more dreaded, c-word: complacency.

Complacency – stuck in place. We reach a place along our life’s path at which we decide, usually passively, that we are satisfied. And from this safe, boring place we watch and read and listen to the news of the day. And we protest loudly to our friends and co-workers about the president or the economy, or the various wars - the things which are out of our control. We know who should be elected to office, how to fix the economy, and how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But we don’t protest our own situation. We don’t protest that part of ourselves that says, “this is all there is for you.” We don’t solve our own conflicts.

The economy is bad and the presidential administration may not be of your choosing but how much of that can you control? You didn’t over-extend yourself financially. You voted, maybe even campaigned. So the question is what do you do now? Of course you can complain, and most of us have. Complaining has its purposes. It makes us feel better by providing an emotional outlet. And the role of the loyal opposition is a wonderful and necessary part of our system. But after you’ve complained, or maybe while you still are complaining, also, take action. Take action in your life, in your sphere of influence. 

It’s not about just getting through the day. You are here to do something. I don’t know what and you probably don’t either. But proceed with faith and courage and you will do, maybe even without knowing, the something (or some-things) that is your unique mission. 

A friend sent me a quote by Gretchen Rubin: “The days are long but the years are short.”

You have time in each day to change yourself and positively impact others. But the years will continue slipping by, whether you like the national news or not. Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Do the Carpe diem thing and take control of your days.

Dylan Thomas’ poem “Rage against the dying of the light” is ostensibly about growing old, but it can, just as appropriately, be applied to the passing of each day. Rage against a day going by in which you don’t improve your situation and the situation of others. 

Selfish Spaces

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 08:38AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments Off

Over the holidays, particularly in the couple of days before and weekend after Christmas, the shopping center near my house was covered up with people. A recession was not in evidence, but bad manners were:  People cutting in line, not waiting their turn at 4-way stops, cutting others off to get parking spaces. The root of all evil is focus on self. And acting in offensive ways in public is certainly self-focused.

I was lamenting this to a friend who said he feels sorry for the selfish shoppers. And he is right. People who put ethics, morals and common decency aside for want of a parking space lose a lot more than they gain. They are gaining infinitesimal advantages in their immediate experience at the expense of infinite loses in the larger reality. What goes around does indeed come around and gaining a position for yourself is never worth unfairly inconveniencing another person.

My friend said he feels sorry for them because they are tainting the spirit of shopping for gifts for loved ones. If the idea of gift-giving is to bring joy into the life or the recipient, then would not that be better accomplished if the shopping is done with a joyful attitude?  Sounds a bit metaphysical I know, but, I believe, my friend is right. The joy with which a gift is bought and given, to a large degree, determines the joy with which it is received.  I personally wish we would learn to put much more emphasis on the joy and much less on the material gift.

Holiday uncouthness is, unfortunately, just a more brash version of the way many people live their larger lives. For some people the test of whether or not a thing should be done is only whether or not it can be gotten away with. The logic goes: If I throw trash out of my car window without getting a ticket, which is almost always possible, then it is fine to throw trash out of my car window.  But the real test is not whether or not a behavior benefits you, but whether or not a thing is right to do. There is a higher power and there is a greater good. And no human has to see you do good or evil for that good or evil to work in your favor or to your detriment.  

I’m sure the people who push and jockey for position, at the expense of others, do so because they were taught that behavior. They took the counsel of family or friends who convinced them that it is the only way to get what you “deserve” in this world. And, having learned this and applied it, found success. They threw the trash out the window or rather they gained a step or a minute by putting themselves ahead of others. But their success is hollow and fleeting.

I heard a radio commercial that said: “If you have more than $10,000 in credit card debt you can settle it for a fraction of what you owe.” Which brings immediately to mind the thought, if you legitimately owe the debt, why would you settle it for a fraction of what you owe? I guess the answer would be because you can. You can get a better parking space; and you can throw trash out the window; and you can settle debts for less than what you owe.  But there is a flow and a justice in this world. Being courteous and selfless is fulfilling and lasting. What goes around comes around. When you put others ahead of yourself, you are rewarded instantly with a peace and joy that exceeds any reward a parking space could afford you.  And possessing this reward of joy, you have it to give to others everyday of the year. 

Who is God to you?

Posted on Friday, October 31, 2008 at 08:12AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments3 Comments

Below is something I have never done before - posted a guest blog on Point28. The following was written by my friend Jason Becker. Enjoy.

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Just last week in my devotion I came across a lesson on Exodus 15. It was about Moses leaving Egypt and God parting the Red Sea. The premise was that our God is bigger than we can imagine; and He fights for us; and we can claim victory in Him.

The names for God that Hebrews used were El Shaddia “The Almighty” and Ish Milchamah “a man of war”! They knew, in Old Testament times, that God fought for them.

Growing up we were members of First Baptist Jonesboro, Ga. At First Baptist they held a yearly Christmas event called “The Living Christmas Tree” (they still hold this event around Christmas to this day). What I most remember about it was the banners that hung on the sides of the church. Each banner had a name for Jesus. They would parade the banners around the church during “The Living Christmas Tree” and it was quite a sight. There were tons of banners.

Wonderful Counselor

Savior

Emmanuel “God is with us”

Yahweh

Adonai “My Lord”

Johovah-jireh “will provide”

Creator

Healer

Abba “Father”

And many other names were on the banners. It just reminds me that God is infinite in who He is to all of us that call Him father. Some days I need Ish Milchamah , other days and yearn for Abba, and still other days I drop to my knees for the Healer.

by Jason Becker

Ground Shaking

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 09:53PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

One of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, once famously asked the American people, in a television debate, on his way to routing Jimmy Carter in 1980: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” (then) Governor Reagan was asking if the American people believed they were better off economically than they were before the Carter presidency. But I like to continuously ask that question. Am I (are you) better off than 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, last week??? Are you better off not just economically, but physically, mentally, intellectually, spiritually??? Do you even believe that you can continue to become better?

Big-wave surfing legend, Laird Hamilton, now 44, lives on the beach in Maui. He says he lives in Maui because there the waves come to you. Big waves often build during the night and when they break Hamilton can hear them inside the house, lying in bed; and when the biggest ones break, they shake the foundation of his house and the bed he’s lying in. That is sooooo cool. I would not love to surf those monster waves like Hamilton does, but I would love to feel the ground shake in the night from their power. (Go to YouTube and search Laird Hamilton. The videos of him surfing 80-footers are unbelievable)

Tom Glavine, Greg Maddox, and John Smoltz are all still pitching (Smoltz current shoulder ailment notwithstanding). Their birthdays fall in March, April, and May respectively (Glavine’s and Maddux’s 42nd and Smoltz’s 41st just passed). They, along with Hamilton, are just a few examples, among millions, of people who are changing our ideas about what we can do at what age.

My grandparents got old in their 50’s. My parents are doing better. They are still going good in their late 60’s. I’m interested in living even younger. But, with that said, I just got up from the chair I was sitting in to type this and it took me about three steps to work the pain and tightness out of my lower back. Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But I revealed that little physical malady to say that I had worse back issues in college (20 years ago) than I do now. And I have found that the more I run and workout the more agile and mobile I am and the better I feel. And, by the way, except when my ego gets the best of me, I no longer measure my running in miles or minutes, but in years. As long as I’m able to run next year, and next year, and next year, I’m good.

I have always felt like my prime was still to come. And now, in my forties, I am enjoying living in it.

A friend of mine, who is in his 50’s and runs multiple marathons every year, told me, one morning last week, that his philosophy is to always have something productive to do. He said, “If you can, you should.”

Those pounding, ground-shaking waves, coming one after another, off Maui, are like the drumbeat or the heartbeat that drives you forward to fulfillment and accomplishment, no matter what your birth date.

Gathering Force

Posted on Monday, May 19, 2008 at 08:22AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments2 Comments

First, THANK YOU to everyone who inquired as to my lack of writing over the last 2 ½ months.

I haven’t written anything since March 4th. Up until March 4th I had posted to this space every weekday in 2008. But on March 5th I couldn’t write. Not only did I not have a topic, I didn’t have the desire. And I felt like I didn’t even have the ability. Just to clarify, I was not otherwise impaired. I was not upset or depressed or distraught. I just couldn’t write. Fortunately, at 43, I am at least self-actualized enough not to worry about such things. I figured the season for writing was over and it either would or would not come back around. And, to tell you the truth, I didn’t miss writing at all.

I didn’t miss writing probably because the creative process and brain exercise that was accomplished by writing before March 5th was continued, from March 5th to today, by a deep dive into the accumulated numerical history of my business and subsequent data mining and analysis for the purpose of better management of that business. This has been, and continues to be, an extremely gratifying use of my limited brainpower.

But then yesterday a feeling started gathering force in me like a huge Maui wave: The feeling and inclination to write. For the sake of balance and the balance sheet, I need to continue the empirical stuff. But I also, now, have to write. So my hope and plan is to write some (but probably not as frequently or lengthily as before) and try to maintain equilibrium between the stuff I enjoy on the left side and the stuff I enjoy on the right side of my brain.

(Note: as an added benefit, we may find out what happens to Brian)

Thanks again for reading what has been written here and for noticing when it was not.

Brain Confusion

Posted on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 11:31AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments2 Comments

You may have seen on television this infomercial for these workout videos that supposedly get you into awesome shape in 90 days. And, based on the exercises they show on the advertisement, I bet it works. Those people on there look like they are working hard. Anyway, the philosophy of this workout system (and some others I’ve read about like “Core Performance”) is muscle confusion. It seems that when our muscles do the same activity over and over, week after week, they stop improving – they plateau. Anyone who has spent time working out knows what I’m talking about. You get more muscular and stronger at a fast rate for a while, but then you level off. And even though you are still working out hard, the progress slows, or even stops.

This concept of muscle confusion is supposed to be a remedy for plateauing. Instead of doing the same exercises every week, you mix it up by supplementing resistance training with plyometrics and extreme yoga and martial arts and boxing, etc.

It occurred to me that the same concept can be applied to the brain. The word “confusion” sounds kind of cool when phrased with “muscle” as in “muscle confusion”. But it has a distinctly negative connotation when phrased with brain, as in “brain confusion”. But brain confusion, the way I am thinking of it, applies the same concept as muscle confusion.

In other words, instead of thinking the same things about the same things, day after day, expose your brain to new stuff. Doing the same job the same way, watching the same televisions shows, listening to the same radio station, talking to the same people, reading the same kind of books, will cause your brain to plateau, and eventually devolve.

The secret to brain health and fitness is the same as the secret to muscular health and fitness, confusion. The great business writer, Tom Peters, said “If it ain’t broke, break it.” By which he meant, in business, you’d better be innovating, even if you are cannibalizing your own products, because the competition surely will be looking for ways to make your stuff obsolete. In the same way, you need to introduce confusion to your brain, because if you don’t, the world eventually will. And you’d much rather be ahead of that curve.

So confuse your brain. Read magazines you’ve never read. Meet and interact with people who are different than you. Drive to work a different way or do your job a different way or change jobs and careers entirely. Keep learning, keep challenging your brain. Make it a point to cultivate friendships with people who are in there 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s respectively (In addition to stretching your mind, this will put you in touch with what each generation values). Take a class or learn to fly a plane.

Scientists now know that the brain can continue to develop throughout a person’s entire lifetime (neurogenesis). But it must be exercised just like other body parts.