You Bring Your Work to Home, So Why Not Bring Your Home to Work?

My credenza does not normally look like a construction site. (…What am I saying? I am a construction lawyer!…) Let’s say my credenza does not normally this cluttered. However, this is what it looks like after having brought two separate kids to my office recently on two separate days. Joy.

Kids at Work

Since I had to get some work done on the day after Thanksgiving, I brought Jack into the office with me.  He’s our tornado.  I knew I would not be interrupting other people’s work schedule because no one in their right mind works on Black Friday.  The entire professional world is shut down.  It’s one of those freebie three-day weekends.  And I brought Faith to work a couple weeks later because my wife had her hands full and just needed some help.

The point is that so many times we bring our work home to the family…so every now and then we should bring our family to work. The kids love it!  Happy Holidays.

Can You Say “Dude” When Praying with Your Kids? Yes!

I have been praying with my children a lot more recently.  If the kids are sitting down for breakfast and I am running late to work, I stop and pray over them God’s blessings.  When there is a stubbed toe or cat scratch, we pray before finding the Barbie and Superman bandages.  And when we do our evening tuck-ins,  prayer comes before books, songs or tickles.


Sounds like I got it all together, right?  NOT AT ALL!  You see, I am the same as you.  I raise my voice at the kids (…a/k/a/ scream at them…).  I fail to take out the trash.  I don’t give my wife the encouragement she needs everyday.  But, like you, I am a work in progress  learned about praying with your kids: 

  1. Make it about God. Remember the ultimate point of the prayer . . . to communicate with our Creator . . . to praise Him for all things . . . to thank Him for the blessings he bestows . . . to ask Him for wisdom . . . to hand Him your worries . . . to claim His healing.  Your children need to hear these words on a regular basis so they “get it” later in life.
  2. Make it about the child. After giving thanks and praise to God, we then pray about other friends and family.  Then we conclude with our own desires and struggles.  For each of my children, I use age appropriate words and always pray for: (a) their past day; (b) their evening protection; (c) their tomorrow’s blessings; and (d) their future contribution to the Kingdom.
  3. Make it fun and joyful. Last time I checked, there was not an Eleventh Commandment — Thou shalt not have fun. Instead, we are to go to the altar of God with our “exceeding joy” (Ps. 43:4).  To me, this means having a joyful and vibrant voice of excite when I pray with my kids.  Be animated.  Let them experience joyful prayer flowing from your lips.  It’s perfectly okay to say “dude” in your prayer with your six-year-old boy, which sounds something like this:

God, I just thank you for the strong little man that you gave to our family.  I ask that you continue to strengthen Jackson in all that he does.  Build him. Use him. Make him into a great, God-loving, change all nations, people leading, prayer warrior dude!!!

When I see the smile on the little one’s face as we say Amen . . . I know that I reached his heart and mind. There are really two major reasons to pray with your children.  First, to communicate with God as a family.  Second, to teach your little one how to pray.  If you are just trying to check “pray with kid” off your checklist, then your heart is really not there.

Question: Are your praying with your children?  Why not?

Gail and Michael Hyatt Ask: “Are You A Student of Your Marriage?”

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I agree.  Courtney and the kids have been out of town for the past week visiting family and the dead silence in the home felt nice … for about … an hour.

Home

Over the past few days, however, I heard the return of voices every night I came home after a long day of work. The voices were not those of children giggling, fighting or running amok. They were my own voices:

  • Matt, how’s that juggling thing going?
  • Matt, are investing in people as much as your work?
  • Matt, do you know your spouse better today than when you married her?
  • Matt, are you playing to win? Or just playing to get by?

That last one has been haunting me for months.  You see, as a busy construction attorney and father of seven, it is easy to put on my work boots and trudge to the next deadline and task.  I tell myself that my wife and kids will be there when I get home, no matter how late.   Not so … this week.

I found great solace this morning in a two-part podcast by Gail and Michael Hyatt, called Help, I Married An Entrepreneur. You don’t have to be a businessman or woman to find these messages relevant.  All you need is an open mind and heart to seek some great wisdom from this married couple of over 35 years.  It is definitely worth listening to both sessions, and here is what I learned:

  1. You need to be a student of marriage.  Gail makes this point very clear, in that a successful marriage for them did not happen by chance.  They sought mentors. They read books. They talked with each other regularly.  For me, it means “playing to win” in your marriage.  It is more than just going through the motions of living life with your spouse.  It is attacking your marriage with the same passion as your work.
  2. Marriage is hard work.  Michael and Gail share about some of the valleys they experienced in the early years of marriage.  Perspective and commitment were two recurring themes that enabled each of them to work through the difficult times.  Michael shares that in 2001, he put his business savvy planning into his personal life by writing down a vision for his marriage, family and personal life. (You can get a copy of his Life Plan e-book for free.)  Again, the lesson learned here is: Successful businesses require hard work. Successful marriages take hard work, too.
  3. Words matter in marriage.  As businessman, Michael shares that “encouragement [from Gail] has made all the difference” in the world.  They talk about the importance of appreciation and affirmation.  Appreciation is thanking your spouse for everything brought to the table, whether big or small. It is communicating to your spouse that their sacrifices do not go unnoticed. Affirmation, on the other hand, is focusing on what you love about your spouse.

I would strongly recommend Gail and Michael’s message no matter what your career or circumstances.  If you want to play to win, you need to be purposeful in the steps you take.

Question: As a student of your own marriage, what have you learned?

Image: Powderruns

Top Signs You Know Your Work-Life Balance is Out of Whack

One evening after I returned from an extended out-of-town work trip, I overhead my eldest daughter Alex tell my wife that she (my wife) would make a great single mom.  Ouch!  That’s not something you want to hear when you are married to this supposed single mom.

mia

While my daughter meant no harm by the statement, it’s the underlying meaning behind the statement that was important.  Here are some of the top signs you know you work-life balance is out of whack:

  1. Your family jokes about your absence.  Alex is quite the comedienne. But underneath the laughter there is a grain (or sandbox…) of truth.  You see, in my daughter’s eyes, my wife has carried the brunt of the family workload over the past few weeks.  In my daughter’s eyes, my wife has been living like a single mom and doing a great job at keeping the household together.  In my daughter’s eyes, I have been absent from the family.  That’s a sign!
  2. You see disappointment in little faces.  Just last week as I was heading out the front door at about 6:00am for an early morning of work, my second daughter Addy ran downstairs to give me a hug.  I filled up with joy as I heard those first few words, “I love you! Have a good day!”  Then, as a took a step away from my home life and towards my work life, I saw and heard her disappointment, “See you tonight…maybe…”  That precious 8-year-old voice crushed me with a boulder of truth.  By saying “maybe” she knew that I was not going to be home another night.  And that’s a sign!
  3. You miss details of family life.   You certainly may be busy with work obligations that keep you from home activities during the week.  But when you get home,  you have to check-in to your surroundings  If you find that you missed a soccer practice, or a birthday party, or a family outing to the park, DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOUR SPOUSE TOLD YOU MULTIPLE TIMES, then that’s a sign.

You and I can make all the excuses we want about how much work has to be completed during the week, but if we miss the signs and details of what is happening at home, we cannot find balance.

Question: What signs tell you that your work-life balance is out of whack?

Lessons from a Father and His Blind Son

Some time ago, I saw a man and his young song walking along Broadway Street in downtown Nashville.   I witnessed a great lesson in parenting … leading with love, standing side-by-side, and pressing forward.

Leading in love, side-by-side, pressing forward.

The extraordinary thing about this event was that the young boy was blind.  It appeared to have been a recent condition because the father was trying to teach his son how to navigate with a walking stick.   As exhibited by this father, parenting involves the following:

  1. Leading with love is about reaching the heart of your child. Too often I get caught up in the outward behavior of my children and forget about the inward heart.  I’m learning that if I reach the heart my children, and teach them the lesson that will be forever pressed in their soul, then their “good behavior” will follow.  This father did not waste any time, energy and frustration just to get his son to walk straight and avoid objects like street signs and benches.  He was focused on his son’s challenges and building his heart and esteem to face those challenges.
  2. Standing side-by-side is right where your kids need you to be.  For this father helping his blind son to walk … there he stood right by his son’s side.  Leading him … hand to arm … arm to hand … down the street.  Then the father would let go, while continuing to walk by his side.  As parents, we need to not only stand beside our children, we need to get down on their level and talk to them eye-to-eye.  I mean this literally and figuratively.  Literally, our kids need to see our eyes when we talk to them (and particularly when we talk about life issues).  Figuratively, they need to know we understand what they are saying.  For instance, if your young man is excited about his green bean, pickle, and peanut butter “Alien Sandwich” … then so should you.
  3. Pressing forward means we must continually grow. In life, our children will be challenged to accept mediocrity, the norm, or the worldly standard of what is considered “right.”  As parents, we have to push, press, encourage and in some instances force them to reach for excellence.  Notice I did not say, perfection, but excellence. We must not get caught up in the mistakes we have made in the past.  Press forward in all things.

As I watched this father lead  his blind son along a busy street in downtown Nashville, I wondered truly about the father’s resolve and the son’s reliance.  Certainly, this man could have bullied his son to use or rely on that walking stick.  But that is not what I witnessed.  And the son, at some point in this experience, ultimately had to come to the realization that he was going to rely on his father’s leading.

Question: Are you leading your children in love, side-by-side, pressing forward?

Image: justinknol

What Happens When You Drop the Work Ball?

I regularly write about work-life balance. Not because I am an expert at finding the correct mix, but because I am right there in the middle of the challenge…the same as you.  So when a leadership guru like John Maxwell provides good insight on juggling priorities, we should all listen closely.

glass

Maxwell recently recounted a university commencement address by Brian Dyson, former CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, who spoke of the relationship of work to your other commitments:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

As Maxwell suggests, it is not selfish to take care of your family, relationships, health and spirit.  The work ball will bounce back if you drop it – these others won’t.

Question: As you view your priorities, have you made your work ball out of glass, crystal or some other precious, breakable material?

Image: Eric Petruno

How to Deal with Insecurities in Your Relationships?

My wife and I have an insecurity problem.  She’s insecure. I’m not. Okay, maybe that’s reversed.  Maybe it depends on the day…or the hour.

storm

One of my readers recently sent us the following praise, along with a question:

I have found your blogs to be very honest….you guys put it all out there and expose the reality that it isn’t all ribbons and rainbows! Appreciate and value the perspective you both share.

Anyway, how do you navigate the waters day to day together without losing connection and/or questioning the direction along the journey?

The questions really are about insecurity.  I am not joking when I say that the insecurities in our marriage ebb and flow with the tides.   But as long as we know that truth prior to getting into the boat, we tend to find our way through stormy waters.  Here’s how:

  1. Talk openly.  We got much of our fighting done prior to getting married.  We went through a 12-week pre-marital counseling program at our local church, where we talked about all the stormy waters of a relationship: finances, in-laws, children, expectations, sex (…can he say that?…yep!…), church, communication, work, etc.  The program created an environment where we could talk openly about these issues before they arose, since we knew they would arise sometime in our marriage.
  2. Walk humbly.  The storm will get thicker the more your focus on your own individual losses, feelings, emotions, goals, etc.  As an attorney, I can argue (or justify) my way out of any marital situation.  But that is not the best route for the relationship.  Most of the time when I think I am “right” about something, I dig my heels into my position and let her have it!  And every time I do so, I am closer to losing what I love most.  I have learned that even if I have the better side of the argument, most times I can calm the storm with two words: “I’m sorry.” If you humble yourself, you can minimize each of your insecurities.
  3. Hold tightly.  We navigate the waters without losing connection because we hold each other tightly…both literally and figuratively.  In a literal sense, no words can give my wife the security she desires more than a tight hug, arms wrapped around her tightly, and a kiss on her forehead.  Figuratively, we walk hand-in-hand through each challenge.  When your hands drop from your partner (out of selfishness, anger or laziness), you stand alone.
  4. Laugh regularly.  When you realize that you are navigating rough waters, with no oars in the boat, and you are out of food, sometimes you need to look at your spouse and say, “Good time to start a diet, sweetie! Look out Sports Illustrated: Couples Swimsuit Edition here we come!”  Courtney and have become marital comedians over the past few years because we have decided to change our outlook on situation.  It does not always take the hurt away, but a giggle or a smile will often help you weather the storm.
  5. Learn continually.  All of this may sound really good and may help you through a fight or two, but Courtney and I find success when we remember the lessons of a prior storms just as we are going through a new storm.  It won’t be a guarantee success this time, but we often know what “not” to do based upon the prior challenge.  And so will you.

Question: How do you deal with insecurities in your relationships?

Image: Kathy

When Work Gets Hard, Some Times You Just Gotta Pull a Tooth!

I was driving home last night after my fourth marathon workday. Yep, left the house before the kids got up and returned after they had gone to bed. (…You ask: I thought this guy had figured out work-life balance?…Me too…). In any event, I was talking to my wife on the phone about the week’s victories and tragedies in the home when she abruptly stopped mid-sentence: “I gotta pull Dylan’s tooth. Bye. She hung up.

She was not mad. She was not angry. Most of the other kids were already asleep. But, as a-matter-of-factly as she could, my wife dropped everything to attend to another something. I continued my drive home thinking of those words…gotta pull a tooth…

Sometimes, when work gets hard, you just gotta pull a tooth. In simple terms, that means the following:

  • You will experience toothaches.  Whether it is now or later, you will face adversity: a work crises, a financial hardship, a health challenge, a problematic co-worker or boss.  Whatever the obstacle, you need to recognize that life is full of these aches.
  • There’s not always a clear choice.  When you experience a challenge, you will have many avenues. Don’t over-analyze those options, but be mindful of the choices and the consequences of each choice.  For example, I have made a conscious decision to work very hard during the week so that I can play very hard with my kids on the weekend.  That decision does not make the late nights during the week any easier, though.  In your life, you may have many options before you and the pathway may not be clear.  But press forward.
  • Eventually, you must do something.  For my son and his loose tooth, that time came last night at about 9:00 p.m. when my wife made a decision to just pull the tooth. That sucker had been rolling back and forth in my son’s mouth for numerous days.  He giggled. He whined. And again, not out of frustration, but out of resolve, she acted.  You will need to do the same.

In his post about working hard and playing hard, Chris Brogan answers the frequently asked question about how to get so much done all the time.  His answer: “I’ve learned how to really put a lot of hard work down into a really short period of time, so that I can free up more time to pursue my passions when I’m done my other work.”  In other words, sometimes you just gotta pull a tooth…step up…work harder.

Question: What tips can you give when work gets hard? Leave a comment here.

Image: Alex Barth

Luck is the By-Product of Busting Your Fanny

Our Sunday meal this past weekend at the local Chinese food restaurant ended with the kid’s favorite pastime…the opening of fortune cookies.  We each take turns ripping open the plastic wrapper, breaking the sugar-laden treat, and giggling about the words inside.

What is your fortune?

This week, the small fortune in my cookie represented a long-held principle of mine for finding a successful work-life balance:

Luck is the by-product of busting your fanny.

When it comes to family, I cannot tell you how many times that some one meets our children and the words blurt out: “Wow! Your children are so well-behaved.  You are so lucky!

I don’t want to be a downer, but I totally disagree with those words.  First, our children are the same as yours.  They scream. They cry. They whine. They hit. They poop, pee and puke…anytime…anywhere! Did I say they scream?  Not a day goes by without my wife or me saying, “UGGGGHHHH!”

Second, it’s not luck.  We work very hard to be purposeful in our parenting.  We want to instill character and integrity in them.  We teach them virtues like patience, including workable definitions for even the young ones to understand.  We practice “sit time” in the home so they know how to sit still in real life situations.  If they say something wrong, we make them say the correct words…over and over again…until they say it correctly.  (Translation: “Yes ma’am.”)  Even when a child decides to throw trash in the middle of the living room, it is guaranteed that we will make them pick it and throw back down ten times just to teach them a hard lesson.

The same goes for your work life.  Most successful businessmen and businesswomen that I know are “bust your fanny” hard workers.  Sure, there are a few exceptions who were born with the silver spoon in their mouth, but most entrepreneurs have a strong work ethic. They are willing to go into work early.  They are willing to stay late in the evening.  They are willing to teach others how to do it right, even when it is sometimes easier to do it themselves.  They are willing to walk in a room full of strangers and get over their fears by extending a hand with a warm smile.  All of these take hard work.

Now, if you want to have a healthy family life and maintain a successful career, it is going to take a lot more than luck. Even though it will be difficult, when you reach balance, you will find comfort. In what Seth Godin calls the hard parts, “it’s the difficult work that’s worth doing. It’s worth doing because difficult work allows you to stand out, create value and become the one worth choosing.”

Questions: Do you think people are just lucky in success?  Other than “hard work” what else contributes to success?  Please leave a comment here.

Image: Tom Giebel

Five Tips to Plug Back Into Work After a Vacation

Last month, we drove 20 hours to Santa Fe, New Mexico as part of our family vacation.  On the way home, my wife snapped this picture of the beautiful New Mexico sunrise.  It was a peaceful moment amid the soft little snores of children in the back of the van.

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And while most people would enjoy that scenery, my mind raced with questions resulting from being away from the office for so long (… a whole week…).  What about all the missed phone calls?  What about the documents that needed reviewing?  What about the articles that needed to be written?  What about the . . . ?

Plug Back In.

If you are one of those people who can easily turn on and off their working mind, then you probably need to read no further.  But if you need some help plugging back into work after a vacation, here are a few ideas:

  1. Plan a “transition” day before your “work” day.  If you have to be back to work on Monday, then do whatever is possible to schedule a day between your end of travel and your return to work.  This will allow you to unpack and unwind.  This will allow you some downtime as you “recover” from your vacation before you start back at the office.
  2. Map out your “work” day during your “transition” day.  After you had time to recover from your travel demands, find a quiet corner in the house and plan what you are going to do when you return to the office.  Pick a time when you will go into the office, pick out your clothes, and pack your beans and rice if you are on the Dave Ramsey lunch protocol.  Don’t waste time on your first day back at work getting “ready” when you can do so on your “transition” day.
  3. Start your “return to work” earlier than usual.  Set you alarm a couple hours earlier on the first day back.  Beat your co-workers into the office, which will allow you to acclimate to the work environment.  Don’t jump into the piles of work just yet, but plan how your day is going to transpire.
  4. Meet the team with smiles.  Whether your team consists of just you and one assistant or a larger group of people, set aside water cooler time or chat time.  Use one window of time to talk about your vacation.  And then return to your office and shut the door.
  5. Mark you exit time.  Can that be right on your first day back?  Yes.  Unless absolutely necessary due to a deadline, you don’t need to work until midnight on your first day back.  If you set a deadline for leaving the office, it will give something to look forward to during the day.

The first day back after a vacation is often the hardest. If you are like me, these are all great “ideas” for returning to work. But if we want to find that proper work-life balance, then we should try them out.

What do you do to plug back into work after a vacation?