Local Man Duct Tapes His and His Son’s Mouths

Teaching Your Boys How to Respect Ladies

Nashville, TN — A local man used a roll of duct tape this past weekend to tape his mouth shut, as well as that of his 8-year-old son, to allow the ladies in their home to speak. “I just got so tired of interrupting my wife every time we spoke,” the local man said, “And I figured that I would do something to just SHUT UP.”

shut up bracelet

The local man also used the incident to teach his two sons about respect and encouragement: “You have to treat a lady like a lady, whether its your sister, mom, friend or spouse. And that means allowing them to speak and be a part of your conversation.  And one of these days I am going to get it right with your mom, who (when I stop to listen), has a lot of great things to say.” 

The man and his two sons have now made a line of duct tape “SHUT UP BRACELETS” to sell to other men in the world as a reminder to … JUST SHUT UP!

Okay. So this local man was me.  Not years ago. Not months ago.  This past weekend.  I think you get the picture, but there’s more to the lesson.

A couple will never be able to communicate if one of them is always talking and the other one is always listening.  I understand that we all have talents in our lives, but I have recently  learned that my talent or strength as a construction litigation attorney during the day is setting me up for conflict and failure at home in the evening.  My wife and family are not my clients, they are not a judge or jury, they are not my legal problem to solve.  They are my family.  Many times, my wife just wants me to listen as I walk into the door: listen to her problems, listen to her excitements, listen to her ideas….JUST LISTEN TO HER.

So what’s your challenge in communication with your spouse or children?  Do you need to listen more?

Preparing for Rain

Juggling Requires That You Actually Have a Plan

If you want to successfully juggle your family, career and life, at some point you have to begin preparing for rain. With your family, you can no longer check-out all week and check-in only on the weekends.  You won’t survive…they won’t survive.  In your career, you can no longer view the mounting pile of work and attack only the emergencies.  You have to implement a plan to get caught up and stay on top of the pile.

rain

So, what does it really mean to prepare for rain?  

Although I love Any Given Sunday (for its action) and Waterboy (for its comedy), my all-time favorite football movie is Facing the Giants (for its passion). Wanting to encourage the defeated coach with a few words of wisdom, the local pastor in FTG recounts the following story:

“There were two farmers who desperately needed rain in a drought. And both of them prayed for rain, but only one of them went out to plow his field to receive the rain. Now, which farmer trusted and believed that it was going to rain?”

In your life, are you preparing for rain? Unfortunately, there is not a quick-and-easy formula that will make you an overnight success at work and home. However, there is one major thing you can do to prepare for a drenching: draft a plan.

As a busy construction lawyer and husband and father of seven children, my time is limited.  I find myself in “emergency mode” on most days.  I tackle the deadlines, workload, and problems for that particular day, as well as those issues that land in my lap at the moment.  This is not to say that I do not plan for my caseload or family challenges, but I often seem to be living too close to the present without enough reliance on planning for the future.

That’s where Living Forward—a new book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavey—has helped me identify a plan to get back on track: professionally, personally and spiritually. Even after reading the first chapter, there was a spark in my belly that started to inflame my desire to change. Here’s just one little nugget that I learned within the first few pages: “You may feel that you’ve drifted too far of course to get back on track, like the shore is just too far away. Perhaps you have given up hope and don’t believe things can ever be different. This is simply not true. It’s never too late. Be encouraged. You can’t change the past, but all of us have the power to change the future. The right choices today will radically alter the shape of tomorrow.

This book is about experiencing the life you want, while navigating all the distractions, difficulties, and demands that pile up day-by-day, year-by-year.  It leads you through a simple step-by-step life-planning process so every day adds up to the life you want now and creates the legacy you want to leave behind.  I am currently on the second draft of my plan for the second half of 2016.  Now’s a good time to start.

If I had one bit of encouragement during this process, it would be to keep plowing ahead. You cannot be discouraged by the drought in either your career or family life. I remember the late nights as a young attorney in Washington, D.C. Often I would climb into bed with my wife and groan, “I can’t do this any more.” She would always whisper words of encouragement: “Honey, just a few more days and you will be prepared for this case. And when you win, we can go celebrate as a family.”

Let me whisper in your ear: Keep plowing, keep preparing for the rain…you can make it!

Why Do You Do What You Do?

The Most Important Question to Answer Every Day

Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed.  As you commute to work, thoughts of deadlines, marital disputes, financial stresses and sheer exhaustion consume your every thought.  It is during those times that I ask myself, “Why am I doing all of this?”

why

Many years before my first law school class, I thought I was ready to practice law. At the time, I was already working as a law clerk at a law firm interviewing witnesses, preparing discovery , and drafting legal briefs. Among these tasks, I enjoyed legal writing the most. In fact, I had drafted hundreds of trial court briefs, administrative agency statements, state and federal court appeals, and even a brief to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Based upon all my work leading up to that time, I was confident about my preparation for the practice of law. However, a few stumbling blocks remained in my way to becoming a successful attorney, including a bar exam, many non-billable articles and conferences, hundreds of soiled diapers, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Ultimately, I survived law school and my first twenty years of practice by answering the question, Why do I want to be a lawyer?  Although I wrestled with that question for many years, it finally came down to the following two words: helping others. 

I determined early on in my career that I wanted to be a construction lawyer to help others use best practices and technology to resolve their problems. I am exactly where I want to be in my career and family life—right in the middle of the adventure. Leadership guru John Maxwell teaches that “success is not a destination thing…it’s a daily thing.”

And that “daily thing” has taken so many turns. For example, in the legal profession I went from from university student, to law clerk, to law student, back to law clerk, to associate attorney, and finally to partner at two different law firms. I initially characterized law school as a temporary layover to my destination of becoming a succe$$ful lawyer. (You knew that success is spelled with two “$$s,” right?) I soon learned that the only $$s in my life as a young attorney were the $$s that I owed someone else for letting me attend law school. Long hours, intense cases, neglected family members, a couple of grumpy bosses, late time sheets, uncollected invoices, etc., soon followed. While you might think these issues became less demanding (or more controllable) as each year passed, it simply has not been the case.

For me, answering the Why? question enabled me to continue in my journey as an attorney, a husband, and the father of seven children. When I finally answered the Why? question, I realized that many of my so-called stumbling blocks were actually stepping stones to a more fulfilling career and life. You may think you are not getting enough experience at this stage in your career. You may be overwhelmed with the huge deadline due tomorrow.  You may be questioning your job, your marriage, or both. Whatever your circumstance, I would challenge you to continue your journey and find success professionally and emotionally. 

You can (and must) make tough choices, which involves a significant juggling act with work, family, finances and health.  And while you have all of those balls in the air, let me ask you: Why do you do what you do?

The Importance of Juggling

Mentorship Is More than Just Seeking and Giving Advice

Someone once joked, “If you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice!” That may be true, but you need more than just advice to make it in this world.  You need a good mentor to reach your potential as a leader, successful business owner, or spouse/parent.

mentor

I remember my first mentor in the law—a generous attorney who had developed a large personal injury law practice in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. For him, family came first. To be home for dinner by 5:00 p.m., that meant he would often be into work by 6:00 a.m. If there was a deposition out of town, he traveled early on the day of the deposition rather than spend the night away from his family. As I departed this first pre-lawyer job to enter my first year in law school, my mentor gave me a check that would help pay my first semester’s living expenses. My early mentor required me to pay him back in a unique way: he asked me to pay it forward to someone else as my career developed. (And that was five years before Pay It Forward hit the movie theatres!)

A mentor does not have to be involved in your day-to-day life, business, or family affairs.  For example, Cordell Parvin graduated from the same law school that I did, but many, many years earlier. (Sorry, Cordell!) He was a Richmond Spider—so was I. He was a construction lawyer—so was I. He was successful—well, I want to be! One day, I called Cordell, introduced myself, and asked for some advice. More than five years later, I am happy to refer to Cordell as a mentor and friend.  And we have only met in person a few times over the years.

You see, throughout my career I have always relied upon different mentors to help me grow as an attorney, husband, and father. It is important to have a variety of different advisors because, frankly, our lives as attorneys are comprised of so many roles. We have to be good researchers and writers. We have to be good time-keepers. We have to be good telephone-call-returners. We have to be good money-handlers. And, if we go home each night to a family, we have to be good encouragement-givers and storytellers.

Consider yourself a juggler with too many balls in the air.  Every other day, a ball may drop to the ground. You stop. You pick it up. And you start juggling the balls again. I don’t think the answer is to get rid of those balls. I think the answer is to learn how to better juggle. There are many people who have done it right and there are many people who have done it wrong. The key is to build a relationship with someone who can (and wants to) invest in you—whether you need business advice, practice area advice, or even marital and parenting advice. Then, one day, you will be the one teaching another person how to juggle.

Are You Walking Alone?

Why Leaders Need Friendships for Character, Health and Balance

You can imagine all the free time I have with a busy law practice, an active spouse who runs marathons for fun, and seven kids at home. So much so that when I get home from a long day, get kids fed, showered, tickled and put to bed, many days I have enough energy to simply crawl into bed myself.

alone

This schedule has taken its toll on my personal friendships, which I truly did not think I needed for the past few years.  So when I had a chance last week to meet up with some friends, imagine my frustration when I could not find any one friend to escape with for a bite to eat.  I had none. I had not invested in any friendships recently and it showed.  I was alone. (…big sigh, little tear…)

It was not that bad, but the evening made me realize how important friends are to the development of a leader’s character, health, and balance.  Here is why:

  1. Relationships develop your character.  Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”  And we do that through walking with, side-by-side, other people.  You live and learn through your experiences with others.
  2. Connections feed your body.  A recent study followed nearly 1,500 older people for 10 years. It found that those who had a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by more than 20%.  But why? Not only does the empirical data suggest that friends encourage you to live healthier lives, studies show that loneliness often has a taxing effect on your health.
  3. Friendships spur balance.  When you are overworked, and you add the stresses of family or personal life, your friendships can keep you grounded.  You see, true friends challenge you. They tell you the words you often don’t want to hear: “Spend more time with your children” or “Take your spouse out on a walk” or “Call you parents just to check on them.”

“Your best friend,” Henry Ford laments, “is the one who brings out the best in you.”  And don’t you need to be at your best in order to juggle family, work and life?  Take the time to invest in your friendship—it will be worth it.

Three Practical Ways to Kill Your Child’s Joy and Excitement This Holiday Season

There is nothing like a 45-minute commute on your way home in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a cold Monday evening to stifle your holiday cheer.  As I unpacked my briefcase and pulled off my tie, Jackson (my fourth child) came running into the bedroom wearing a chef’s hat.  He cheerfully said, “Dad, I’m in charge of dinner tonight.  I made a menu and I’m ready to serve you.”

jack

I grumpily walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where I saw that the table had been set (…with various sizes of plates and different cups…). On the counter, Jackson had pulled out all the leftovers from the refrigerator.  Since we have been dealing with a family crisis and I have been playing single parent for the past few weeks, its no surprise that every one of the leftovers was old and moldy.

So, I threw away Jackson’s dinner.

He sat at the table with a crossed-look of horror, sadness and disappointment as I threw out his dinner.  And rather than console him, I legitimized my actions: “Jackson, the food was rotten.  Get over it.”  (Ouch! I actually said that.)

I realized my mistake later.  Not when I was making his favorite sweet potatoes and marshmallows.  Not when we were saying prayers and reading in bed that night.  Not the next morning as I walked out to work with a kiss on his forehead.  But, later, as I was driving home the next evening—stuck in traffic again—and preparing for a better evening.  It dawned on me that on the previous night I had killed my child’s joy and excitement.  Here are three practical ways that you can do the same this holiday season:

  1. Put on your frown and ignore smiles and laughter.  There is no better way to kill joy when you come home from work, with a room of children excited to see you, than to “wear your day” on your face.  If you have had a bad day, and your face shows it, and you ignore the fun and excitement of seeing your family in the evening, then you will surely set the tone.  Your frown can be infectious, and lead to a handful of frowns on your spouse and children.  Try it.
  2. Focus on your day, rather than their day.  Another practical way to kill the joy of your family when you come home from work is by stealing it, tying it to a concrete block and throwing it into a lake.  In other words, you should steal the opportunity from them when you walk into the house and focus on your day (whether good or bad).  Don’t let them tell you about the dragons they slayed, the forts they built, the knock-knock joke they made up.  Keep it all about you.
  3. Don’t ever say sorry. Sometimes you will realize that you are crushing your children’s joy and excitement and you will have the urge to correct yourself.  But don’t.  Instead, rationalize your actions, tell them to “Grow up!” in a stern voice, and bury any desire to apologize.  Kids are smart enough to know when you messed up and they never need to hear those weak words, “I’m sorry.”

If you add family health issues, work demands, financial stresses and everyday family squabbles to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you have a recipe for imbalance.  In our household, while we experience all of these pressures right now, our kids need joy and excitement.  And so do yours.  So ignore my words.

Now That You Are Fearful, You Can Let the Courage Take Over

Tired? Restless? Fearful? Can’t sleep? Ready to give up? Overwhelmed? Hurting? Numb? Lost? Betrayed? Angry? Just getting by? What’s your pain? Better yet…What’s your plan?

Fear-Courage

I’ve been there. I understand late nights. I appreciate what if feels like to be alone. And, yet, through it all, my tormented mind always came to the same resolve: What’s your plan? What can you control? What can you not control?

Michael Hyatt believes that “…Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.” For Hyatt, the particular lesson was about a fear of confronting a demanding client.  His torment was real:

I had to make a choice. I could let it go, hoping he would improve without intervention … or I could speak up. I wrestled with it all night. I tossed and turned. I got sick to my stomach. I played out every scenario. Finally, things came into focus: I could either be brave and call him on it, or I could be a coward and stop growing as a leader.

In the end, Hyatt confronted the fear and learned to press forward.

What about you? I imagine that your torment feels absolutely overwhelming right now. Why else would you be staring at the computer screen or thumbing through your phone, mesmerized by the words on this page.  First, you are drawn to the fact that you are not alone…some one else has been here before.  Second, you find hope that there is a way through it:  Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.

Now that you are fearful (or tired…or restless…or angry…or betrayed…), you can let courage take over.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” So, what does it take to live through this horror?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Recognize you are not alone. Let me say that again, you are not alone.  Money problems? Marital conflict? Jobless? There are thousands and thousands of people who have been through (or going through) the same torment as you.  Seek them. Find them. Walk next to them.
  2. Control that which you can control.  You may not be able to control the manner in which your boss talks negatively towards you, but you can finish that report on time.  You may not be able to change the mortgage payment, but you can sell your baseball card collection.  You may not be able to heal family wounds that have festered for years, but you can love your children unconditionally so as to change their family tree.  Make a list of the things you can control, and focus on them.
  3. Give up control where you have no control. At the same time, make a list of the things you cannot control, and give them up.  I often use the analogy that you cannot push a wet noodle up a wall.  Likewise, you cannot change your spouse.  You cannot make your children sleep.  You cannot force someone to do something to improve your circumstances. 
  4. Pray or meditate on your resolve. Whether you are talking about fear, anger, frustration, or any other emotion that builds inside you, find solace and refuge in a quiet place.  For me, it looks like finding a passage from the Bible that helps sustain my journey: “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10).  For you, it may be a time of mediation and prayer.  Focus on the result and allow your courage to press forward.

Question: What helps you live through the torment and horror?

Image: Star-Dust

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

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

What Does Patience Mean to You? Here’s A Good Definition.

We teach our kids about patience almost everyday.  Go ahead, ask them.  And if you do, you will hear them recite our family definition of patience: “Waiting for something you want without crying, complaining or getting angry.” From our oldest to the young toddler, they all know the definition.

 Patience

But what happens when mom or dad are not patient?

What happens when we cry, complain or get angry while we are waiting on something? We need to learn a lesson in patience.  As some of you recall, we had some major complications with our latest pregnancy.

Why am I saying we?  I mean, she.  If I could take away the pain from her, I would do it immediately.

But there she was, sitting up all night, wincing with each movement, mumbling and praying for an answer.  If I was awake and I actually heard her, I would roll over and place my hand on her shoulder.   I whispered, “What can I do?”

The silence told me nothing.

Exhaustion turned to frustration, which turned to anger.  I was whining, complaining and getting angry on the inside.  Every now and then it creeps out of my lips.  And I am reminded of my kids’ lesson on patience.

That sounds like good advice for a child wanting to tell you about their day the second you arrive home from work.  It can buy you a few more minutes until (or even postpone) the evening story because you are simply too tired.   Have you been there?  What can you do to find your own patience?

  1. Time out. Not in the “punishment” manner, but in the “set yourself aside” and take a break from your circumstances.  Perhaps you need the “time out” as you pull your car into the driveway after a long day of work.  Perhaps you need the “time out” as the kids are whining about how hungry they are just before the meal is placed on the table.  No matter the circumstances, take a “time out” from the circumstance.
  2. Meditate or pray. In his pain, King David was crying to the Lord with his voice?, and He answered from His holy mountain. Do you know what happened next?  David said, “I laid down and slept. I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.”  (Ps 3:4-5)  David could have had sleepless nights, but in his rebellion he slept peacefully because he prayed to the Lord, and those prayers were answered.
  3. Substitute your wait. Accept the fact that patience requires a time of waiting.  If you expect, plan and prepare for that time of waiting, you can begin to avoid the onset of complaints or anger.  For my wife during the evening, it means offering the children an alternative to whining as they wait for dinner, such as: “Sweetie, I want you think of the story you are going to share with the family during dinner time.  That will give Mommy time to finish preparing the food.”  The same goes for us.

Question: When are you most impatient? What do you do to find comfort?