Excellence or Mediocrity in 2015. Here’s the Difference.

I play guitar. Eric Clapton also plays guitar. I have eight fingers and two thumbs. Eric Clapton has eight fingers and two thumbs. We both have shoulders where we can sling a guitar, we both are right handed and we both have Fender Stratocasters and we are both uncommonly good looking.  🙂  So why is he renowned for his playing and I am not?

playing guitar_800

There are two significant differences between him and me.

  • One very obvious difference is that he’s considerably older than I am. That leads to a far more important difference that’s not easy to see at a glance.
  • It’s what’s between his ears. The difference between a novice and a professional is mental. Literally! He knows the fret board, notes, chords & keys and so do I. The difference is that he paid the price in countless hours to learn, try, test, perform & practice way more than I did. He knows things that I don’t know.

Eric Clapton

I’ve heard it said that the expertise in nearly any field is 90% mental. There are strong, fast athletes out there that are not famous or well-known. Why, because the difference between mediocre and exceptional is found in the thinking. Lets use football players for an example. Let’s say you have two football players that have identical stats in every category, they are the same age, height, weight and strength. They both run at the same speed, catch the ball with the same regularity and hit with the same force. They appear to be identical in every way. However, one of them has been playing since he was 7 years old while the other one started last year. For the one, his training, drills, practices and the many games he has played since he was a little boy have given him the mental advantage. He can read, understand and anticipated his the opponent’s moves quicker and more accurately than the guy who started last year. That gives him a tremendous advantage over the other.  In war, being able to read and anticipate your enemies movements is an extremely valuable asset.  Which football player has the better chance of reaching excellence? They both do, but one can have it soon while the other has some training and development to do.

It comes down to situational wisdom.  Each of us has expertise in some area where we have tripped over the same stuff so often that when it shows up now, we see it coming a long way off and can take steps to avoid mistakes and problems.  Situational wisdom – that’s what practice and experience bring, and situational wisdom is the difference maker.

Ed Van Halen

Eric Clapton has practices certain things on his guitar so often that his mind is able to conduct his fingers with what to him probably seems like an afterthought. Do you know why Edward Van Halen is where he is today? It’s because when everyone else was out on dates, Edward was sitting on the edge of his bed practicing scales, tapping & flamenco style hammer-ons and pull-offs.  There are great herds of guitarists that have all tried to copy or at least borrow from Edward’s style. That’s influence! All because he paid the price others would not pay.

I heard Seth Godin tell a story once about when he worked for a toy company. One Christmas day he decided to go into work for about 4 hours and just answer the phones. No one told him to or knew he was going to do it but he just decided to go in and try to help the customer with questions. Some time later while in a meeting with other company managers and executives, the question came up about

Seth Godin

Seth Godin

what the customer might think about a product that they sold. Seth spoke up and said “When I was in here answering phones on Christmas day, this is what the parents and kids were saying”.  All voices immediately fell quiet. Seth had just become the expert in the room. What did it cost him? 4 hours on Christmas day. What really happened though, was that he went further than the other people in the room were willing to go to be better at his craft. Because of that, he became the “Go to” guy for customer feedback.

My pastor, Kenneth W. Hagin says it this way, “If you want to get ahead in your job. Learn all that you can possibly learn about your job. Go farther than everyone else is willing to go. Then you will be qualified for future promotion”.

As we launch into 2015, what are some things we can do to help us move forward?  Are there areas in your private or professional life where you can learn more and increase your expertise? Take some time this week and identify three areas where you can “amp it up” and make yourself more valuable to your company, customer, church or volunteer group.  Write them down and use them to set your goals for the coming year.

If you want to get ahead in your job. Learn all that you can possibly learn about your job. Go farther than everyone else is willing to go. Then you will be qualified for future promotion.     Kenneth W. Hagin

What do you want to become better at?  I would love to hear your comments.  Also, please feel free to share this with others that you think might benefit from it.

My prayer is that artmills.org has helped and encouraged you this year.  I want to invite you to drop me an email at contact@artmills.org and let me know how I’m doing.  Also, that would be the perfect time for you to let me know what other things you would like me to touch on and write about.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.  Have a Happy New Year!  See you in 2015!

An Intentional Marriage. Part 2

Several years ago I was talking to a co-worker and our conversation turned to marriage and the role of the spouses. He told me how his mom would go outside on cold winter mornings and start his dad’s car. I gave him a weird look because I always assumed that a loving husband would do that for himself and not subject his wife to the sometimes sub-zero temperatures of the upper mid-west. He looked at me and said in a matter of fact way “She’s his help meet”. I couldn’t help but think that to him and his family, “Help meet” meant servant, or at least someone of lesser standing.

“Help meet” as used in his sentence above comes from a misinterpretation of what God said in Genesis 2:18 & 20. The King James Version says this:

Gen 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Gen 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Gen 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

The scripture goes on to describe how God put Adam into a deep sleep and removed one of his ribs and created the woman.

A clear understanding of the words help meet will really help us to understand our correct place in our marriage and will also help us more clearly understand the role we have as husband and wife.

  • Help. When used in Genesis, the direct translation is “Aid”. God said let us make him an aid. Do you know powerful truth we can glean from this little nugget? Men need help. God knows it, the angels know it, men, you need to come to terms with it. You need help. It also becomes apparent that the help that man needed was not physical strength. There were plenty of beasts that could do the heavy lifting. This was not what man needed. This was not enough.
  • Meet. Several words in both the Old and New Testament are translated into the word meet. We don’t use this word in this way anymore. Keep in mind that the King James Bible was translated back in 1611.
    Many of the word used in the Hebrew, Greek & Chaldean translate into similar definitions but the meaning would change slightly depending on the context of the passage. Here and in other places where Meet was used similarly, the definitions are: “Well placed, appropriate, fit, qualified, suitable, competent, ample, able, enough, sufficient, worthy”.

Many years ago I heard a prominent minister say that the most rudimentary definition he could come up with of the word Meet was “Of the same kind”. I think that’s a good understanding. When all of the other living things on planet earth were created, there was not found a help meet (suitable, sufficient, of the same kind) for him. Therefore we understand that the woman was there to help him in a way that the other living things couldn’t.

Imagine how Adam reacted when he finally woke up from his deep sleep and met her for the first time. The Bible recounts what he said :

Gen 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Gen 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

When I hear this read, I sort of hear it like he was mono toned and he was saying it like it was not a very big deal. Kind of like reading the phone book. Imagine these verses being spoken in Ben Stein’s voice. I don’t think that’s how this played out at all though. When I study the words used here and see the intent behind what was being said, it gives me a better perspective not only of what Adam said but also how he said it. Keep in mind, these are Adam’s words, not Gods. Adam was the one defining the marriage here. He said “This is NOW. The word Now means “a stroke” and is illustrated in Strong’s definition as a hammer striking an anvil. Now! (imagine him pounding his hand when he said it) She and I have the very same bone. She and I have the very same flesh because she was taken out of me. Because of that, a man will loosen his grip, relinquish and forsake the sense of self and identity he has with his father, mother and the bond of family, and shall follow hard after, overtake, walk together, abide together, be joined together, adhere to one another, cling and stick to his woman and they two shall be united, alike, alone, together, in flesh, body, skin, nakedness and be one”. I can hear great excitement in his voice as he says this. Adam is totally stoked about this new help that God has made of the same kind – suitable, enough, sufficient.

Man, your wife can be the difference maker in your life, but she should not be treated like a servant. The Bible says that you are to give her honor because you are physically stronger than her, and to be heirs together in the grace of life. If you will do this, your prayers will not be hindered, but if you don’t, you can expect trouble getting your prayers answered. (1 Pet 3:7). That is how important it is to God that you treat your wife with honor and respect.

1Pe 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Take some time this week and have a serious look at how you see your wife or girlfriend. Pledge to see things honestly and if you are not where you should be, pledge to take steps in the right direction this week. Being a man of excellence is not out of your reach. God wants you to be and He will also help you to become. Ask Him to show you where you’re missing it and then when He does, be quick to change. You both will be blessed.

hands to sky

Men, what are some ways that you can express honor to your wife this week? How can you take it up a notch? I would love to hear your thoughts. Maybe you can help another reader. Please join the conversation by leaving a comment. Also, If you think this can help someone else, please share it.

Making It Last…An Intentional Marriage. Honesty.

According to statistics on marriage from the Centers for Disease Control, based on information from 2011, the marriage rate in the United States is 6.8 per 1,000. The Divorce rate is 3.6 per 1,000 which supports the idea of the 50% divorce rate that many of us have heard about. The divorce rate for 2nd and 3rd marriages is higher still. This information is based on data collected from 44 states and the District of Columbia.

There are lots of reasons why marriages fail. Too young, unfulfilled expectations, infidelity, too much arguing, abuse, the list goes on. But how do we make one succeed? That’s what I really want to talk about. Many of us come from broken homes and have spent a big part of our lives missing at least one of our parents.  Are we doomed to make the same mistakes?  Is there a way that we can beat the statistics and have a marriage that endures?

vintage wedding photo

Last Saturday I skipped my blog post because I spent the day with my wife. We did the normal stuff…work-out, bank, store. We even tried a new restaurant. We had a really nice time just hanging out. As I was waiting in the car for her to come out of the bank, I was thinking about how much I was enjoying our time and how much I actually missed her. We both have lots of stuff demanding our attention and its pretty easy to get swept up in your own life and stop noticing what’s going on around you. I thought about the last 24 years with her and I was thankful that we have been able to get to where we are now and still enjoy being together as much as we do.

Marriage is one of the most amazing and rewarding relationships a person can have. It can also push a person to the absolute edge of misery. I have also been so angry at my wife that I have taken my hat off, thrown it at the ground as hard as I could, and then stomped on it.  I have also been so overwhelmed with feelings of love for her that I wept.

It’s important to understand what a marriage is. When I searched the definition in a Bing search, marriage was defined as a formal union between a man and a woman whereby they become husband and wife. Webster’s dictionary uses the word “United”. Wikipedia uses the verbiage “Legal contract that establishes rights and obligations”. It’s also defined more generally as a mixture or combination of two or more elements.

Marriage originated in the Bible. There it’s called a covenant. While most people may have heard that, many don’t actually understand what a covenant is. A covenant is a formal, solemn & binding agreement and based on promises and trust. Historically covenants have often been between clans, tribes & families, usually by the joining of sons & daughters in marriage. Covenants are seals by the shedding of blood and involve the swearing of an oath and the making of solemn promises to the other party, exchanging gifts and names. Many family names are the result of covenants made long ago.  Now days family names beginning with “Van” or “Mac” are common, but they probably started from a covenant. The covenant would be honored and respected by all the members of both families.

The significance and the actual strength of a covenant is found in the honesty and integrity of the people who enter into it. In the old days, violating the covenant was a serious offense often resulting in the death of the offender. People understood the gravity of the oath of a covenant. They didn’t want to break covenant, not just because of the potential consequences but also because of what the breaking of the covenant said about the breaker. Even if you lived, you would never be trusted again.

For us today to give ourselves the best possible chance at a long and happy marriage, we can’t be liars. Period.  You and I need to work tirelessly to make sure that the promises and oath that came out of our mouth does not fail. Our spouse has every right to expect this from us. It’s not a light thing that we entered into. When we stood up and made those promises, we gave our spouse an IOU, a promissory note to pay, with the intent that you and I would spend the rest of our life making our word come true.

The problem often arises when one spouse thinks the other is not fully committed or not upholding their end of the commitment. Then that spouse begins to let their own commitment wane. Truthfully, even if your spouse is “Just phoning it in”, If you are a person of integrity, you will keep your word. That is the sign of a true covenant promise.

If he has a need, if she has a need and you can fulfill it.
Do it.
Don’t even ask why.
That’s why you are married to each other.
To serve each other.

–  www.inspirational-motivational-quotes.com

I invite you this week to press the pause button on your life for a little while and have a real and honest look at your word. Are you honest? Does your word have integrity? Or are you only “situationally honest”, with your desire to keep your word depending on the way your spouse is acting toward you?  Remember, you’re not only lying to them when you tell an outright lie, you are also lying to them when you fail to keep your promises.  When you married, you said to your spouse the best things you could say.  Get behind your words and from now on, make them true.

I Still Do image

What do you think are some of the more difficult areas to keep your word in marriage? I would love for you to join the conversation by leaving a comment. Also, if you have found this helpful and think it could help someone else, please consider sharing.