Category Archives: family

The Lost Secret of Leadership

Editor’s note–this article first appeared in Early to Rise. http://www.earlytorise.com/the-lost-secret-of-leadership/

You are a leader. You’re a leader in your home, at work, in your community, and most important of all, the leader of your own life.

But are you the best leader you can be?

There are many attributes to great leadership. I believe the most important one by far is the lost art of ‘modeling’. It’s a lost art because so many of the good models have disappeared.

Author and prolific TED talker, Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, and his most recent, Leaders Eat Last, says the following about ‘modeling’ without ever using the word, but illustrating it lavishly.

Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown.

They rush toward danger.

They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future.

Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours.

And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.

And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly, to see their visions come to life, and proudly call ourselves their followers.

Have you ever had a leader like that?

I think it’s time to raise the battle cry and call out to a new generation of men and women to strive to be models of exemplary conduct.

The problem in our industries and communities is that many supervisors and leaders are not living out the very things they are asking others to do. There is no congruence between what the boss says and what they do. This causes untold pain in a work atmosphere. It does the same in a home.

We can do better.

If you were blessed to grow up in an environment of encouragement, start counting your blessings. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of you began life under less than ideal circumstances. Perhaps broken homes, absentee parents, crumbling ethical world, all of these and more, factor into the making of a human being, for better or worse. You didn’t have leaders—parents, teachers, employers—like Sinek describes. You didn’t have a ‘model’ to trace your life on.

So if this was your lot, how do you go about changing? You can sit around and do what my coach calls ‘wallow’ about your lot in life, but eventually you have to ‘swallow’, because nobody really cares. Really. Sad to say, but unless you care enough about your situation to improve it, it’s going to be a miserable life.

But if you want to move on, one of the best places to start moving is to find a model.

The late Albert Bandura who pioneered social learning theory in the 60s and 70s said,

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” – Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977

In case you rushed through that last paragraph, read it again slowly, especially this sentence, “Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for actions.” Wow. ETR readers, there is hope if you lacked good modeling.

This seems to concur with Albert Schweitzer’s adage, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing”.

Perhaps an overstatement but not too far from the truth.

If you have a purpose or dream or mission in life, it goes without saying that you will not get anywhere without a ‘role model’, someone who has gone ahead of you.

Can we agree that ‘models’ have gone missing and that you are willing to rise up to the challenge of becoming one of ‘those’ for someone, and also committing to finding a model of someone you can follow to improve your life radically?

Another word for ‘model’ is ‘pattern’. Have you noticed that when someone sews up clothes, they use a ‘pattern’? Why? Because using a pattern shortens the process. It saves time. It prevents mistakes. It makes the task look easier. There are some amazing things that happen in your life when you choose the right pattern or model.

I would suggest that one of the best ways to achieve your goals is to find a model whose already achieved what you want– financially, spiritually, and relationally. Find someone who is where you want to be and then set about figuring out how they got there. That is the quickest way to learn. Study. Go on active search mode.

Have you noticed how babies learn most things? They learn by copying. I go work in my garden, and water my plants, and without me providing any instruction, pretty soon, my grandson is walking along, stumbling with his little pail of water, to water my tomato plants. Does he drip water? Does he miss the plant by a country mile? Yes, but who cares, he’s getting the right idea.

If it’s true that we learn the most by copying and modeling, then the challenge is choosing your models.

If you were blessed to have someone who had great habits and was success oriented in your life, then you probably grew up to be a high achiever. On the other hand, if you saw negative behavior modeled you may have innocently become a negative, fault finding person.

As a child you didn’t know what was right or wrong. You just had these people in your life, and in many cases, they said, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

If you grew up as I did watching people ‘explode’ with their anger, you may have grown up with a temper. This happened to me. All through my young adult years and into the early part of my marriage, I struggled with managing my outbursts of anger. It took some coaching to discover that I had come by this innocently. What was encouraging was that just as I learned this by copying, I could relearn new patterns. I am a work in progress but surrounding myself with healthy models of anger expression has fueled my desire to manage and express my anger in constructive ways.

If you grew up being shamed and being a fault finder, it shouldn’t surprise you that you walk around in your daily life shaming the people you love the most and work with. There is hope. Find a new model.

How do we find a model? There’s two ways: The indirect method; and direct method.

The indirect is through the plethora of self help resources available to us today in all kinds of ways—audio programs, books, and reading biographies of people who overcame their ‘issues’ to achieve greatness. For example, as I move on in life one of my goals is to become a more teachable and coachable person. I suffer from having ‘china doll feelings. ‘ At the sound of the slightest criticism I used to get my back up and I would ultimately be the loser. My own coach has helped me overcome my fear of feedback by having me read the book Thanks for the Feedback, as well as exploring some of the reasons why I get my back up. I am growing.

There’s also the direct method of having a specific person in your life. I have had a few of these in my life. First as a teacher, then as a pastor, and now as a life and leadership coach. I am always looking for healthy models in areas I am aspiring to be great in.

One of the greatest benefits of having models is that they inspire us to crash through self imposed limitations. For years it was known that no human being could break the 4 minute mile running record. But in 1954, Roger Bannister broke that barrier, and right after him 1000s of people started to break it. That’s what a model can do for you. Help you crash through self imposed barriers.

You and I need models. Who are your models today? Who are the people who inspire you? Who could you get close enough to, to learn from?

Don’t let your ego get in the way of transforming your life. A lack of humility and over-exaggerated sense of self importance is the only reason to not make others our models.

When my kids were young, I was obsessed with being the best dad I could be. I am still obsessed with this value although now they are in their 30s, and my hope is that they will make being great role models their ambition, and that they will never stop seeking out models that will inspire them to achieve greatness in the areas of life that matter to them.

I memorized the following poem 30 plus years ago. It still resonates with me today. It’s a daily reminder that your attitudes and actions set an example for everyone around us.

Little Eyes Upon You

There are little eyes upon you

and they’re watching night and day.

There are little ears that quickly

take in every word you say.

There are little hands all eager

to do anything you do;

And a little boy who’s dreaming

of the day he’ll be like you.

You’re the little fellow’s idol,

you’re the wisest of the wise.

In his little mind about you

no suspicions ever rise.

He believes in you devoutly,

holds all you say and do;

He will say and do, in your way

when he’s grown up just like you.

There’s a wide-eyed little fellow

who believes you’re always right;

and his eyes are always opened,

and he watches day and night.

You are setting an example

every day in all you do;

For the little boy who’s waiting

to grow up to be just like you.

– Author Unknown

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The One and Only Priority That Matters in the End

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We just celebrated a milestone birthday for my wife of nearly 38 years. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Really. Somehow when I say that in this day and age, with people my age who are jumping off ‘the marriage ship’, it’s kind of shocking, but we still sign off our anniversary and birthday notes with “one life is too short.

Sappy, I know, but what are you going to do if it’s so true?

RosettaThis article isn’t about marriage but about love, and about what really matters in life. I’m sure there may be some push back but that’s okay. Last time I checked no one who was on their deathbed was checking their latest stock numbers, but rather, waiting for loved ones to be with them as their lives were winding down.

With Mother’s day behind us and Father’s day just ahead of us, I would like to encourage us to take some time to reflect on the one and only priority that matters in the end.

Back to my wife’s birthday, which by the way was celebrated on top of one of the world’s tallest standing structures, the Toronto CN Tower.  With her family we circled in the restaurant around the city and poured our many expressions of love on a person we all know so well and love so much.

The highlight of the event was when our adult kids presented her with a ‘Love Jar’.

You ask, so what is a Love Jar? Actually I Googled it and I couldn’t find any one specific definition. A lot of images of Love Jars, but none like ‘our’ Love Jar. Our Love Jar was about our mom, my wife, our friend and daughter, and sister and colleague.

When out kids, now adults with their own children, were growing up we used a variety of analogies to explain to them what our home was. Among other things, we taught our boys that our home was to be a filling station.  Yes, a filling station. Remember those? I’m sure some of our ETR readers are old enough, like me, to remember pulling up to a gas station or filling station as they were called, and waiting by the window until someone showed up with a happy face and said, “Fill ‘er up?”  Those were the good old days.

Although there might be the occasional full service station, they are few and far between.  Mostly we are into ‘self serve’ these days.

Although the Love Jar and filling station seem like opposites, they are actually very a like.  There’s something empty that needs to be filled.

All of us have emotional tanks that need refueling. I have heard this analogy explained referring to how we should be treating our children, but never for adults. Coaching men and women for over 30 years now I have discovered that we too have emotional tanks that need filling.

And what is the fuel we all need – love.  Love expressed in its many expressions. In the words of best selling author Gary Chapman we all have a variety of love languages we respond to. He identifies five — quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and receiving gifts. Those are the Five Love Languages.

In those old filling stations, you would have welcoming, servant hearted attendants, happy to fill your tank to the full, no questions asked with a smile on their face.

What happened in those full service filling stations is what needs to be happening in our relationships today. And not just at home, but at work and in our communities.

Unfortunately I see this very little.   It’s seen on occasion and people make a big deal about it when it’s evident, but what could we do as ETR readers to raise the value of love in our various contexts. What could we do to adopt this old model of refueling at a filling station, into our relationship world?  What if we all arrived at the office, or the house or the team or company with the attitude, “ I wonder whose emotional tank I can fill today?” We would start a revolution of love.

We don’t have to wait for special occasions to send out Love Jars or fill tanks.

You can easily fill someone’s Love Jar today or tomorrow.

In my wife’s case, her jar was full. Here’s just a sampling from hundreds of comments from neighbors, family, friends, work colleagues and clients.  Note the specificity of the comments. When you go to fill the Love Jars of the people in your lives, make sure you get specific and highlight character traits, attitudes and actions that speak to you of the value of this person you are loving on.

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I love Rosetta’s loyalty and how I can trust her heart in engaging with her and sharing my deepest fears and challenges.

What I love about Rosetta is that she takes her job as the oldest sister seriously being the first to call when she hears of news, especially bad news, because she doesn’t shy away from talking about difficult things, even when others do.

I love Rosetta’s smile and loving welcome whenever she sees me.

Through your actions and words, you have taught me the true meaning of love, faith and forgiveness. I am eternally grateful to be able to call you ‘mom’.

One of the things I love about Rosetta is her kind heart and kind face—makes her a very pleasant person to be around.

Rosetta exudes God’s grace and stillness in an anxious world.

Although many of these comments focus on filling the love jar with words of affirmation there are other creative ways you can show your love.

You can refill the empty tanks of the people in your world by offering a look, a word and touch of love on a regular basis.

We underestimate what can be communicated with a look.  We know looks can kill, but looks of love can replenish depleted fuel tanks in just moments.  Making gentle eye-to-eye contact with people can have a healing impact.

After reading this essay, why not practice a loving look with someone in your life? Be prepared for them to be positively shocked!

A look of love can fill and refill empty tanks.

So can a touch of love.

A fifteen second embrace or longer can refill an empty tank.  Even if you aren’t a touchy feely person you might want to try this one for a change.  Let yourself go. Let yourself be touched and don’t be afraid to appropriately touch people in your life.  There are many ways to fill a tank with a loving touch.  Loving embraces, firm handshakes, touching on the shoulder, bear hugs between men, and so many other creative ways to fill a tank with a touch of love.

For those of you who have aging parents, you’ll never know what it means to a mom and dad to be hugged or touched by their adult child.

Recent studies have shown that fathers show physical affection 1/6th as often as mothers do. The results are evident in our society how our boys are suffering from a lack of appropriate affection from their dads.

All of us are older children or younger children, we are children of someone, you can easily fill your parents’ tanks or Love Jars with four little words—I love you Dad. I love you Mom.

Can you imagine how the whole atmosphere of a home or an office or a company or a team or significant other relationship would change if each person made an effort to say kind words instead of hurtful or sarcastic words?

So why not go fill someone’s Love Jar and fill tank or two this week.

The Six “F”s for a ‘Sort of’ Balanced Life

The other day I was speaking with a coaching partner about how to ‘balance’ our lives. Is that ever an elusive pursuit, but one pursuing nevertheless.  I shared with him the 6 F’s for a balanced life.   Years ago I was introduced to the Six  F’s, a great framework for thinking about various categories in our lives.  And a great way to juggle one’s life.

The Six are in no particular order Faith, Family, Friends, Finance, Fitness and Fun and any other F you want to add.

Faith.

Today it’s popular to talk about ‘spirituality’. That’s great.  My preference is to think about my faith, the part of me called my soul that connects with ultimate reality, and for me that ultimate reality is “God”.  A personal God at that, and a Father, with a mother’s heart. I nurture my faith as a priority because everyday I need to be reminded that my soul matters to Someone, and that I am that Someone’s beloved, cherished child.  So I make time every day in my schedule to nourish my faith.

Family.

This part is all about my marriage and now adult children and grandchildren.  I could say so much about this but suffice it to say that i believe the quality of my life rises and falls on the quality of my family relationships.  So I make sure to invest in my marriage with regular check in’s with my bride of 36 plus years, plus special scheduled weekends away, and annual vacations alone.

With my adult ‘kids’, I make sure to ask them where dad can connect with them and their kids, and how dad can best be part of their lives without imposing my passion for them on them.

Finances.

So much of our lives is consumed with making money.   Over the years my wife and I have worked hard to have margin financially as with other areas of our lives.  We continue to practice the fundamentals of saving as much as we can, giving as much as we can, and spending as little as we can.  We also make sure that we put enough away so that we are not presumptuous about the future, thinking there will be someone out there to take care of us. Good luck with that.

Friends.

As the years go by this is an area I pay close attention to.  Who are my real friends? Who are the people who I can count on and who can count on me?  In a pinch, who would be my ‘go to’ buds? I’m glad my wife and I have a few of these that we know we can depend on, and I trust they know they can count on us too.

Proverbs 18:24 says, Friends come and friends go,
    but a true friend sticks by you like family.

How true is that piece of ancient scripture!

Fitness

There is so much written on this today, and so many opportunities to get ‘fit’ and stay fit.  I have no trouble working out. This is the easiest for me to schedule although I still find it challenging to do consistently with age. My fitness regime is one of swimming twice a week by doing 60-70 lengths in olympic size pool, plus running/walking twice a week for 50-60 minutes, and two days in the gym on weights and machines.  My wife says I am a ‘bull’.  Not really but I love having this routine and it provides a strong physical foundation for the many life and work related tasks I take on.

Fun.

This one I have to work on. I enjoy reading and watching movies and films, but am ‘light’ on hobbies.  I don’t know if I ever will have a hobby but I continue to include fun in my life because I know I need it.

I have found the following rendition of the Lord’s prayer a wonderful ‘soul’ tonic for days when I am feeling out of balance.  I call this psalm or prayer the psalm for ‘out of balance’ people.

Psalm 23 for Busy People

Toki Miyashina

The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity,
by anointing my head with his oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord,

dwell in His house forever.
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Laughter in the Walls on my 61st Birthday

My day is winding down and I am writing this after having had a day of wonderful blessings from so many family and friends, near and far. Birthdays are sort of great but as one starts to realize you have much less time to live than you have already lived, well, it’s kind of a huge siren call.

Coming home tonight I walked around our home, inside and out, and just listened to the quiet of the side of our house and backyard where so many memories were created with our boys as they were growing—kicking soccer balls, playing football and bocce, and ‘playing war’ around the spacious area around our property.  As one listens to the quiet, one wonders where did all the laughter go.  It’s still there, I think, but in another form, and I need to slow myself down to ‘hear it’ again.

I suppose it’s stored up and hopefully treasured in each heart that once occupied the space of our home.

My bride of almost 38 years and I have both recently celebrated key milestone birthdays. I’m not allowed to mention her number but it’s one less than mine.  These days when we are on our own, our sentences often begin with…”Do you remember when….?” and then we’ll go off on some beautiful memory that created a laugh, a concern, a joy, a cheer, a prayer or two, or just an overall pleasant experience that we carry around with us as a way to nourish our own emotions as life moves so quickly past us.

In reviewing the day an old poem came to mind. They are not my words but the words of the late Bob Benson reflecting on his own memories of days gone by and although the scenario of his life was different than ours, the emotions are the same.

It’s simply called Laughter in the Walls, and every time I read it, a tear comes to my eye. I recall reading it over 30 years ago. Now 30 plus years later and 3 adult sons, two daughters in ‘love’ and 2 grand kids later, the poem still speaks to the deepest  part of my soul.

On this 61st birthday I was reminded to cherish every relationship, every moment of what’s left of my life.  And I don’t want to just reflect on the past laughter but continue to create more laughter in the walls of our home into the future.

Laughter in the Walls by Bob Benson

LAUGHTER IN THE WALLS
by Bob Benson

I pass a lot of houses
on my way home.
Some pretty,
some expensive,
some inviting.

But my heart always skips a beat
when I turn down the road
and see my house
nestled against the hill.

I guess I’m especially proud
of the house
and the way it looks
because I drew the plans myself.
It started out large enough for us–
I even had a study;
two teenage boys
now reside in there.
And it had a guest room;
my girl and nine dolls
are permanent guests.
It had a small room
Peg had hoped
would be her sewing room,
the two boys swinging
on the Dutch door
have claimed this room as their own.
So it really doesn’t look right now
as if I’m much of an architect.
But it will get larger again.

One by one they will go away–
to work, to college,
to service,
to their own houses.
And then there will be room–
a guest room, a study,
and a sewing room–
just for the two of us.

But it won’t be empty.
Every corner, every room,
every nick in the coffee table
will be crowded
with memories.
Memories of picnics,
parties, Christmases,
bedside vigils, summers,
fires, winters, going barefoot,
leaving for vacation, cats,
conversations, black eyes,
graduations, first dates,
ball games, arguments,
washing dishes, bicycles,
dogs, boat rides,
getting home from vacation,
meals, rabbits,
and a thousand other things
that fill the lives
of those who would raise five.

And Peg and I
will sit quietly by the fire
and listen to the
laughter in the walls.

Never Run(or Walk) Alone

I am not sure why but I woke up this morning feeling like I needed to get some fresh fuel in order to persevere in some personal challenges I am facing.

I was reminded by watching Dick and Ricky Hoyt that to try to make it through this life on your own is insane. So important to cultivate a solid ‘network'(hate that word) of friends who really do care about what happens to you and what is happening to you and aren’t quick to fix you but are quick to listen and sit and allow you to just ‘be’ as you walk through your challenges.

I trust you will find some hope to take another few steps in whatever you are facing from this wonderful piece simply called Don’t Run Alone.

 

love, perseverance, focus, tenacity, community

Father and Son in the Barbados

This week I have been enjoying some extended time away with my oldest son, Vince. Otherwise known as ‘skinny Vinny’ or ‘the ‘No Nonsense Muscle building guy. I have two other amazing sons but this time it’s all about Vince.

Next to being away with my bride there’s no greater joy than to have some days to invest in the life of one of my ‘kids’. And of course, the investment goes both ways. He adds so much value to me especially in inspiring to keep going for my ‘zone of genius’, a new term we are challenging each other with.

Vince is here mostly on business and I came along to support him where I can.

Vince and I have some similarities although he gets his appearance from his beautiful mom. We are alike in that we love fitness, love personal development, love sharing books and insights we are learning, and eating good meals. Vince is the big spender and tipper. Dad is, oh well, cheap.

Vince and I are both plodders. We stick to a task till the damn thing gets done. We are both a bit distracted sometimes but we make up for it by our affection and love for people.

More than anyone I know on the planet Vince exemplifies the proverbial insight of Solomon who said,

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.

Vince epitomizes that proverb in his generous way of life.

I think most of Vince’s success is do to his ‘I can do this spirit’. I remember in his high school days, while running the steeplechase. He came flying towards the thick barrier and crashed into it. He picked up his battered skinny frame off the track and started limping as fast as he could to the finish. He did finish. It wasn’t pretty but it sure was heart thumping inspiring. As always, whatever Vince does, he does it in style.

Plus he’s the nicest guy you ever want to meet. To have Vince as your friend is a treasure. You know he’ll have your back. Recently while in Miami helping Vince with one of his Masterminds one of his colleagues, who was living out of his car at one time, said to me, ‘Luch, your son gave me hope. If it wasn’t for Vince…’ And he went on to sing Vince’s praises and how Vince helped raise him from ashes to a thriving internet fitness business. And he’s just one story.

I look at how he cares so deeply about his lovely bride Flavia and seven month old Milia, and also how he so loves his brothers and sister in law, and nephew, and it just makes me want to smile and puff out my chest and say, ‘heh world, that’s my boy’. Oh ya, yours truly and his mom are so respected by him and we feel it every day.

Vince and I have spent the last 4 mornings reading the scriptures with a focus on Samson’s life, a man who started out with all the blessings in the world, including godly parents and gifts God gave him, but like a whale he got ‘beached’. This man with so much strength , got sacked, or should I say let himself get sacked.
Each morning Vince and I have read from Judges 13,14,15 and 16 and prayerfully resolved to be strong and to help each other become better versions of ourselves, better men, better husbands, better dads, better sons and uncles and better friends.
I especially love our heartfelt times of spiritual reflection and prayer together.
To pray with a son is well, joy unspeakable. No wonder St John said, ‘I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in the truth.’

We both know we have a long way to go but that’s okay we’re on the journey together and with others. We also know there are land mines ahead and that we are in a fight, the good fight of faith, but we’re both up for it.

And along with the serious stuff we both got to ‘play ‘ in the waves, eat lunch outdoors and drink good Banks Barbados beer.

It doesn’t get much better than that. I am blessed.

Time to go home.

 

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Remembering the Giving Trees in Our Lives

Apples

For many of us this time of year, in spite of the cold weather in some parts of our world, is a time to reflect on the past year.   I must say, it’s all a difficult time for many especially if they are suffering loss of a loved one, unemployment, loneliness, financial crisis, all kinds of heartaches.  Nevertheless, it sometimes helps to remember not only what we have lost but what we have left. Easier said than done.

If someone asked me ‘What do you like most about the year end holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and moving through to Christmas and the New Year?”, I would say, It’s a time to reflect.

The food is spectacular but who doesn’t mind a ‘cheat day or two—those delectable, fattening morsels that make Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s so special. So are the parties and the people . . . the songs, the smiles, the smells. Each weaves its way into the fabric of our minds in such a beautiful manner that we live in the warmth of them for days. Sometimes a lot longer.

But the best part for me of these traditional holidays, is a time to pause, to reflect, to remember.  It’s a good time to just sit silently, thoughtfully, alone. To remember the past without the shock interruption of routine tasks.  It’s a time to walk on a snowy evening in a neighborhood with your kids in tow, or to walk the beach if you are blessed to live in a warm climate, taking time to stop and listen. And think.

A particular highlight might be to be by a warm fireplace with all the lights out, staring into the heat, and letting thoughts emerge, drift, and linger.  A time to listen to some holiday music or read some lines from a good book or poem.

It’s a time to say, “You know what?  It’s been a long year. I need some time to savor the days past, and to enjoy the season.

Clergyman Charles Wesley said it best when he sang, “it’s a time to ‘be lost in wonder, love and praise’.

And to do this in quiet, in unhurried leisure, where I reap some rich benefits of peace and joy and tranquility.  Whether one believes in God or a higher being or not, this time of year does tend to sensitize us to the hope that there is Someone over us, watching over us, caring for us. And in our own way, we quietly say, “thank You”.  In my case, times like this end up with me thanking the Almighty for something specific, for something or someone that He has provided in the past of my life and that makes my life today much more fulfilled.

In recent days I have been recalling the loss of my mom and dad as well as younger brother who died an untimely death.  What makes this time of year bearable and even positive for me is when I think about their lives and what they contributed to me while they were here.  I draw strength from each of them as I think about who they were and what they meant to me and rather than be sad, I ask them in a spiritual kind of way to be with me as I face the uncertainties and challenges of my life.
This happens to me year in and year out. We have developed a ‘tradition’ in our home, since our kids were little kids.  Now we have grandkids, and hope to do this with them.

Over the years we have so enjoyed reading a book by Shel Silverstein called The Giving Tree, a simple fanciful piece about a tree who loved a boy.  There is no religious connotation to the story but one can read that into it if one wants to.  For our family it’s become a metaphor for how we all want to be ‘when we grow up’, like that tree.   By the way, we have even enjoyed neighborhood get togethers where I would get up and read the story to our neighbors and then reflect as a group on the story’s impact on us. Talk about a community coming together.  Here’s a brief summary of that story.

Giving tree
They played hide ‘n’ seek in his younger years. He swung from her branches, climbed all over her, ate her apples, slept in her shade. Such happy, carefree days. The tree loved those years of the boy’s childhood.

But the boy grew and spent less time with the tree. On one occasion the young man returned. “Come on, let’s play,” invited the tree . . . but the lad was only interested in money. “Take my apples and sell them,” said the tree. He did . . . and the tree was happy.

He didn’t return for a long time, but the tree smiled when he passed by one day. “Come, play, friend. Come, play!” But the boy—now full grown—wanted to build a house for himself. “Cut off my branches and build your house,” she offered. He did, and once again the tree was happy.

Years dragged by. The tree missed the boy. Suddenly, she saw him in the distance. “Come on, let’s play!” but the man was older and tired of his world. He wanted to get away from it all. “Cut me down. Take my large trunk and make yourself a boat. Then you can sail away,” said the tree. And that’s exactly what he did . . . and the tree was happy.

Many seasons passed—summers and winters, windy days and lonely nights—and the tree waited. Finally, the old man returned . . . too old, too tired to play, to pursue riches, to build houses, or to sail the seas. “I have a pretty good stump left, my friend. Why don’t you just sit down here and rest?” He did . . . and the tree was happy.¹

As I read this story to my adult children and their children, I watch myself pass in review as I grow older with the tree and the boy. I identify with both—and it hurts.

And in my time of reflection, I think, How many Giving Trees have there been in my life? How many have released part of themselves so I might grow, accomplish my goals, find wholeness and satisfaction, and reach beyond the tiny, limited playground of my childhood? So, so many. Thank you, Lord, for each one. Their names could fill this page.

Now I, like the tree, have grown up. Now it’s my turn to give. And some of that hurts. Apples, branches, sometimes the trunk. My rights, my will  . . . and even my children and grandchildren.

So much to give. Thank you, Lord, that I have a few things of value to give. Even if it’s a lap to be sat on . . . or the comfort of a warm hug.

As  I get older, it’s times like this that make aging a joy rather than a burden.  The times of remembering and reflecting draw me close to my Lord, and to all those in my circle of my family and friends.

I can go to sleep night after night during this holiday season with gratitude to my Creator.  I am a thankful man.

Thankful I have had a time to reflect.

How about you?  Who have been the Giving Trees in your life? Before 2013 is out, who do you need to just say, “I love you’ to, and who do you need to ‘thank’ with a full heart?

Who knows maybe you will even start the same tradition we did 30 plus years ago.

Luciano Del Monte

Coach Luciano Del Monte (www.coachdelmonte.com) has dedicated his life to partnering with people in assisting them to become the very best version of themselves whether he was in the role of high school teacher, campus chaplain, or as a pastor in several large churches. For over 30 years, Coach Del Monte has been helping people! Currently his message and approach resonates with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Whether he is speaking in a one on one session with a business man or woman, or in a business forum, at a high school or university, or in a church, he invites his audience to become the-best-version-of-themselves. His personal interests include running, cycling, swimming, and visiting the gym frequently. He loves reading, and watching movies categorized as ‘epic’. His greatest claim to fame is being married to his amazing wife Rosetta, and being the father of three awesome sons and two wonderful daughters in law, and two sweet grand children. His academic background includes Education (BA and B.Ed) and Theology (MTS) degrees, and he is an ACC associate certified coach in association with the ICF (International Coaching Federation). He is also working alongside his son Vince, otherwise known as ‘the skinny guy saviour’, to provide weekly insights into ‘living large inside and outside the gym’ on Vince’s http://www.LiveLargeTV.com.

Lessons from a Marathon Debut

Today our middle son Adrian joined 25,000 other runners to run his first marathon in the Scotiabank course in downtown Toronto and along the beautiful Toronto waterfront.  Although our sons, including dad, have been competitive runners, only Adrian has had the gumption to invest the time, energy, focus and tenacity it takes to execute the ‘classic distance’ of some 26 miles 385 yards.

Adrian’s training began in earnest last winter and he logged thousands of miles since then mixing those miles with ‘roadwork’, ‘speed training’, ‘long runs’ and other cross training.  Oh ya, he has also employed the services of an excellent coach and runner, Megan Brown, who adeptly wove together a series of workouts throughout the last six months.  Adrian followed his coach’s advice and exhortation to the tee.  Adrian has been wonderfully coachable, and a coach himself on the club he runs with and for.

In my work as a life, ministry and business results coach, I love when I have a ‘coachable client’, one who doesn’t ‘ya but’ their way through the whole coaching call.  Of course, there are times coach and coachee need to dialogue and trust each other, but at the end of the day, the coachee will be best served by following the coach’s direction, which they have agreed upon together.

Of course, for those of us who don’t run at the level of those runners who are blessed with what appears to be ‘superhuman’ talent, we can still benefit from our own race.  The most important lesson for me is that marathon training not only builds your capacity for a long run, but it also develops you in your spirit, soul and body, to crash through other quitting points in life, be they relational, career, relational or spiritual.

Very rarely does a marathon runner ‘feel good’ for the whole run, so developing the capacity to crash through quitting points is a non negotiable virtue.

Not only did Adrian achieve a personal goal today in competing in and completing his first marathon, he inspired our whole family to keep on chasing after our dreams and goals.  Adrian’s example was huge for all of us. After the race over lunch and while we watched Adrian limp and crawl around the house, we were all talking about what our next challenge would be and it was all because we watched our son, our brother, our husband, our father, our son in law, our friend, do something that was difficult, challenging, fulfilling all at the same time.

Just before the race Adrian tweeted us a favourite line from his all time favourite movie “Hoosiers’. In that movie Jimmy Chipwood, one of the most silent characters says in reference to an important basket he needs to make, “I’ll make it!”, which is exactly what Adrian did, “He made it!”

Seconds from a 2:54:15 finish.

Celebrating with his bride Amy and proud son, Jakey.

My 60th birthday

photo2013-04-01 11.00.15On the eve of my 60th birthday I am very pensive.  Just having celebrated our youngest son’s birthday tonight, I am thinking what a blessed man I am.  My mother, father, and baby brother have all passed on to the other life, and my sister and I still survive of our Del  Monte of 5 that I came from.  Lots of memories, most of them good, some of them painful, especially the premature death of my 42 year old brother. My one consolation is that he died at peace with God, and that his children and surviving wife are all doing well.

My own family has enriched me in every way I can imagine, my wife Rosetta of 36 years, my 3 adults sons–Vince, Adrian, and Michael, and my two amazing daughters in ‘love’–Amy and Flavia, and one so adorable grandson, Jacob James Del Monte. He so fits into our growing ‘tribe’.

As I think about my life my prayer is that God will give me many more years to grow with my bride. As we often say to each other, one life is too short.  And I am so delighted to see all my sons and their wives flourishing in their lives and respective life callings.

I continue to pursue my passion of assisting people to awaken to the presence of God in their lives and seek to come alongside them to see them live vitally positive lives, seeking to be those human beings fully alive.  I don’t see early retirement in my future. I only see an ongoing balanced pursuit of my dream of being an effective and productive Coach, whatever context God chooses to place me in.

In reviewing my future I was encouraged to reflect on the poem by American ethicist, Michael Josephson simply called What Will Matter.  Although not original with me this poem resonates with me at this time in my life.

What Will Matter – Michael Josephson

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end. It won’t matter whether you where beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;
Not what you got, but how you gave.

What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter are not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

Mamma Yolanda

Mom’s Day is always emotional for me. My Mamma has been gone since May 2001. No day passes where I don’t think of her. I loved many things about her but mostly my mom would always ‘take my side’ even if I was wrong. For whatever reason, that memory lingers.

She also always reminded me to treat my wife Rosetta ‘come’ una rosa prezosia’. Treat your wife ‘like a precious rose, which I hope I have done and continue to do.

Mamma, I will never forget you. Your smile, red ‘always’ done up hair, having a coffee with you, eating the pasta you made with ‘polpetta'(meatballs), your love for my wife and sons, your reminders to our ‘kids’ to always ‘love mummy and daddy’. All these and a thousand memories fill my heart and mind today.

You would love ‘le ragazze’ ( the girls) your grandsons brought home.

I pray you are more alive today than ever and dancing with the angels.

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