Staying Up Late – Is It Worth It?

Sleep Depravation

Is it worth it? I heard that question this morning. If was from my wife Lisa. She knows me too well. Let me back up a bit. I was in the bathroom shaving this morning when my wife walked in. Her greeting wasn’t, “Good morning dear, how did you sleep?” It was, “Soooo…you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. You know what that does to you. Is it worth it?” I didn’t give her an answer. I didn’t have a good one to give.

I have a character flaw. It is not knowing when to quit a project and go to bed. I was working on some articles last night and before I knew it, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. Lisa had long since gone to bed and was sound asleep. When I crawled into bed she didn’t wake up or roll over or even move a muscle. I thought I was safe and she would never know how late I went to bed. How she knew what time I went to bed is a mystery to me. It’s one of those mysteries of women that men can’t figure out.

So she had me. She asked me if it was worth it because she knows from past experience the price I usually pay for staying up late.

Is it worth it?

Before I can determine if it’s worth it I need to find out why I stay up late, what the benefits are, and what price I end up paying for those benefits. Then I can determine if the benefits are worth the price I pay.

Why do I stay up late?

For different people there are different reasons why they stay up late. If you have this problem then you know what your reasons are. Perhaps you stay up late watching television. Or maybe you love to read. Maybe its endless video games or surfing the internet or chatting with babes online. You know what your reasons are.

For me it usually involves a project I want to get done. Because my days are so full I feel that the only time I have is late at night. I see I have an hour before my normal time to go to bed and I’ll think, “Great, I’ve got a whole hour. I can get an article written in that amount of time. So I’ll begin working on my project. Invariably whatever I’m working on takes much longer than I expected. I grossly underestimate the time it will take.

The next thing that happens is I’ll look at the clock and think, “Well, I’ll just work until eleven.” Before I know it it’s midnight and I still haven’t got my project done. But by now my ideas are flowing. I’m making progress. I’ve got my momentum going. So I think, “I can’t quit now! I can’t stop my flow of ideas and thoughts just as they are getting going!”

It’s so hard for me to stop a project right in the middle. I feel compelled to get it done. I hate loose ends. So I keep going.

By now I’m thinking, “Gee, it’s already so late. I’ve already blown it. I may as well just keep going.” So I keep working until the project is done.

And that, my friend, is how I ended up working until two in the morning!

What are the benefits of staying up late?

So I have to ask myself: What benefits do I gain by staying up late?

  1. Of course the main benefit is actually getting something done.
  2. Probably the next biggest benefit in my mind is TIME. Time for me seems to be in short supply, so whenever I can find a block of time I grab it.
  3. The next benefit would be that the time is uninterrupted time. Not too many people bother you at that time of night. Nobody schedules meetings. No one calls you. You are free from distractions. So having a block of uninterrupted time is a great benefit.
  4. Another benefit is going to bed with the feeling of accomplishment, of having finished a project.

What is the price I pay for staying up late?

Let’s now take a moment and examine what I am paying for those benefits. What are the real costs to me? As I have thought about what it costs me I have come to realize that there is a huge domino effect that comes into play. One thing seems to lead to another. Let me explain.

  • The first domino to fall is that I feel extremely tired in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
  • The next domino is that I feel lousy. In addition to being exhausted and tired, I usually have a headache because of lack of sleep. Many times that headache will develop into a full-blown migraine and then for sure my day is wasted.
  • The next domino to fall is my inability to get up on time. Because I feel so tired I can’t get up at my regular time.
  • The next price I pay is getting that “look” from my wife when she says, “So, you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.” I could see the look of disappointment on her face because she knows what it costs me when I stay up too late. So the real cost is the erosion of my relationship with my wife.
  • The next cost is being behind schedule. Because I didn’t get up on time it messes up my schedule for the whole day.
  • Because I’m behind schedule the next price I pay is not being able to exercise in the morning.
  • Next is the cost of not being able to do my daily personal study session. Every morning I try to study and ponder good books. I can’t do that when I have no time.
  • Another big cost is not having time to plan my day.
  • Because my day isn’t planned then I fail to accomplish important tasks that I should have gotten done.
  • The next big price I pay is more stress in my life. Because I’m behind schedule I find myself in a big rush and my stress level rises.
  • Because I’m stressed then I’m in a bad mood.
  • What puts me into a worse mood is having no time to eat breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. So in addition to feeling lousy and tired and having a headache, I’m also hungry.
  • Then I get to work late. Here I come strolling into work 45 minutes or an hour late. How does that look to my boss, my subordinates and the employees I manage in my department? Not good. Big price.
  • When I eventually do get to work my productivity and my ability to think clearly is affected because I’m so drained.
  • The overall affect continues throughout the day. Because I got to work late in the morning that means I have to stay late to be fair to my employer.
  • Because I had to work late then I get home late. The price I pay is getting, for second time of the day, that “look” from my wife when I walk in the door. She doesn’t have to say anything – I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
  • Because I’m late getting home I miss having dinner with my family.
  • If I have meetings or commitments in the evening then I either have to gobble down my dinner or miss dinner altogether because I don’t have time.
  • The tendency to fail in other areas of my life. When I’m tired and hungry and angry and discouraged and stressed and depressed then I’m more susceptible to failing in other areas where I have made commitments. Failure loves company.
  • Finally, the last domino to fall is the cost of having an overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with myself. My self-esteem takes a big hit.

As you can see the dominos keep falling, one after the other. Its amazing how one little decision the night before affects the entire next day.

Is it worth it?

After weighing the benefits with the costs, it becomes clear that it’s a huge price you pay for that 2 or 3 hours that you think you are gaining by staying up late.

What is the solution?

Well, duh! The solution is to stop staying up late – right? Easier said than done. Here are some ideas to help in mastering this part of your life.

First: You have to make a serious commitment with yourself that you are not going to stay up late any more for any reason.

Second: You have to have a deadline for going to bed. This means you need to decide what time you will be in bed with your head on the pillow and your lights out.

Third: You have to determine how long it takes you to get ready for bed so you know what time you need to begin going to bed. It takes time to brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and whatever else you do before going to bed. If your goal is to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. and it takes you a half-hour to get ready for bed then you need to begin by 10:30 p.m.

Fourth: You need to think ahead and make sure you don’t start anything you can’t finish or end by 10:30 p.m. You can’t be going to a movie at 9:30 at night because you know a movie is roughly two hours and it takes time to get there and time to get home and you’ll never make it.

Okay, so I’ve laid out a very convincing argument against staying up late. I’ve shown that the costs far outweigh any benefits that might be gained. I’ve also laid out a simple plan to change this habit. And I’ve done it all for your benefit. But really, that would be a lie. You see, this really is a challenge to myself to master this area of my life. It’s something I’ve known for a long time that I needed to change.

So, beginning today, I am going to follow this plan and report back to you how I’m doing. Thanks for listening in as I have attempted to convince myself of all the reasons to change. Wish me luck on this challenge.

Ownership is Bondage

Slavery - Ownership is BondageSlavery: Alive and Well in America

They say that slavery was abolished after the Civil War. But I say that slavery is alive and well in America today. Who are these slaves? What do they look like and where do they live? Most important of all, are you one of them?

Today I’m going to explore the idea that Ownership is Bondage. Many of us have become slaves – slaves to our stuff. We think we are wealthy and free when we own a lot of stuff. My contention is that just the opposite is true. Our stuff owns us! We become slaves to our stuff. Ownership is not freedom. Ownership is Bondage!

What is Slavery?

What is slavery anyway? Slavery is being under the control of another person or thing. It is having your liberty taken away. It is being in bondage. It is being dictated how you should spend your time and money. It is taking away your ability to make choices and the freedom to do the things you wish to do. It is the suppression of the human will. That’s what slavery is.

Many years ago the slave ships sailed to the coasts of Africa where the slave traders ran through the jungles capturing the natives, binding them in chains, and forcing them into servitude. Today we are pursued on TV, the radio, and in the newspapers. The slave traders come at us from every direction, luring us with their bait – stuff! And guess what, we willingly put our hands and feet in the shackles and count it a great privilege to do so.

You think I’m joking! “Surely this can’t be true,” you say. Let me illustrate:

Of Slavery and Bondage – Lake Powell

I have a neighbor who is very wealthy. We’re talking millions of dollars here. This person has a huge home. It is so big that when they built it I thought they were building an apartment complex. The family owns a lot of things; boats and snowmobiles and many other fun things.

One thing they own is a houseboat on Lake Powell. I had the opportunity several years ago to be invited with a group of young people to spend a few days at Lake Powell on their houseboat. This wasn’t just any houseboat, but a huge beautiful houseboat. Not only was there a houseboat but a water ski boat and several jet skis.

During the several days we were there I had the opportunity to observe this friend of mine, the one who owned it all. When we got to Lake Powell the houseboat wouldn’t start. The batteries were dead. So my friend had to make a number of phone calls to get the right people there to take care of the problem.

Finally he got the houseboat started and we got it out to the beach where we were to stay the few days we were there. He got everyone together and gave out a long list of rules about the usage of his things. Now it was very generous of him to let us all come on this trip and use his houseboat and ski boat and jet skis. But I noticed that he was stressed the whole time we were there, worrying about every little thing.

The teenagers would take these jet skis out on the lake and when they would come back they would come right up to shore and my friend would yell at them and tell them to get away from the sand, watch out for the rocks, don’t suck sand into the engine and on and on. He pretty much chewed them out for not taking proper care of his things. One of the jet skis quit working so he had to tow it in to the shop at the marina so it could be fixed.

Literally the whole time we were there he was dealing with one issue and problem after another. To watch this friend of mine and what he went through on that trip was very interesting to me. He seemed like he was stressed the whole time dealing with all the problems and issues related to his stuff. Honestly, he couldn’t have had any fun!

Of Slavery and Bondage – The Cabin

I have another friend whose family decided it would be a great thing to own a cabin. So they bought a cabin up in the mountains. It’s two or three hours away from where they live. I suppose it’s a great thing to have a cabin but what I’ve noticed is that he’s never around. Whenever I ask his wife where he is she always tells me he’s up at the cabin. Either he’s fixing the plumbing or painting or doing some other repairs. He’s constantly up there working on that cabin. I wouldn’t be surprised if he spends more time working on that cabin than he spends enjoying it! I think to myself, “For Pete’s sake, you can rent a cabin and then when you’re done you give the keys back and you don’t have to deal with it any more.”

Of Slavery and Bondage – The Swimming Pool

Well let’s not leave me out of the bad example section. I remember a few years ago when my kids were young and we were at the store. I saw one of those do-it-yourself swimming pools that you set up in your back yard. You’ve probably seen them, the kind that are three feet high and fifteen feet in diameter. My wife and I looked at the pool and thought, you know, for a $150 it would be great to have a swimming pool in the back yard. You could come home from work and go out there and take a dip in the pool. The kids could have so much fun. So we splurged and bought the $150 pool.

I remember we bought the pool on a Saturday afternoon. We thought we would just go home and set up the pool and be swimming by that evening and it would be great. So we get home and take the pool out of the box and spread out all the parts. We start going through the instructions and begin to realize that, “Wow, this thing is going to be really difficult to put up!”

First of all you have to have an exactly level ground, fifteen feet in diameter. I also didn’t realize that you can’t just set it up on the lawn. You have to dig out the grass and create this huge hole that is perfectly level. It took me hours and hours to dig out the sod and dig the dirt out to make it level.

Then there were so many pieces to that pool! After hours of work I finally had the pool set up. It was 9:00 o’clock at night. Now I had to fill the pool with water. I had all my garden hoses going and it still took forever to fill it. Of course we didn’t get to swim in it that day.

So we get the pool set up and filled with water and finally we can swim in it. That lasts for about a day. Guess what, you don’t just fill it up and swim for the rest of the summer. No way! Now you have to maintain the thing. It takes about 10 minutes of kids swimming in it before the thing is filthy with grass and dirt and leaves.

Now we get to buy filters and chemicals for the constant battle to keep it clean! Now who do you think gets to take care of that pool? That’s right, me! I’m the one who had to test the chlorination and the PH balance every day. I was amazed at how fast that pool would turn green and the moss would begin growing. It was horrible to maintain. I had to buy a special pool vacuum that you hook to your garden hose to suck up all the leaves. We had to buy a pool cover to keep all the leaves from flying in. We had to buy a special solar blanket to heat the water. When the kids ripped the liner we had to buy a new one for $50.00. We had to constantly buy more chemicals and filters. Finally the pool would get so bad that you just couldn’t clean the water anymore. So I had to drain the whole thing, scrub it all out, refill it with water, and put more chemicals in.

Do you think that I ever got to swim in that thing? Hah, hardly ever! The kids swam in it all the time. My time was always spent taking care of the pool. It was a nightmare! It got to be where I hated that swimming pool. Yes, I swam in it a few times and it was fun, but boy, was it worth it? How cheap is it to get a season pass at the local swimming pool or the local water park and let someone else deal with all that?

Of Freedom and Independence – Simple Wealth

I have another friend I would like to tell you about. This other friend has an equally large amount of money as the first person I told you about. But this friend has chosen a different lifestyle. To look at his house, his car and the way he lives, you would never know that he was wealthy. He has a nice, beautiful home, but it’s a normal size. It’s a regular home just like everyone else along his street. He drives a seven-year-old car. He could literally drive any car in existence and pay cash and yet he chooses to drive this vehicle because he’s content. He doesn’t need anything more. He’s not out to show anybody anything.

What he has is freedom. He doesn’t own tons of things such as the boats and toys that other people have to deal with. He lives a simple life. Yet he has the freedom to go and do what he pleases. I also know, and am one of the few people who know, that he has helped numerous people and family members by doing simple little charity acts like paying off the mortgage on their homes. He gets great satisfaction by doing these kinds of things. He also gets great satisfaction out of living a simple life because what it gives him is freedom.

Of Freedom and Independence – The Simple Life

Now I’m not an enormously wealthy person. I don’t have millions of dollars in the bank. But I also have chosen to live a simple lifestyle and have chosen to live well below my means. I’ve been able to get to the point of being completely out of debt. My home is paid off. I own nothing on my vehicles. In fact I don’t owe anybody anything. Everything I have I own free and clear. There is a very satisfying feeling to that. It’s a feeling of freedom. If I were to lose my source of income tomorrow I could live for a long time because I don’t have many expenses. I don’t have the latest and greatest of everything and I don’t need it. The cars I have are a number of years old but they are great. They are nice looking. They start up and take me where I want to go in comfort. They have power windows. They have air conditioning. They have CD players. Really, what more do you need?

Living simply has given me the freedom to take my wife and family many places and experience many things.

What You Own, Owns You

When you start to think about the stuff you own, ask yourself this question, “Do you own it or does it own YOU?” You’ve perhaps heard of the term “golden handcuffs.” I think it might apply here.

Let’s use the example of owning a boat. First of all, once you own a boat you feel obligated to use it. You paid all that money for it and now you have to get your money’s worth out of it. So every vacation now has to be a boating vacation.

Then you have to store the boat. You either have to park it right in front of your house in the driveway or pour a big cement pad on the side of your house to park it or you keep it in a storage unit somewhere.

Then you have to register it every year and you also have to insure it. Whenever you use the boat you have to pay the marina fees to launch it at the lake. Then is consumes a huge amount of fuel. Then when you’re done you have to obsessively wash the boat. Haven’t you noticed that with boat owners? Every boat owner I know seems to be obsessed with wiping every water spot off their boat and shining it up.

It’s often been said that the two happiest days of a person’s life are the day they bought their boat and the day they sold it.

Of Human Bondage

I have a very wealthy aunt and uncle who have an abundance of possessions. They have homes and condos all over the place. They own a number of businesses. They have very nice cars and motor homes. Lots of stuff! One day my uncle took me aside and said to me, “You know Gary, I would love to just sell everything I have and live in a small home and not have to deal with it all.” What an interesting and telling comment from a very wealthy person. I remember when he told me that I was thinking, “Is this what being wealthy is all about?” What a pain!

Can We Still Have Fun?

So what does this all mean? Can we still have fun? Can we still go boating or are we supposed to live a frugal, meager life? Let’s address these questions.

Yes, you can still have fun. You can still go boating. You can still go to Lake Powell. You can still go water skiing. You can still enjoy the fun things of life. You just don’t have to own them! Here’s an example of what you can do:

For my wife’s 40th birthday we decided we were going to go to the lake and go boating. So for about $150.00 I rented two jet skies. We went and picked them up. I signed some papers and off we went to the lake. We had a day of fun. We rode them all day. When we were done we filled them up with gas, wiped them down a bit, took them back to the rental place and handed them the keys and we were done! Maybe $150.00 sounds like a lot of money for one day but I don’t have to store those things. I don’t have to insure them. I don’t have to maintain them. And I don’t have to feel obligated to go boating all the time to justify the enormous cost of buying the dumb things! I return them and I’m done with it. Somebody else can store them and maintain them.

So for my next outing I may want to rent a water-ski boat, or 4-wheelers or snowmobiles or a motor home or a cabin. You can rent all these things! And when you are done you just hand over the keys and someone else has to deal with it. So, yes, you can still have fun but without all the hassle.

Imagine a Life…

Imagine a life where you live simply, where you don’t owe anything to anyone, where you don’t have huge amounts of stuff to take care of. Imagine a life where you can come and go as you please. Imagine having the freedom to pay cash for things. Imagine the freedom from storing, fixing, insuring, registering and keeping track of loads of stuff. Imagine leaving a smaller footprint on this precious planet of ours.

Treasures on Earth, Treasures in Heaven

Let us be mindful about what we have set our hearts on. Let us be careful of how closely we get tied to the things we own. Are they so important? It’s nice to have a home and I really love the home I’m in, but we have to be careful that we don’t get so tied to things that they become a part of us. We aren’t our things. They are just things.

Someday we are going to die and somebody else is going to be living in that house and somebody else is going to be driving that car and it’s not going to matter. What matters is what kind of legacy you have left in this life. What have you done to make this world a better place? The purpose of this life is not to amass great amounts of stuff.

There is a story in the Bible that tells it best. It is found in Luke, chapter 12:

15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

So what is the meaning of this life? Is it to amass possessions? I don’t think so. I think about Hurricane Katrina and other disasters that have occurred over the last few years. Invariably they will interview someone on the news who has lost everything, and yet they will say, “I’m so blessed because I’ve got my family. My family was safe and everyone was accounted for. We can build another house, we can buy another car, but all that matters is that I’ve got my family.”

When all is said and done it’s your family and the people you love that matter, not the things you own. Don’t become a slave to your stuff. Remember, ownership is not freedom. Ownership is Bondage.

Addictions – Fighting the Fire Within

FIREMillions of people all over the world struggle with addictions every day. There are many kinds of addictions such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography, or food. In this article I share a simple concept that can help in dealing with addictions.

Fire Analogy

When I was a kid I liked to play with matches. It was fun. I loved to watch things burn. But as you know, playing with matches can be very dangerous. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that my family had two homes burn down during my growing up years. (I have solid alibis!)

I like to compare addictions to fire. Think about a match. You can strike a match and how hard is it to put out a match? One little puff of your breath and you can blow it out. No problem. Another match lights, puff, blow it out. No problem. However, when you let a fire go, it can quickly rage out of control where there is nothing you can do about it. At that point you’re basically lost, it’s out of control, and it’s beyond anything you can do about it.

I know about this concept personally. Let me share with you two stories from my life.

Out of Control Campfire Number 1

The first story took place when I was probably in kindergarten. My older brother Kurt and I built a campfire in our back yard. We had planned to melt some lead in a tin can over the fire. Our back yard was fairly large and there was a big lawn. But on the side of the yard there was a garden area that was full of dry weeds and grass. This is where we chose to build our fire. Well my brother made the mistake of leaving me alone by the fire.

We had some newspapers there that we used to start the fire with and I decided to take a page from the newspaper and lay it over our little campfire. The first thing it did was burst into flames. Then because heat rises, this flaming newspaper floated up into the air and drifted right over into the dry weeds and grass which immediately burst into flames.

Now I must have been around six years old or something and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to put it out by stamping on it but that didn’t work. I could not get it out and it was beyond my control. The fire grew bigger and bigger and was racing toward the fence, the new fence that my dad built, and proceeded to catch the fence on fire.

The fire department was called and they came and put out the fire. Luckily I didn’t get into too much trouble but my brother Kurt did.

Out of Control Campfire Number 2

The second story happened when I was older, probably about eleven years old. Across the highway from our house, about a mile away, there was a thickly wooded area that surrounded several ponds where turtles and carp lived. I loved to go over there and catch them and play around. There was thick brush and trees all around the ponds and in the hot Arizona climate a lot of those trees had dried out and died.

My older brothers and I decided to go camping there one summer afternoon. We each had our own little camping spots, as I recall, and my older brother Russell even built a little campfire.

Well, he began to play with his little fire. He took a stick and would poke the end of it into his campfire and catch it on fire. Then he would take the flaming stick and use it to light some dry brush nearby and watch it burn. Then he would quickly put it out. He did this several times, letting the flames get larger each time. (Can you see here where I’m going with this!)

Well, one time he let it go too far and when he tried to put it out he couldn’t. He started screaming at the rest of us to come help him. We all ran over to his campsite and started stamping and throwing dirt on the fire but it was too late. In moments the fire roared into a huge inferno.

We snatched our sleeping bags and got the heck out of there. We ran back across the highway and hid on the other side. From there we watched that whole place go up in gigantic, fifty-foot flames. Farmers from all around drove up in their pickup trucks to see what was going on and to try and put the fire out but they couldn’t do it. The whole place went up in smoke and flames all because my brother was playing around with fire.

Don’t Play With Fire

Now sometimes we want to play figuratively with fire, to look at that image on the internet, to take just one puff of the cigarette, to eat just one more donut. We think, “I’m stressed out today and I just don’t feel so good. I’ll do it just this once and that’s it. Then I’ll stop.” Well that’s kind of like lighting a match, but instead of blowing the match out when that first thought comes into our mind we touch it to some dry grass and say, “I’ll let it go for a little bit and then I’ll put it out.” So we watch it grow and it gets bigger and bigger and before we know it, it’s gotten so large that we try stamping it out but it’s going in all directions and try as we might we cannot put it out and it rages out of control until it consumes us.

This is the way addictions work. They are very similar to these examples in that if you play around with it and you don’t put it out right away when that flame first starts it becomes so much harder. It grows out of control to the point where you’re had, you’re done, you’re ashes, you’re toast.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when the flame is tiny, put it out. When the match strikes, put it out. Don’t dwell on it, don’t play with it or you’ll get burned. It’s so much easier to control these desires, appetites and cravings when they are but a tiny spark than when we let them grow into a huge inferno. So, that’s my simple lesson for today.

Thank you.
Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

What is Your Threshold?

Pressure GuageThat’s it! I’ve had it! I’m going to change! We usually don’t hear those words until we have reached our Threshold. This article will explore what threshold is and how to use it to your advantage.

Threshold is like a boiling point or a point that you reach in your life where you say you’ve had enough, that’s it, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the way I am.

Most homes have a hot water heater. Every hot water heater has a valve on them, a special safety valve. It’s a pressure release valve. To keep the hot water heater from exploding from too much pressure, this release valve will open if the pressure gets too high.

Our “Pressure Release Valve”

Inside each of us there is a pressure release valve so-to-speak – something inside us that kicks in and says, “Whoa, you’ve gone too far, you’re over the limit, you’ve done it this time” and it wakes you up and says, “hey what in the heck are you doing?” It’s a threshold that you reach or a line that you cross that tells you, “Hey, you need to change. You can’t live your life like this anymore.”

Think for a moment why most people don’t make changes in their lives. Usually there are some real things they need to change but they don’t. Why? Because things are bad but they’re really not that bad. They’re just cruising along and maybe they’re not doing things right but things aren’t really so bad so it’s hard to be motivated to change in that situation.

Hitting Rock Bottom

But when someone hits rock bottom in their life, when the level of pain is so great that they can’t stand it any longer, that’s when they are more likely to change. Now I’m not saying you have to hit rock bottom but sometimes people do have to hit rock bottom, they have to go over that line before they will make a change, before they can get enough motivation enough strength, enough energy inside of them to really want to make a change.

An example might be a person who is a little bit overweight. They know they’re a few pounds overweight, 10 pounds for example, and they don’t really have that much motivation to change. Their clothes still fit reasonably well, they look reasonably well in the mirror. Usually something has to happen to where they say, “whoa, I’ve got to change, I’ve got to stop eating.” Maybe they went out to the local buffet and just made a pig of themselves and came home and are feeling sick. Maybe that’s their threshold or level of pain. Or maybe they see an old friend, somebody they knew in high school or college, and this old friend looks great and fit and they are embarrassed for the way they look. They look at themselves and think, “What has happened to me? I was so embarrassed to meet that person.” That’s an example of threshold.

So be aware of this force in your life and use it to your advantage. Try to lower your threshold level so you can reach the point of motivation to change sooner.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Sheep Thief or Saint?


I once heard a story about two brothers who lived in a small town in the country. The story goes that both of these brothers were caught stealing sheep. For their punishment they were branded on the forehead with the letters “ST,” for “Sheep Thief.”

One brother was so ashamed that he left the community. Everywhere he went he had to constantly explain the letters on his forehead. He remained bitter about the whole thing and always felt he had been treated unfairly. He eventually died a lonely man and was buried in an unknown grave.

His brother, on the other hand, stayed in the community and tried to win back his neighbors’ trust. He did everything he could to show the people of the town that he was a changed man. He volunteered for community service projects, helped his neighbors when he saw the need, and did all he could to become the kind of man that he knew he ought to be.

Many years later a visitor came to town. He asked a local resident about the strange letters on the old man’s forehead. The resident replied that he had forgotten exactly why the letters were there, but that he thought “ST” most likely was an abbreviation for the word “Saint.”

Like the brothers in this story, each of us makes mistakes in our lives – sometimes big ones and sometimes little ones. And like the brothers in this story we can choose what we do about the mistakes we make. We are the ones that decide how our mistakes are going to affect us.

May each of us choose the good path and become the person we know we ought to be so that perhaps someday we may be known as a “Saint” and not a “Sheep Thief.” Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Do What You Know

farmer I once heard a story about a farmer who had been farming for many years. He had a son who went off to college and after a few years came home with a degree in hand, and a head full of knowledge. He told his father, “You know, Dad, this farm would be much more productive if you would use the new methods of farming. These days everyone is using hybrid strains of seeds. There are better methods of crop rotation and contour plowing. Plus you really should be using up-to-date insecticides and fertilizers. And did you know most farmers are milking their cows three times a day instead of two.” He went on and on expounding the virtues of all the modern methods of farming. Finally his father said, “Now just hold on there son! I’m not farming half as well as I know how already!”

Isn’t that the way we are? We seldom perform as well as we know how. I’ve heard people say that “knowledge is power.” To a certain degree it can be. But in my own personal experience I find that I know a lot of things that I should be doing but I don’t. Just having knowledge about something doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability or power to do it.

Many times over the years I would tell my children to do their homework. Invariably they would answer back, “I know dad!” and I would say back to them, “Then do what you know!” It’s kind of a joke around my house because I have said that phrase so many times to my children: Do what you know.

How many self-improvement books have you read over your life time? I have hundreds of them! We probably learn ten-times more than what we ever put into action in our lives. Yet we keep buying books and wanting to learn more.

At some point it’s time to stop learning and start doing. We need to put our knowledge to use. I’m not suggesting we completely stop learning but what good is learning if we never use it?

Here is my suggestion: How about making a list of all the things you know you should do but aren’t. Then from your list choose two or three things and start doing them! You can read books, read blogs and listen to tapes and CDs till the cows come home but until you actually do something you are going nowhere. It’s time to take real action! At the end of the day, knowing the answer means nothing if you don’t do anything about it.