Vision…for those moments we might feel lost

In the summers of 2002 and 2003 I had the opportunity to travel with Team Alberta’s football team for the National Championships in Ottawa.  On each occasion I found myself on tour and on my free time making my way to the Parliament buildings and grounds.  On each occasion I particularly sought out the west side of the Peace Tower where over the window you can read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.

I took pictures of the tower but my impeccable filing system has failed me…at least for now though other pictures exist, check out Marcel Mason’s picture here.

The words have been available a very long time, they are found in Proverbs 29:18 and invite us to ponder for a second about our obligation to determine a vision for ourselves and work toward a shared vision for those whom we either choose to associate with or find ourselves in association as a result of our interests, our work, or our common existence.

The musical group Coldplay in the song entitled “Lost” wrote:

Just because I’m losing
Doesn’t mean I’m lost
Doesn’t mean I’ll stop…I just got lost.

(View the video here)

I believe we can, in the process of developing our personal vision, occasionally get lost. Episodes in our life introduce a new set of variables, the unanticipated consequences of our own actions and those of others serve to create a new reality and in that process occasionally we may find ourselves stumbling a little to regain that balance.

At the core of our recovery it is critical that we have a vision of core values to which we might maintain at least one hand of hold as we right ourselves and re-establish the course of our life.


Dare to be, Commit to be, Excellent

Excellence is attainable, there just isn’t any shortcuts.

What is it about the concept of good enough that has become so acceptable when excellence or being exceptional is just over the horizon of average? It isn’t as though we don’t know what it takes to excel, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers wrote of the people put in 10,000 hours to achieve excellence. Now we certainly cannot put 10,000 hours into everything that we do but where do we settle and in what areas do we settle?

In an interview with Anderson Cooper Gladwell provides a few thoughts to ponder, we don’t succeed alone, really no one does, and it doesn’t happen overnight it takes time and effort and a willingness to push past the point when most quit or perhaps even worse yet…settle.

Vernon Heperi shared this story, “When James A. Garfield, once president of the United States, was the president of Hiram College, a father brought his son for admittance as a student. The father wanted the boy to take a course [of study] shorter than the one offered and exclaimed: “He can never take all that in! He wants to get through quicker. Can you arrange it for him?”

“Oh, yes,” replied President Garfield. “He can take a shorter course. It all depends on what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, he takes one hundred years, but he only takes two months to make a squash.”1

There are no short cuts, wishing doesn’t get you too much past the dreaming stage. If you want to amount to something we have to do something and if we want to do something well, attain excellence, then put in the time and make it happen. Not to disparage the squash, but there is a little more majesty in an oak…it’s in us to succeed, we did not come into this life to fail.



1. Source: Heperi, Vernon L. December 06, 2005 BYU Devotional Building a Kauri Tree-Like Testimony

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela…an example of courage and grace under pressure

There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  Nelson Mandela

What is it that can make a man so sure of his convictions that he is able to endure years in jail, decades in fact, and upon his release live a life that seemingly forgives his jailers and the people who commanded them? Nelson Mandela was a victim of apartheid in South Africa sentenced to life in prison for fighting against a government that had minimized the majority of its population simply because it was black. After 27 years in prison on Robben Island Mandela was released and four short years later elected president of South Africa. A shocking turn of events. Mandela worked to build a united nation when so many who had been brutally oppressed for so long really wanted revenge he insisted upon a process of reconciliation that in large part brought Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

I would suggest that hating your enemies is pretty easy, loving your friends often easier but truly forgiving your enemies – working to draw them in as friends is truly an ideal to shoot for. Mandela provides us with much to consider as we explore our relationships with those who may even want to kill us.

While Hollywood is certainly capable of stretching the truth – the 2009 movie “Invictus” starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela presents the early efforts of Mandela to bring a broken country together through sport.

A few thoughts from Nelson Mandela to ponder in our interactions with others and efforts to lead, first our own lives and then perhaps as we strive to provide leadership with others.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

Reconciliation and forgiveness starts here…a scene from Invictus



Get found or get busy finding yourself

Wizard: What do you want to be in the world? I mean the whole world. What do you want to be? Close your eyes and think about that.
August Rush: Found.
From the movie “August Rush”

Calling out Marco Polo to our inner self may be a start so long as we answer ourselves honestly but we need to be about the process of finding ourselves. Finding out who we are, being who we truly want to be. There will always be excuses, ways to avoid our potential and slip to something more comfortable perhaps but far below what we are truly capable of becoming.

That failure, falling short of what we can become is really painful the next day, month, year or decade when we look back at an opportunity lost.

Get found and in the finding enjoy the journey recognizing that along the way not everything will go quite as planned, in fact there may be a few days here and there that go quite poorly. There is a plan for each of us and in that plan we are meant to succeed of that I’m quite certain. This does not suggest it will be easy, we actually didn’t want easy when we signed up…but it will be worth it.

By the way – take a few minutes to watch August Rush. Here’s a short clip



Learn from Experience

‘Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.’ And like the old soldier of the ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away an old soldier who tried to do his duty.” General Douglas MacArthur

Arlington National Cemetery from my visit in 2008

MacArthur, Churchill, and others performed valuable services for their countries and mankind really when one stops to consider the alternatives during World War II but following those conflicts there came a time, for MacArthur during the Korea Conflict, for Churchill almost immediately following World War II where they were retired, put to the side.

Sometimes in the modern world we tend to discredit those who bring a wealth of experience to the table. Certainly there are situations where those with great experience could be accused of being stuck in the past or holding on to “the way it was done before” but far more often those younger with less experience push past valuable experience in a headlong rush up fool’s hill. We would be wise to sit down and listen, really listen to those who have gone before, find what can be applied to our current situation and build upon the thoughts and efforts of those who have gone before. We do not need to reinvent the wheel – in fact by learning from the past we can probably save a lot of wear and tear on our own journey. Don’t forget to thank those upon whose shoulders we now stand, without their efforts and sacrifice we would not have the many benefits we enjoy today. Look out for someone who’s fading and empower them today…you’ll benefit from those well timed efforts.

Find someone today and share an expression of gratitude, it won’t cost you much but the rewards for everyone are well worth the effort.

In Supertramp’s “Fool’s Overture” the lyrics speak to the subject.

Find Your Giants

Cathedral Trail along the highway to Port Alberni on Vancouver Island is home to this giant Douglas Fir identified as being approximately 800 years old. My oldest and youngest sons and my grandson illustrate just how huge the base of this giant of nature is, as the giant used to say…”look up….look way up”.

A wise man (Sterling W. Sill) once suggested that we look around us and build our own hall of fame. Find the giants in our own lives, people who inspire us to look up and reach beyond what we might have previously thought we were capable of achieving. In that hall of fame we’ll have imperfect people, that’s pretty much a guarantee, but the trick is to find the best things about those individuals and focus on those attributes drawing what we can into our own lives as we reflect upon how we might personally improve.

It’s pretty easy to focus on the flaws, and there is something to learn from others mistakes for certain, but the idea is to look around and find what it is that inspires you – perhaps the courage of an individual facing a critical illness, my friend Doug who passed away with ALS inspires me every time I think of him, or the coach who saw more in you than you saw in yourself (thank you Coach Anderson), your parents, a couple of students who want to make a difference in the world, a mom who time and time again shows outstanding patience and love with her children, a brother who works out like a demon (Randy) it doesn’t have to be complicated but write it down.

Yes you can start with some pretty famous people – I have Lincoln, John and Bobby Kennedy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus Christ, on my list but I also have young people like my former students like Brendan Hubbard and Kase de Vries and former players like Jeff Halvorson and Brian Ridgeway (come to think of it Kase and Brendan are former players too but you get the idea) . Find your giants, draw what you can from them and in the process there is a kind of synergy that allows for growth of everyone in the process. Something tells me if we spent a little more time finding the giant in each other there would be just a little less tearing down in society.

You can listen to the Sterling W. Sill devotional on developing your own personal hall of fame by following this link to BYU’s online library of devotionals.