How Can I Be Successful? What Every Graduate Needs to Know

Between last year and this, our family has SIX recent/upcoming graduates.  We practically have our own class!  To the Class of 2018: Congratulations on your tremendous achievement!

The experience of skydiving taught me five basic life principles I learned on the way down that every graduate, whether high school or college, needs to know.  (They’re also reminders for all of us, in any stage of life).

  1. Focus on God. My private lesson with my personal instructor began.  “We’ll exit the plane with arms folded across the chest.  When I push you forward, don’t hesitate.  Arch your back and slightly bend your knees.  When I tap your shoulders, spread both arms out for the rest of the way down.  And smile.  It’ll tighten your cheeks so they won’t flap as much.”

I hung on my expert instructor’s every word as I quickly realized that my life was literally in his hands.  But I couldn’t help overhearing other instructors who were explaining different techniques to their students.   I tried to keep my attention on my instructor but kept getting distracted.  “Why aren’t all the instructors giving the same instructions?” I wondered.  As if reading my mind, he got really close to my face and said these words.  “You’ll hear other instructors giving directions to their partners.  I am your partner.  I do things differently than them.  Focus on me only, listen to me only and you’ll be fine.”

I was all ears.

Sometimes life can be like Jump School.  We have a lot of distractions trying to capture our attention.  If you want to be successful in life, keep your focus on the Master Flight Instructor.  Listen to Him above all else. 

  1. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone.  It was all fun and games on the ground, but when the plane door opened at 14,000 feet, reality hit like a freight train.

What the heck was I thinking?  What about this “Kamikaze Moment” did I think would be fun?  CLOSE THAT DOOR! SOMEONE COULD FALL OUT!  Oh, wait.  That’s the whole point. 

We sat in a line on a plank.  Suddenly, the tandem jumpers in front of me slid to the open door and were gone…just like that!  Immediately my instructor – to whom I was tightly hooked – began nudging me forward from behind.

Instinctively, I nudged back. He pushed me forward again, more forcefully.

I wanted to talk about it.  I wanted to review the instructions.  Actually, I wanted to quit!

Nudging became shoving.  I didn’t like being fastened to him anymore.  I didn’t like where he was headed.  Good grief, this was dangerous!

 

I stood on the ledge of the plane with a death grip on the doorway, feeling the pressure of my instructor behind me.  Over the roar of the engine I shouted to him, “I just wanted to fly…not fall!”  His reply? “NO FREEFALL….NO FLY!”

I gave up and the next moment I was hurtling toward the ground at 120 mph!

 

I was in freefall…with absolutely no control!

If you want to be successful in life, realize that following God involves being ready to leave your comfort zone.

  1. Obey Without Reservation. My instructor’s explicit directions were that once he tapped my shoulder, my arms were to be extended until he pulled the ripcord. 

“Got it.” I replied.

Until I encountered a problem.  See, due to the excessive force of air as we were falling, my zipper was beating my cheek to death.  I remembered his stern instruction about keeping my arms out.  But this was an exception, I told myself.

With my right hand, I began to work with my zipper, trying to tuck it inside my collar.  Suddenly, we began to spin in circles, round and round.  “What is he trying to do, kill us?”  I wondered.

The spinning became faster and faster as I fussed with my zipper.  Then it hit me.  I was the reason we were spinning!  Bringing one hand in had thrown us into the spin.  I stuck my hand back out into the original position and the spinning immediately stopped.

If you want to be successful in life, obey God without reservation. Even when you think you know best.

  1. The View is Worth the Jump. Just when I thought my cheeks would flap off my face, he pulled the ripcord. The deafening roar of air rushing past my ears vanished, plummeting gave way to floating and I was engulfed in silence, peace and a stunning, panoramic view of serene countryside.  “It’s beautiful!”  The view was worth the jump.  Grumbling gave way to gratitude.  Protesting became praise.  I heard myself sincerely thanking the same person I’d resisted just moments before!

If you want to be successful in life, remember, living for God will be worth any sacrifices you make.

  1. Trust Him for the Future. Regarding landing instructions, I had inquired before take-off.  His response?  “Ah, don’t worry…the ground’ll stop ya.”  

Adorable.

But, you see, when my instructor fastened himself to me, from that point forward, I became his responsibility.  And so it is with God.

By the way, when the parachute opened, my guide said calmly, “Now, let’s talk about landing.  At my cue, straighten your legs, raise your feet and hold that position.”

This made no sense.  I had seen others land (or attempt to land) on their feet and run a little ways. But, as the ground rapidly rose to meet us, he said, “Now”.  I did as told and was seated gently, like a leaf floating to the ground.

 

During the entire trip, I had worried about landing.

Only at the end did I realize he had told me exactly what I needed to know…exactly when I needed to know it.  So much of life is spent worrying over questions like, “Does God see me?”  “Does God hear me?”

Dear Friend, God is with you in your journey.

To the Class of 2018, you are moments away from graduating.  Moments away from beginning your journey through life. It will not be easy.  But you are the class of 2018!

May you keep your focus on God, be prepared to abandon your comfort zone, obey Him without reservation and remember the view is worth the jump as you trust Him for your future.

 

 

 

3 Legs? 3 Hands? How to Leverage an “Oops” for Your Favor: A Secret from Oprah, Reese & Reagan

The internet has been all over the Photoshop debacle with Reese Witherspoon’s “3 legs” and Oprah’s “3 hands” on the cover shot of the 2018 Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue.

Horrors!  Reese Witherspoon appears to have 3 legs.

And Oprah clearly has 3 hands.

And I love it!

Why? Because of the great response of these two ladies. Their response highlights what I teach in my “Laugh More, Live Better” talk….Lesson number 1:  Keeping your sense of humor helps you not take yourself so seriously.  These ladies have demonstrated just that in their tweets following the onslaught of comments about the photo.

Reese: “Well…I guess everybody knows now…I have 3 legs.  I hope you can still accept me for who I am.”

Oprah: “I accept your 3d leg.  As I know you accept my 3d hand.”

Over and over, it’s been shown that one secret to likability is the ability to laugh at oneself.

At the time Ronald Reagan was elected President, one of the greatest concerns was his advanced age.  The press nipped at his heels repeatedly about this subject, raising the question over and over to the public whether he was able to lead because of his age.

It would’ve been natural to lash out.

Or be defensive.

Or angry.

Instead, he had more fun about it than anyone.  Consider the following quotes:

“My press secretary said the other day that preparing me for a press conference was like reinventing the wheel.  It’s not true.  I was around when the wheel was invented…and it was easier.”

“And I also remember something Thomas Jefferson once said.  “He stated: ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his words’…and ever since he told me that, I’ve stopped worrying.”

When Reagan dozed off at a Cabinet meeting, the Press was all over him. Commentators, with brows furrowed, asked the nation, “Is our president fit to do the job?”  Shortly afterward, Reagan led a group through on a special tour of the White House.  Passing the Cabinet Room, he paused and said with great pride, “Someday there will be a sign: ‘REAGAN SLEPT HERE'”.

The whole group laughed and had a great time.  But Reagan guffawed, slapping his legs and having the best time of all.

(One more….I can’t stop myself.)

“I heard one presidential candidate say (Gary Hart in 1984) what this country needed was a president for the nineties. I was set to run again….I thought he said a president IN his nineties.”

When the joke was on Reagan, guess who laughed the loudest?  Reagan.  And people loved him for it. That likeability helped break down walls (literally, just ask Mr. Gorbachev!) so that his message could be heard.

My words today are not about Oprah’s beliefs or Reagan’s policies.  It’s simply an observation that great people have learned the art of laughing at themselves.  You and I would do well to do the same!

Have you goofed lately?  Leverage your “oops” for your favor.  Step back and enjoy the laugh at yourself!  The result? Lowered blood pressure, increased immunity from disease, overall enjoyment in life…and likeability!

Top Blog Post of 2017: Reader’s Choice

Happy New Year!  2017 is now in our rear view mirrors!  And friend, I’ve loved spending this year with you!

Maybe you’ve been joining me here on the blog for a long time, or perhaps we’ve only recently begun spending time together.  Either way, your presence here is a gift and an encouragement to me.  So together, let’s take a moment to look back on the blog post you shared most (hands down) in 2017, which happens to be a B-12 shot for helping us start the year off right.

And if something you read today inspires or encourages you, pass it on to someone else who may need it.  Simply click on the title to read the post.

How to Rock Your Day:  3 Reasons Why Your Attitude Matters

What about you?  What is one thing you learned this past year?  Share it in the comments below.

Lessons from a Loser: 3 Surprising Encouragements from Handel’s Messiah

Have you ever felt like your best days were behind you? Have you been plagued with financial or health troubles?  How about anxiety and depression?  If so, you’re in great company.  All of these hounded the great composer, George Frederick Handel.

By age 56 Handel was a washed-up “has been”. As a once-great opera composer commissioned by royalty, he enjoyed phenomenal success.  But by 1741 he was bankrupt, facing debtors’ prison, had suffered a stroke and was losing his eyesight and his reputation as a musician.  The London elite had begun calling him a “German nincompoop”.

But that was about to change.

A friend asked him to put to music lyrics about the life of Christ and the work of redemption, with all the text completely from the Bible.  With a new infusion of purpose, Handel took the challenge and secluded himself to meet it.   The meals that were brought to him were mostly untouched due to his laser focus on the task at hand. Finally, one day a servant brought his meal and found tears streaming down Handel’s cheeks.  The servant asked what was wrong and Handel replied,  “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.”  He had just written the Hallelujah Chorus.

The 260 page work (predicted to take a year to write) was completed in only 24 days, a phenomenal feat.  275 years later, Handel’s Messiah is considered one of the most inspired works of music ever written.

At a time when it seemed it was over for Handel, God called, inspired and divinely equipped Handel to write the Messiah.

What does this mean for you and me?

  1. It’s not over until God says it’s over.  If we are breathing, there is work for us to do. The Bible tells us we are His workmanship, created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  Our part is to ask God, “What do You want me to do? Please use me.”  I believe God will answer that prayer. He inspires and equips us for the work to which He calls us.
  2. God is always working for His glory and our good. Even in the seasons of suffering, God is at work.  When Handel was at his lowest, God knew the monumental work and blessing He was preparing for Handel.  The same is true for you and me!  Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that He knows what He’s doing in our lives and His plans are good. All. The. Time.
  3. Remember to humble yourself and trust Him in your circumstances.  1 Peter 5:7 reminds us that He will lift us up in due time, because He cares for us. God can turn your story around in a heartbeat if He chooses.  Consider the same royalty that commissioned Handel, then fired him.  During the first performance of the Messiah in London, King George stood for the Hallelujah Chorus.  No one knows why for sure. Maybe he was caught up in the majesty of the moment, maybe he mistook it for the national anthem or maybe he just needed to stretch his legs, but when the king stood, the entire audience rose to their feet!  This didn’t hurt Handel’s reputation one little bit.  In fact, it restored him overnight.  Ever since, it’s been a tradition to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus!  I’ll say it again: God can use people and circumstances to turn your situation around in a heartbeat.

As you soak your mind in these truths, may they bring you “good tidings of great joy” this season.  He shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah!

 

Christmas Special! Buy 3 get 1 FREE!

Looking for memorable gifts for friends, loved ones and even yourself?

Get in the holiday spirit with my Christmas CD “Simply Christmas”, relax with           “Simply Instrumental” or be encouraged with my book “Falling UP” (a perfect resource for anyone who has experienced loss or grief).

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